How To Identify, Prevent, And Get Rid Of Indoor Plant Bugs
All plants can and will occasionally come under attack by pests and bugs. Indoor plants are no exception.
In fact, indoor plants can be as vulnerable and even more so as indoor varieties of these pesky buggers can be more voracious given the near ideal conditions for developing and reproducing.
Indoor plant pests can multiply very quickly so it’s important to catch them early before they do much damage and affect your whole indoor plantscape. A catastrophic infestation can be a time-consuming and frustrating mistake!
It’s important to pay close attention. If you notice a plant looking less than healthy despite proper watering and ample plant food, chances are an insect or a bug is the culprit. When this happens, your best line of defense is your indoor plant service provider.
INSIDE PLANTS is an expert indoor plant service company. We provide excellent plant care and maintenance that ensures that your plantscape is always fresh and healthy. And of course, with regular “health” checks, we can nip any problems, “in the bud” – excuse the pun.
Common Indoor Plant Bugs and Pests
Here is a list of common insects or pests that can affect indoor plants how you can spot them, and what to do:
These pests attach themselves to twigs, leaves, branches and fruits of plants and are essentially sap-sucking insects. They often resemble bumps that look like shells rather than insects because they are immobile. Often, a scale infestation can go unnoticed until plants begin to visibly show damage.
What are the common symptoms that indicate your indoor plants are affected by scale?
- Poor growth
- Reduced vigor
- Yellowing or chlorotic leaves (since chlorophyll is responsible for the green color in leaves, chlorotic leaves, leaves that produce insufficient chlorophyll, are pale, yellow, or yellowish white)
Scale often affects these plants: Cacti, Rhapis, Ficus and Spathiphyllum
There are 2 kinds of scale insects:
- Soft Scales. These secrete a waxy film and are usually black or brown. They produce copious amounts of honeydew.
- Hard or Armored Scales. While soft scales are black or brown, hard scales are often white and circular in shape . As the name implies, they have a hard protective covering and produce no honeydew.
Regardless of variety, scales form external coats that can make controlling the infestation a bit difficult. Having said that, here is how they are commonly controlled:
- Affected leaves, twigs and branches are pruned and removed.
- Use of commercially available “beneficial” insects such as ladybugs or lacewing. These kill the young larvae or scale in “crawler” stage.
- Neem oil based insecticides and other horticultural oils and safe oil-based insecticides are used for heavier infestations that can control all pest stages, including adult insects
- As a last resort, botanical insecticides (derived from plants with insecticidal properties) may be used for extra problematic infestations. These have fewer side effects and breakdown more quickly into the environment compared to synthetic insecticides.
These look like tufts of cotton that appear on leaves, stems and fruits of plants. At low pest levels, damage is not significant. However, at high levels, these are the usual manifestations:
- Leaf yellowing
- Leaf curling
Mealybugs often affect Aglaonema but can also infest just about any plant they can reach in your indoor plantscape.
How infestation is controlled:
- Parts infested by mealybugs are pruned and trimmed.
- Insects may be dabbed with cotton buds dipped in alcohol
- Use of commercially available beneficial insects such as ladybugs, lacewing and an insect called Cryptolaemus montrouzieri (Available commercially under a brand name Mealybug Destroyer)
- Hosing plants regularly with a leaf shiner with neem oil to discourage infestation
- Use of safe, natural insecticides which do not cause as much harm to the environment as synthetic insecticides may also be used. Some work to dehydrate the insects and cause death within hours while some others disrupt the growth and development of the pests
These are sap sucking insects that are often found feeding in clusters on new growth. They are small, soft bodied, pear shaped insects with colors that range from green, yellow, brown red or black depending on species and food source.
Low to moderate infestation is not normally extremely harmful to plants. However, while aphids themselves may not have much effect on the plants, they secrete large amounts of sticky fluid, also known as honeydew.
This drips onto plants and then attracts ants. If the ants themselves are not bad enough, this in turn leads to the development of black mold growth on the leaves.
For heavy infestations, these are the manifestations:
- Leaves that curl, wilt or yellow
- Stunted plant growth
- General decline in plant vigor
There are also aphid species that transmit plant diseases and viruses which are passed on during feeding.
How infestation is controlled:
- Leaves and other parts heavily infested are trimmed and pruned
- Strong stream of water can be used to hose off plants and reduce number of aphids attached to them.
- Carefully regulate water and fertilizer. Overwatering and over fertilizing plants can result in faster multiplication of aphids because they like plants with high nitrogen levels
- Use of natural and biological pesticides that do not affect the environment as much as synthetic pesticides can be used for more severe infestations.
- Use of neem oil and neem tree based products that kill insects on contact
Spider mites can attack both outdoor and indoor plants but can wreak particular havoc on indoor plantscapes. As the name implies, spider mites are not insects but arachnids (in the class of spiders, mites and scorpions).
Spider mites are reddish brown or pale in color, oval shaped and very small. They live in colonies on the underside of leaves. They cause damage by piercing leaf tissue and sucking up plant fluids.
Here are the telltale signs that there are spider mites in your garden:
- Light dots on leaves (feeding marks)
- Leaves turn yellow and may eventually dry up and drop off
- Presence of large populations are accompanied by fine webbing.
Spider mites often attack ornamental flowers and most indoor plants where the growing conditions are hot and dry.
How infestation is controlled:
The best way to control spider mites is through effective natural and organic methods. Chemical pesticides which kill off the beneficial insects that prey on them actually encourages the multiplication of spider mite populations.
Having that said, here are ways to get rid of spider mites:
- The first step is pruning of leaves, stems and other parts affected by the mites. It is important to remove way past the parts where there is webbing. These pruned parts need to be thrown in the trash, not in the compost pile, to prevent the spread
- If necessary, heavily infested plants must be pulled up to prevent spread to neighboring plants.
- Use of commercially available beneficial insects such as ladybugs, lacewing and predatory mites will help when pest levels are still low to medium.
- Use of neem oil based products that kill pest eggs and interrupt the reproductive cycle of the mites.
- Presence of dust on leaves and branches encourages the growth of mites. Hosing of plants to remove dust is done as preventive measure.
- Properly watered plants make them less susceptible to mite infestations.
- Use of insecticidal soap or botanical insecticides to spot treat heavily infested areas
Due to their extreme small size, thrips are easy to miss until plants start to manifest damage. Mature thrips are even smaller than aphids but a bit bigger than mites.
The adult bugs are long and narrow with black and white stripes on their backs. These insects feed on sap and scrape the surface of the plant as they feed.
Manifestations of the presence of thrips:
- Whitish, silvery speckles on leaves
- Larger silvery patches on whole leaves indicate a more severe infestation
- Plant leaves may also turn pale and splotchy, then eventually die
- Affected plants get twisted, discolored and scarred
It is important to act fast as soon as you discover thrips on your indoor plants. They feed in large groups. And unlike other pests that usually remain fairly immobile, these can fly or leap away when disturbed. And thus cause havoc on nearby plants, as well.
Thrips can affect fruits such as strawberries, onions, and citrus plants. Greenhouse varieties can affect many indoor landscape plants.
How infestation is controlled:
Thrips do not usually seriously harm or kill woody plants. However, they can certainly affect how your plantscape looks. Having invested on indoor landscaping, it is but natural to want to keep it looking always beautiful, fresh and lush.
However, it is important to choose what insecticides to use. While you may get rid of thrips, you may also inadvertently kill beneficial insects.
- Thrips can be knocked off with a spray of water. Hose off plants with a strong spray to reduce numbers.
- Use of commercially available beneficial insects such as minute pirate bugs, ladybugs, lacewing and predatory mites help control population by attacking and destroying all stages of this pest. This is especially effective when done after hosing down plants with water.
- The best defense is to keep plants healthy to help them outgrow thrips damage. Keeping plants well irrigated and fertilized (not over fertilized, though) is the proactive way to do it.
- If necessary, prune and destroy injured or infested plants.
- Use of biological insecticides (those that contain beneficial fungus) or plant oil based insecticides on particularly heavy infestations
When you see your plants looking less than healthy and lush, our plant care experts at INSIDE PLANTS ensure that they are nurtured back to perfect health. We provide excellent plant care and maintenance so those pesky buggers never become a problem.
Better yet, as part of our regular indoor plant maintenance service, we do a health check of our plant with ever visit, ensuring our plants stay robust, lush, and in optimum health.
Call INSIDE PLANTS Today
INSIDE PLANTS is an indoor plant service company specializing in plantscape indoor plant design and maintenance.
Call us today for a free consultation.
Palm Springs (760) 322-9909
Corona (951) 371-4637
Toll-free (800) 376-463
Tags: indoor plant bugs, indoor plant pests, common plant bugs, aphids, thrips, spider mites, mealybugs, scale
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