Bug Off

Red spider mite

With approximately 10 quintillion individual insects alive (not including spiders), that’s 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 creepy crawlers roaming around us. So it shall always be a battle when sharing our living space as bug off becomes a daily mantra.

Luckily the outdoors presents a host of predators such as birds, bats and other beneficial predators that do a pretty good job at keeping these pesky critters in balance. But indoor plants find themselves easy prey to bugs and can soon succumb to vampire attacks on their luscious green leaves. The most common pests for houseplants are aphids, spider mites and mealy bugs.

A healthy plant is a strong plant. Make sure plants get sufficient air flow and lighting to keep them well. Wipe their leaves from dust that settles so the plant can breathe and absorb sunlight properly. And don’t over love your plants with too much water. Always use well-draining soil that has been sterilized so no lurking larvae or eggs are living in the mix.

aphidsAphids munch on houseplants everywhere. They suck sap from the plant which causes new growth from the plant to be stunted and distorted. These pesky critters are about any color and found on new growth and underneath the leaves clustered in groups. If found, wipe them off and continue to do so for a couple of days. If they keep coming back, insecticidal soap and neem oil works well on getting rid of them.

Spider mites (the red critter pictured above) are those tiny little suckers almost impossible to see that sap the green color from plants and make leaves appear bronzed or washed out. In severe cases, the mites form a fine webbing covering the underside of leaves. Once infested it takes perseverance to get rid of them. Isolate the plant right away and spray weekly with a soapy water mix (1 tablespoon of dishwashing soap to 1 quart of water). If caught soon enough, this should do the trick. Spray again if need be and then every day spray a strong stream of water at the infestation on the plants, not to forget under the leaves. Mites reproduce every 3 – 7 days, so it is important to spray every day. Neem oil has been known to help eradicate these pesky pests. Dry air helps encourage the mites to breed, so keep the plants misted with water regularly to help ward them off.

mealybugsMealybugs look like little white tufts of cotton and often are mistaken for disease. Found on stems at leaf joints, under leaves, flower buds, and almost anywhere on the plant. If not checked regularly, plants can become over infested quickly with these bugs. How to detect? Plants look dry even after watering. They have wilting, yellowing leaves. And are losing leaves. Also, ants on the plants are good indication pests such as aphids and mealybugs might be present. If mealybugs are spotted, use a Q-tip dipped in alcohol to kill them. This might have to be done until all the mealybugs are gone. Again, neem oil works well and pyrethrin, a natural insecticide derived from the crude extract of the chrysanthemum flower.

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