If you noticed some insects around your plant, you might be wondering how to get rid of them. No problem. Here we’ll show you how to get rid of common houseplant pests, as well as prevent future home invasions.
Why Does My Plant Have Pests?
You must realize that bugs are normal. They do not represent poor hygiene or a lack of care on your part. You’re doing just fine. Despite our best efforts, some bugs can remain invisible to us even when we examine our plants before purchase. Your plants may benefit from spraying them with a mild, unscented soap-based cleanser, hot oil, or insecticidal soap to kill any pests that may be hiding. Look for signs of pests and ensure the plants are not stressed, lacking light, or have too much water or too little water, and the humidity levels are ideal. Any combination of these factors may be the ideal mix for the emergence of pests.
What are Scale Bugs?
Insects in the order Coccoidea known as Scale make up a fairly common pest in the home. They are plant parasites that can be rather destructive to plants. The hard, protective shells give them a fish-like appearance on plants, thanks to their waxy appearance. A waxy shell protects scale bugs on your plant from breaking off and causing damage to its vascular system. By latching themselves onto your plant, the insects consume the vascular system and fortify themselves by secreting a wax secretion.
Among the many scale insects, mealy bugs are among the most common. In this article I will cover both soft and hard scales, and how they come in a variety of shapes, colors and sizes. I have seen a lot of scales on plants, both indoors and outdoors. While adult scales are normally invisible, it’s easy enough for them to be identified.
Likewise, mealy bugs and aphids are readily visible as well.
Its brown to tan color indicates that it’s secreting sugar from the sap of the plant because it can’t ingest all of the sugar. Your plant may look black when infested from a fungus, which is found on the sugar. Ants love the sugar, so they come to the plant in flocks to feast on all that sweetness. You want to hose up any black sooty mold on your plant and don’t worry about the ants grabbing the plant. The ants are after the sugar, not the plant. Once the pests are gone, the ants will disappear as well.
Hard scales appear as little bumps on your plant and are typically found on the stems, branches, undersides of the leaves, and also on the fruit. Hard scales can be light or dark brown, white, tan, reddish, or black. The scale I have seen on citrus trees, ficus trees, holly, bamboo palms, cycads, and myoporums have been on indoors and out.
Getting Rid of Scale Bugs
Generally speaking, there are two types of scale bugs hard and soft. While they are generally impervious to spraying insecticides of any kind, especially ones with hard scales, sometimes soft scale can be affected by sprayings.
It is best to scrape off dead scale bugs from an old infestation. If the infestation is old, dead scale bugs are easily scraped. A live scale bug is more challenging than a dead one because it is holding on and does not want to let go. Although the Scale adults are probably gone, the larvae or crawlers may have been hatched and have been feasting on any untapped areas of your plant. There’s bad news and good news. They are almost invisible but weak, so they’re pretty easy to kill with mild insecticides.
Occasionally release lacewings in your garden as a means of control. If it’s in contact with your houseplants, this obviously isn’t feasible. Thrives are controlled by a mite that eats eggs and larvae, and both of these predators are effective in preventing further infestations.
Spray with water
These are the methods I rely on. I blast off the pests & their eggs with a gentle blasting action (no fire hose action here, please) and then wipe them clean with a cloth. If you do not have access to a hose outdoors, you can spray your houseplants with the spray in your kitchen or bathroom. The controlling these 2 pests is only partial – you won’t get all the larvae & eggs through this control method.
Insect killer sprays
We do not use chemicals on the farm, so these are “natural controls”. Among them, horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, and neem oil. You can spray these on most plants, but check first. You’ll have to do a little research to see which method works best for you.
Getting a handle on scale with horticultural oil is no problem. The oil coats the scale & smothers it.
Homemade spray recipes
I have always prepared a soap/oil spray the following way: Add 1 tablespoon mild dish soap, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, and 1 cup water. This works the same way as the horticultural oil does.
The sticky blue traps are used as thrips traps. Hang them in or next to an infested plant to capture the adult thrips. Blue attracts the thrips, which fly right into the sticky traps. I would spray the plants to make sure I got the larvae and eggs, as well.
If the infestation is not too severe, you can simply scrape the scale off with your fingernail (if that doesn’t make you nervous!) or with a rag or towel. I dabbed the scale off with a cotton swab. I sprayed the diluted solution onto the plant and the surface of the soil just to make sure that the eggs are also destroyed.
How do Scale bugs travel?
You’ll see scale on the plant, as well as the leaves becoming chlorotic and on the lower stems drooping due to their juices being sucked out. It is a pretty straightforward process to remove scales, and they won’t travel very far (only the very weak crawlers can jump), so when you have an infestation, the new plants are usually the source of the infestation. Though they can ride upon the wind, they are rarely able to do this, especially in cities.
Which plants are most commonly affected by scale bugs?
In general, scale bugs are most attracted to plants that are tough, but plump and juicy. Their action is one of avoidance because they don’t have much to latch on to in thin-leaved plants. Infesting plants with bark or really thick protective layers is too difficult for scale insects. They may prefer soft growth on woody plants or a different plant altogether. A snake plant is the most common plant they consume. They also feed on cacti, succulents, and bird’s nest ferns.