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Houseplant Pests can be quite intimidating. We hear horror stories about how they came in on a plant and it took out an entire collection. It can be a very scary idea. However, in reality, when you’re dealing with pests it is not an execution of your plants. Just because you get a pest does not mean that you did anything wrong at all. Plant Pests are just something that is natural and part of life. Today we are going to discuss the four most common plant pests and how to take care of them.
Spider Mites houseplant Pests
The first pest that we want to talk about gets the absolute most hate. Spider mites are tiny white or red spider/tick-looking creatures. You may need a magnifying glass to see these bugs.
What you will start to see without a magnifying glass is when they have matured and there is a large colony. You will start to see fine webbing at the very cracks and crevices of your plant’s foliage. You will also start to see the backs of foliage will start to have a bunch of little tiny pinprick spots on them. This is where the spider mites are actually eating your plant and causing damage.
Another thing that you may notice if you have spider mites is that new foliage dies off and disappears really quickly. It just dries out and dies off. Spider mites love the new foliage. It is their favorite snack.
Spider mites can live for a month or two depending on the variety.
They can lay their eggs on the other side of the leaves and then it takes a very long time (sometimes weeks at a time) for you to notice because they are so small. This is why we recommend pre-treating for pests just in case.
These little guys(like most pests) can float through windows in a breeze. They can come in on your clothes or new plants. They are a nightmare because they are tricky to get rid of.
You have to be wiping down the foliage every few days to keep the population down. You have to make sure that you’re getting those cracks and crevices especially. Neem oil is not very effective on spider mites anymore unless you completely cover the entire plant all the time. This is not good for the plant. Generally, it’s best to completely rinse off the plant with water if you can. Change the soil if you want but spider mites do not live in the soil. They prefer to stay in the foliage.
However, It will crawl around so you want to clean off the area where your plant was at. You want to make sure you are cleaning up the floor. Wiping down any tables that your plant was on. You want to wipe down the outside and inside of the pot as well. All of this is to keep the spread of pests down.
Systemics will not work on spider mites. If you have a systemic in your plant make sure that you are still checking for spider mites it works for all of the other pests but spider mites are immune, unfortunately.
There are two different ways that you can deal with spider mites. Chemicals or predatory bugs.
With chemicals, you start by rinsing your plant off with water. Getting all the pests off. Then you spray it down and wipe it down with insecticidal soap removing eggs and any mites the water did not remove. This will have to be done every 3 to five days for a few weeks. One spider mite can reach maturity within 5 days and lay hundreds of eggs. This method does kill any beneficial bugs.
Option 2 is placing predatory bugs on your plant.
Spider mites have specific predators that will seek out and eliminate them doing no harm to good bugs or the plant. They are the same size as spider mites. And die when their food source has been depleted. They come in a tiny packet you simply open and hang on the infested plant. Then you have microscopic bugs battling each other on your plants and then your plants will be healthy. It is very simple and has a lot less stress than having to constantly wipe down your plants for possibly months.
It used to be that predatory bugs were more expensive than other treatments but they have come down in price to be about the same and they are easier to do provided you are comfortable with the idea.
Thrips houseplant Pests
The Thrips is the next worst one and honestly, between spider mites and thrips, it depends on the plant parent that you are talking to which one is worse.
Thrips tend to be a nightmare because there are these little, teeny, tiny, skinny, black bugs that do not need a male and a female to reproduce. The female can lay hundreds of eggs at one time l by herself. They lay their eggs inside the foliage of your plant. This is so you can kill all of the adult thrips on your plant and then in another 2 to 14 days you can have up to 300 eggs hatching all over your plants. Their larva is microscopic so you cannot see this larva. You will not see these pests until they are almost mature or fully mature. They are very tiny bugs.
You definitely want to make sure that you are quarantining all the plants that could possibly have pests.
Thrips can fly slightly as well so they can spread from one plant to another over short distances. You can actually land on other plants, lay those eggs, and then you won’t even notice that they were there. Because you only focused on the one that was heavily invested. Definitely treat all of the plants that were touching each other. When you find one plant with thrips, you probably have a lot of plants that have thrips, unfortunately.
Fortunately, though, thrips can be taken out by several means.
