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Indoor Plant Pests: How to Identify & Control Them

Aphids

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Indoor plant pests may be small but if left unattended, they can quickly destroy your valuable houseplants. Although plant pests are usually a bigger problem with outdoor rather than indoor plants, bugs do have ways of getting inside your home.

They can enter you home via an open window or door or when already attached to a newly purchased plant. Plant pests can also attack your plant if you take them outside for some direct sunlight or warmth.

This is why it’s important to regularly check your plants for tell tales signs of pest activity and if discovered, nip the problem in the bud (so to speak) to prevent full on infestation.

Never bring a new plant indoors until you’ve thoroughly inspected your plant’s leaves, stems and flowers, and also check the compost for unwanted life.

In this article, we will help you to identify five of the most common indoor plant pests, their associated effects on your plants and how to deal with them and your affected plant.

 

Common Indoor Plant Pests

      1.Spider Mites (also known as red spider mite)

spider mites

Some insects such as spider mites are so small that they are difficult to see with the naked eye. In these cases, it’s important to watch out for the tell- tale symptoms and take action as necessary.

Symptoms

This minute sap sucking insect produces a mottled appearance on the plant leaves. The foliage also loses its color and may fall off. Heavy spider mite infestation can eventually kill the plant.

Solution

Quickly remove and bin the affected parts of the plant. If heavily infested, remove and bin the plant altogether to prevent further infestation.

Misting plants regularly can help to reduce spider mite attack but may not eradicate the pest completely.  Using a pesticide can be an option.

       2.Scale Insects

Scale insects

These pests appear as scales or shell-like bumps up to ½ inch (1cm) in length and you’ll find them on stems or beneath the leaves. You may also spot their white, waxy eggs.

Symptoms

Scale are sap sucking pests that cause weakened or distorted growth, and secrete sugary honeydew that can result in the growth of sooty molds.

Solution

Firstly, remove the affected parts of the plant and then apply a diluted solution of a soap based treatment. You can also use methylated spirits with a paint brush, but test a small section of the plant first for any negative side-affects.

Bin any heavily infested plants to prevent further spread.

      3. Mealy Bugs

mealy bug larvae

You’ll first notice the presences of these sap-sucking pests by the fluffy white substance they produce in between the leaves and stems or under the foliage.

Underneath this substance, you’ll find the tiny white mealy bugs or their orange-pink eggs. Like scale insects, they secrete honeydew which can lead to sooty mold. Some species of mealy bugs attack the roots.

Symptoms

The presence of a fluffy white substance on the plant as well as slowing or distorted growth.

Solution

Not uncommon on newly purchased plants so always check for bugs before buying.

Remove the affected parts of the plant or apply a diluted solution of a soap based treatment. 

You can also use methylated spirits with a paint brush, but test a small section of the plant first for any negative side-affects.

Or use pheromone lures to trap the adult males and disrupt breeding.

Pesticides rarely work, so be sure to bin any badly affected plants.

    4. Aphids (also known as green- or blackfly)

aphids

Aphids are common sap sucking insects that can grow up to ¼ inch long (4mm).

You’ll find them under leaves or on flower buds or stems.

Symptoms

They cause distorted or curled leaves, stunted flower buds and poor overall growth.

As with scale and mealy bugs, aphids secrete honeydew which can lead to sooty molds.

Solution

To remove them, use plastic gloves and gently squeeze them, then wipe off. For larger infestations, try a diluted soap-based solution or pesticide.

   5. Fungus Gnats (also known as sciarid flies)

Fungus Gnats

These greyish – brown insects grow up to ¼ inch (4mm) in length and although a nuisance, generally do not eat live plants.

They will fly around and around plants, occasionally landing on the compost. Their larvae are white maggots with black heads, slightly larger than the adults, and feed on decaying leaves, roots and occasionally seedling, but rarely living plants.

Solution

Use sticky traps to catch the flies and drench with Steinernema feltiae to control the larvae.

Final Thoughts

As with most pests, it’s best to identify their presence as soon as possible, before they’ve had time to infest your plants and do some serious damage.

This means checking for indoor plant pests on a weekly basis. By conducting weekly health checks, you should be able to simply pick off any unwanted visitors.

By doing this, you’ll hopefully avoid the distressing task of binning a much loved but badly infested plant for the sake of the rest of your indoor garden.

I do hope you’ve found this indoor plant pest article useful and that it may help you in your overall indoor plant care regime.

Indoor plant diseases can be just as devastating so I recommend you check out the 10 most common indoor plant diseases here

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Common Indoor Plant Pests

Christine Mattner

What started out as purely a desire to keep my indoor plants alive has turned into a full-blown passion for sharing what I have learned over the years about selecting, growing and caring for indoor plants with those who may be new to the wonderful world of houseplants.

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