House plants can be infested by a number of different types of tiny bugs. Some are more common than others, but all can be damaging, sometimes killing the plants if left untreated. Knowing which bugs you have will help guide you in selecting the appropriate treatment and control so your plants can grow and thrive.
Aphids are one of the most common pests on houseplants and are approximately 1/16 to 1/8 inch long, usually with pear shaped green bodies. They can also be yellow, purple pink, brown and black, though less common. Aphids can be winged or wingless. Look for aphids underneath the underside of the leaves where they typically suck the sap from the plants, resulting in yellow and irregular shaped leaves. Control aphids by picking them off and dropping them in a bucket of soapy water. You can also rub them with a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol, or use an insecticidal soap or and insecticide labeled for houseplants.
Spider mites are tiny bugs that are difficult to see with the naked eye, but they are one of the most damaging pests, often killing plants. Like aphids, they suck the plant sap. Look for small silky spider webs in your houseplants to help you identify that the bugs are in fact spider mites. They also leave behind small white colored specks on top of the plant leaves. Take your plants to your shower and spray them down with warm water. Be sure to break up any webs as well. You can also use an insecticidal soap or an insecticide labeled for houseplants.
Scale do not look like bugs, rather small gray or brown bumps on the leaves or flat spots, similar to fish scales. There are two types of scale, including soft scale and armored scale. Their bodies are very difficult to see without any kind of magnification. Like aphids and spider mites, scale sucks on the plant juice. They are commonly found on both the top and underside of the leaves. Scrape off scale with your finger tips into a bucket of soapy water. Horticultural oils, insecticidal soaps and insecticides can also help control scale.
Some other bugs that are common to houseplants are mealybugs, thrips and fungus gnats. Mealybugs can be seen with the naked eye and are about 3/16 inch long and white. They are most commonly found on the underside of the leaves and along the veins. Thrips are one of the smallest insects found on plants, measuring less than 1/16 of an inch long. You can recognize thrips by the damage they leave, including silvery wounds on the leaves, scars on the petals and dark spots on the leaves. Fungus gnats are flies that jump across the soil. Their larvae damage the roots. Catch fungus gnats on yellow sticky cards. You can also change out the soil to get rid of the larvae or apply an insecticide to the soil. In the future, don't allow the soil to become too wet and clean up any debris on top of the soil so the fungus gnats do not return.
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