Any plant lover knows that from time to time, you will suffer an infestation of pests. Severity is dependent on early detection, prevention, and the curative measures that you implement. Some bugs are barely visible to the naked eye and you may want to invest in a pocket microscope to identify them. Others camouflage, making it difficult to detect.
Types of Bugs and How to Identify Them
Aphids are about the most common indoor plant pests. They stay close together and reproduce quickly, making them easy to identify though they hide under leaves. They are brown, green, black, or grey. Aphids suck out the sap making the leaves yellowish in patches and stunt plant growth. They secrete honeydew when feeding, giving the leaves a shiny, sticky appearance, which may cause sooty mold fungi to grow.
Mealybugs secret a waxy cottony substance once they start to feed on the plant’s sap, causing it to look dehydrated despite watering. Like Aphids, they suck plant sap making leaves yellowish, affecting growth, and sometimes plant death. They are related to scale insects.
These are tiny, slim, yellow-brownish insects with fringed wings. They mostly hide on leaves or between flower petals. They are difficult to spot. They feed by sucking sap from leaves by scrapping surface cells. This leaves behind a speckled appearance on the leaves, just like mites. They feed in groups increasing the damage caused. Infestation can cause early dropping of leaves, streaking of flowers, and death of flowers before they bloom. They cause stunted growth of plants and the spreading of diseases.
Despite the name, whiteflies are not flies. They are more like mealybugs, scales, and aphids. They are powdery and resemble small moths. Unlike adults, the immature ones are scale-like and do not move. They suck sap from stems and leaves of plants leaving behind discoloration. The leaves turn yellow and die. Infested plants face stunted growth.
• Spider Mite
Spider mites are very tiny and hardly visible with the naked eye. They are therefore sported by webbing on the undersides of the leaves. This is also a sign of severe infestation. They survive on leaf sap, which makes the leaves browned or yellowed. They reproduce at an alarming rate of 3-7 days and prefer a dry aired place as opposed to a humid area.
• Scale Insect
Scales are generally small and can quickly grow into a colony before you notice them. They attach themselves to the plant stem and camouflage themselves with a hard, oval-shaped shell. Similar to mealybugs. They live on sap, leaving the host too weak to self-sustain.
Springtails are small insects that are not necessarily invisible to the human eye and are mostly black or white. They are wingless but jump several inches high when disturbed. Mostly, they feed on the decomposing matter in soil but can also feed on young plants. They hardly cause damage though, and favor moist soil or generally dump areas.
Slugs are quite big and cause quite a lot of damage. Luckily, they are the easiest to deal with. They leave holes in leaves or sometimes strip entire leaves. They also hide well by morning, leaving behind a slimy trail indicating their presence.
• Fungus Gnat
These are tiny flies found around house plants but do not cause damage to them in adult form. Although, at larval stages, they are very harmful. They feed on feeder roots and organic debris in potting soil. Plants attacked will eventually lose leaves and their healthy looks. The adults are weak flyers. They are also attracted to light.
For indoor plants pest control, let’s take a look at both natural and chemical options.
• Natural Control
Preference is on the use of natural methods as you want to minimize the chemicals you are exposing yourself to. If infestation is identified early, you can handpick out the pests. Rinsing leaves under warm water, or spraying them using insecticidal soap ensuring to rinse off the soap completely to avoid stunted growth, or rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab to wipe the stems and leaves are all effective methods. However, depending on the intensity of infestation, you may need to repeat the procedure several times for it to eliminate the pests.
• Chemical Control
Avoid spraying chemicals indoors unless you have to. It is advisable to remove the plant outdoors for chemical treatment, if the weather is favorable, and return it indoors once you have eliminated the pests. This is a sensitive process as you want to avoid cross-contamination from any pests that may have infested your outdoor plants. Pay close attention to the product label as not all plants react the same way to different chemicals. However, it is advisable to let professionals like Excel Pest Control manage your chemical curative process for safety.
When plants are severally damaged, it is better to throw out the entire plant. Do not re-use that soil as it is likely infested with pests even though they may not be visible to the naked eye.