If you have houseplants, you will eventually get a pest infestation. These are five common houseplant pests and how to eliminate them.
Aphids are tiny soft-bodied pear shaped insects that can be black, yellow, green, or brown. They are often hard to see until large colonies have formed. Unlike other insects, aphids are mostly female, can reproduce without mating, and give birth to live offspring rather than laying eggs. These females can produce up to 100 daughters in a lifetime and the daughters can start reproducing within 6-8 days of their birth. Aphids cause damage by sucking the sap out of a plant; they especially like the stems, new growth, the underside of leaves, and flower buds. This sap removal causes curling and crinkly leaves and ruins flower buds. Aphids can also transmit viruses from plant to plant. As they feed, aphids secrete a sticky waste product called “honeydew.” This honeydew acts as breeding ground for sooty black mold and encourages ants to infest the plant. Black mold ruins the appearance of a plant, retards growth, and prevents photosynthesis. Aphids are difficult to see and reproduce rapidly, so it’s necessary to check your plant weekly to prevent a major infestation.
If aphids appear on a leather-leafed plant, spray the Green Solution (equal parts alcohol and water, a few drops of liquid biodegradable soap, and a few drops of mineral oil) or a commercial product called Neem Oil on all parts of the plant. For furry leafed plants, like African Violet, use a mixture of warm water, a few drops of mineral oil, and a few drops of liquid biodegradable soap.
This small dark skinny pest flies and jumps around plants and people driving us all crazy. Fungus Gnats develop in soggy potting soil, feeding on root hairs and emerging as adults every 30 days.
The best way to get rid of Fungus Gnats is to allow the soil to thoroughly dry out. This eliminates the eggs and gnats in the pot. You can use Yellow Sticky cards to trap the Fungus Gnats that are flying around.
Mealy Bugs are one of the most annoying and destructive pests that attack houseplants. A female mealy bug is capable of laying over 500 eggs in less than two weeks. These tiny sucking insects look like small pieces of cotton scattered on your plant. When young, mealy bugs have legs and can crawl; this is the best time to treat an infestation. These pests cause damage by sucking the sap out of a plant, concentrating especially on the tender new growth; this causes spots on the leaves, yellow leaves, leaf drop, slow growth, and weak stems. While feeding on the plant, mealy bugs, like aphids, secrete that sticky substance called “honeydew” which acts as a breeding ground for “sooty black mold.” This mold covers leaves and stems ruining the plant’s appearance and interfering with photosynthesis.
When mealy bugs are immature and crawling, it is best to use Yellow Sticky Cards to trap them. Once they mature, Mealy Bugs should be sprayed with the Green Solution (equal parts alcohol and water, a few drops of liquid biodegradable soap, and a few drops of mineral oil) or a commercial product called Neem Oil. Be sure the plant is well watered and not in the sun when you spray. Repeat this treatment every 10 days for a month to catch any further eggs that might hatch. On furry leafed plants such as African Violets, dip a Q-tip in the Green Solution and wipe the mealy bugs off. Do not spray the entire leaf.
Scale attach houseplants especially ficus, ivies, spider plants, ferns, aralias, and scheffleras. It appears as small bumpy brown spots that slowly move. As the scale sucks on the sap of the plant it too secretes honeydew which attracts sooty black mold.
Because of its shell-like exterior, sprays are only partially effective against scale. You need to wipe off the lines of brown oval bumps with your finger, a cloth, or a child’s toothbrush then spray the plant with Neem Oil. Use the Green Solution to clean off the black mold.
This small gnat-like insect, covered in a powdery white wax, feeds on the sap of all types of plants. This causes leaf-drop and eventually weakens the entire plant. While feeding, Whiteflies also secrete “honeydew”. The flying adults lay eggs on the tops of leaves, but it is the immature nymph stage, feeding unnoticed on the underside of the leaves, that does the real damage.
Yellow Sticky Cards are a good way to trap the flying adults and prevent new eggs. Spray the Green Solution to get rid of the feeding nymphs on the underside of the leaves; for furry leafed plants, like African Violet, use a mixture of warm water, a few drops of mineral oil, and a few drops of liquid biodegradable soap. The ability of the whitefly to carry and spread disease severely impacts global food production. In the tropics and subtropics, whiteflies have become one of the most serious crop problems causing economic losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars.