Houseplant Pests That You Need to Be Aware Of

Houseplants can be a great addition to your home. Decorative purposes aside, indoor plants can be used to oxygenate and purify the air in your house, which can benefit your health in a variety of ways.

Studies have found that bringing nature into your home can have a wide range of positive effects on both your physical and mental wellbeing. Having plants dotted around can lower blood pressure, improve your quality of sleep and reduce anxiety and depression.

It may seem like houseplants have no downside but, unfortunately, they can also provide the perfect cover for bugs to enter your home. Houseplant pests can be a nightmare to get rid of once they become established, so keeping them off your plants is critical!

So, what are the most common houseplant insects you need to be aware of, how can you recognize them and how can you keep them away?

Mealybugs

What are they?

Mealybugs are a type of piercing-sucking insect that drink the sap from a variety of garden, greenhouse and indoor plants. Over time, this can significantly damage plant health, and large mealybug infestations can lead to reduced growth and leaf drop. Mealybugs also secrete honeydew as they feed; a sticky, sugary fluid that encourages the growth of black, sooty mold. This dark, powdery fungus can not only damage the aesthetic of your houseplants, but can also reduce photosynthesis (and, therefore, plant health) if present in large quantities.

What do they look like?

So, how can you recognize mealybugs when you see them?

Mealybugs are small, wax-covered and often-wingless insects. They are usually pale in color and have oval, segmented bodies. When inspecting your plants for mealybugs, pay extra attention to the protected areas between touching leaves and fruit, the crotches of branches and any stems near the soil, as this is where they often gather to feed.

How can you get rid of them?

Before bringing any new houseplant into your home, first, inspect it thoroughly for mealybugs. Insects usually get indoors by stowing away in the foliage of newly-purchased plants, so making sure they’re clean is a vital first step!

If you already have a mealybug infestation, remove all affected plants from your home. Once outside, you can spray the plant with water to physically remove the majority of the bugs. Next, apply a secondary treatment to kill any remaining adult, eggs or larvae.

Rubbing alcohol is a highly effective and non-toxic way of exterminating mealybugs; simply fill a spray bottle with 70% rubbing alcohol and use this to douse your plant. Alternatively, you can apply running alcohol to a cotton swab and use this to wipe down the infested plant.

Spider mites

What are they?

Spider mites are one of the most common plant pests and are found in gardens and greenhouses throughout North America. These tiny arachnids also frequent indoor plants, where they can cause significant damage as they feed. Spider mites suck leaf cells dry and, in doing so, can cause speckling a yellowing of leaves, leaf drop, and overall reduced plant health. They also produce webbing, which can drape over the twigs and leaves and spoil the look of your houseplants.

What do they look like?

Spider mites are so tiny that, at a first glance, these houseplant bugs look like nothing more than moving dots. If you grab a magnifying glass, however, you’ll see eight legs, oval body shape, and red or dark-colored spots on the head or abdomen.

The easiest way to distinguish spider mites from other types of mites is by the webbing they produce. Spider mites often infest the underside of leaves, so make sure to check here thoroughly when inspecting your plants. If of white paper.

How can you get rid of them?

Being so small, spider mites often go undetected for long periods of time. In fact, it is often the damage they cause to plants that first gives them away, by which time you may already have a heavy infestation.

If you notice spider mites on one or more of your houseplants, take them outdoors and spray them vigorously with water. This will physically remove most of the bugs (along with their eggs and webbing). Next, whip up a homemade bug spray by diluting a little dish soap in water, and use this to take care of any stragglers.

Aphids

What are they?

Aphids are another type of piercing-sucking insect that can cause widespread damage to your houseplants if they get indoors. Large aphid infestations can cause yellowing and stunting of affected plants and can even transmit viruses that decimate plant health.

What do they look like?

Aphids are generally wingless, with soft, pair-shaped bodies and six legs. They come in a variety of colors depending on the species and may be green, brown, yellow, black or red.

Aphids can be distinguished from other houseplant bugs by the presence of cornicles, a pair of tube-like structures that stick out from the rear end of their bodies. They can usually be found clustered in groups on the stems or leaves of infested plants.

How can you get rid of them?

After you’ve hosed down your plants outside, treat them with a homemade insecticidal spray to kill any that are left. Mix a few teaspoons of liquid soap into a spray bottle of water for an inexpensive yet effective DIY aphid-killer and use this concoction to spritz your houseplants.

Conclusion

Houseplant insects can seriously harm the health of your indoor plants, especially if a large infestation takes hold! Some of the most common pests you’ll encounter are aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites. Inspect your houseplants regularly for signs of infestation to maintain the health and beauty of your flowers, and to keep bugs out of your home!

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