Insecticidal soap and preventative washing like we talked about for spider mites. If you are washing every crevice of your plant every single day or every couple of days(for up to 3 months) then as soon as the trip larvae hatch, it will be washed away. They will not grow into mature adults and they will not be able to eat your plant.
However, if you just spray down your plant one time with insecticidal soap and see that all of the thrips are gone. Please do not fall for it because they are definitely still there. They have already laid their eggs and that plant will be getting thrips again.
The second thing you can do to speed up the process is to use a systemic Insecticidal. This is put in the soil of your plant and absorbed. This makes the plant toxic to thrips and most other plant pests. If they eat it they will die.
Unfortunately, though, it can take up to 3 weeks for your plants to absorb a systemic. This can kill good bugs in the soil as well though and is toxic if ingested.
Mealybugs houseplant Pests
These are little, tiny, fluffy, cottony, crustacean critters. They are called bugs but they are really in the crustacean family and they just want to run around and eat your plants. They want to suck all the juices from your plants.
Mealybugs also work in tandem with ants. So, if you find ants in a plant pot expect to find mealies as well, and make sure you’re treating for them too. Mealybugs will actually secrete a little sap after they are done eating your plant. They drop these little balls of sap for the ants as they eat your plant. Any really love that so they have a kind of mutually beneficial relationship. If you see one generally, there is going to be the other.
Hoya especially is susceptible to mealy bugs. so definitely keep in mind if you are a hiya collector. Mealybugs are pretty easy to get rid of though.
You will end up seeing these white fluffy, cottony, areas usually tucked on the stems or under the leaves. You will have to check because they are not generally just sitting on top of your foliage. Also, you might find a mealy bug or two crawling around but most of the time they are going to be kind of tucked in under nooks and crevices.
To treat them you just want to wash them off the plant with water and then spray it down with Insecticidal soap. Make sure to scrub off any remaining mealies. They are very easy to get rid of provided you don’t miss any spots.
This one is not really a plant pest per se because they do not really damage plants. It is a common misconception about fungus Gnats. They fly around looking like little black fruit flies. They just fly around your room annoyingly. Also, they usually end up in your coffee or in your face or flying up your nose.
Also, they can be taken out by sticky traps and just letting your pots dry out. What these fungus gnats want to eat is all of the fungus and the mold spores that are growing in your pots. If you just let your pots dry out quite a bit then you are not going to have the fungus gnat issue because it kills their food supply.
Fungus Gnats lay eggs in your soil and sprout from there and they just eat all the little fungus in there which doesn’t harm your plant. They do not eat your plant. They are just annoying for plant parents.
If you are overwatering your plants to the point that fungus Gnats are very prominent throughout your collection, then you may be having some other issues. It may seem like your plant is declining but it’s not because of the fungus gnats. It is the overwatering issues that are killing your plant. They are by far the easiest out of all of these pests to get rid of and they definitely won’t be harming your plant. They are just a sign of a bigger issue that needs to be taken care of.
If you let your plants dry out and you still have fungus Gnats flying around you can get things like catchy which is like a little, lighted bug catcher.
You can also get these little yellow sticky traps. They will draw in these fungus gnats and they will get stuck to them. And that will take care of them as well. You don’t have to dump neem oil or hydrogen peroxide or any of that stuff in your plant. A lot of those things can have other effects on your plant and won’t even kill the fungus Gnats.
If you have plants that you cannot let dry out try Mosquito bits soaked in water and then water your plant with it. That will kill the larva without damaging your plant but needs to be used in tandem with traps to eliminate adult gnats.
Little creepy buggies crawling on our plants in our homes are really scary and terrifying. Hopefully, this made them a little less scary. Knowledge is power. Your plants are not going to die if you stay on top of your plants. Every single plant parent out there has a pest on a plant somewhere in their home. It is not a bad thing. It doesn’t make you a bad plant parent. Also, it just makes you like all the rest of the plant parents.
If you have not gotten a plant pest yet, don’t worry you probably will but now you are armed with all of the knowledge to be able to take care of that. You won’t have any issues and you will be able to confidently get rid of whatever pest you come across to have a happy healthy plant collection.