Small Bugs on Houseplants?

Q: My boss took care of my houseplants while I was on vacation this summer. Now that I am back I see tiny little bugs crawling around on the leaves which are already peppered with brown spots from the bugs eating them. I have never had bugs on my plants before!

The bugs are tiny, about 1/32 inch or even smaller, and resemble a speck of dirt until you see them move. They do not fly that I have seen, only crawl around. They seem to prefer spider plants and do not care for African violets or my mini rose bush at all. But I have seem them on my prayer plants and my pothos.

Can you please tell me the best way to get rid of these awful things? I really do not want to lose all of my beautiful plants.


A: Mommyrabbit, vIt sounds like you're describing an infestation of aphids-especially if you're seeing a honeydew or sticky mold-type of substance on the leaves. Here some strategies for getting rid of them:

Physically Remove Them: Dislodge them with a blast of water from your kitchen sink sprayer or garden hose or try sucking them up with a hand-held vacuum.


Dry Them Out: Gently apply rubbing alcohol to leaves using a cotton ball or spray leaves with a mixture containing a few drops of Ivory dish soap and 1 quart of water.

Smother Them: Mix few drops of cooking oil in with Ivory dish soap and water and apply to leaves with a spray bottle.

Keep in mind that anything you apply to the leaves of your plants (organic or commercial) can burn the leaves and kill off beneficial insects. To minimize this, rinse the leaves with water a few house after application. Don't forget to treat the underside of your plant's leaves-a favorite spot for Aphids to hide-out and multiply.

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July 28, 20050 found this helpful

You may have aphids. They are probably the most common insect that infests plants -- both indoor and outdoor plants. You might want to try something like Safer Insecticidal Soap. There are other versions of the same thing, but they are made by different companies. This is probably the least toxic way to go and I would try this first. Otherwise, another common thing that is used (and it's frequently used in greenhouses,) is a product called Malathion. The problem with that is that the smell is horrendous, and unless you are in a well ventilated area, it can be really overwhelming. I don't think that it has any toxicity, but the smell (at least as far as I am concerned,) is really bothersome. Look at the leaves of your plant, and look at the underside. You might want to remove a few leaves (perhaps a leave from a few of your plants,) to take to a gardening center or greenhouse to show them.


Once someone sees exactly what the bugs are doing, they may have a better idea as to the exact type of insect, and can suggest the proper remedy accordingly. It sounds like you have a serious problem, so I would take action ASAP. The longer you wait, the more serious the problem is going to get. You may also want to try to separate your plants. If they are together, part of your problem may be that once a plant is diseased, some diseases can spread to other plants. If you have any plants that aren't in bad shape, I would move them into a different room, and be sure that they are as far away from the diseased plants as possible. Sometimes, a solution of 1 part dish soap to about 5 parts of water in a spray bottle can be helpful. It sometimes works to drown insects, but if you are dealing with a disease, you need some remedy for the disease itself.

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By mommyrabbit (Guest Post)
August 5, 20050 found this helpful

The bugs don't hop or fly, or appear to have wings. They just walk.

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By Dahart (Guest Post)
August 12, 20050 found this helpful

Get a spray bottle and put some original Dawn dishsoap in it Not much Fill the rest with water If it bubbles that's Ok IF not that is Ok also. Spray your plants daily until you see no more bugs IF they return just repeat application.

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August 13, 20051 found this helpful

I have also heard of tobacco water used to kill the buggers as well.
Soak a little tobacco in some water over night and in the morning put the water in a spray bottle and spray away the bugs.


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By cammyhen (Guest Post)
August 17, 20050 found this helpful

If they're not aphids, they sound like spider mite, especially if they're making the leaves a bit mottled or brown. In my experience aphids don't tend to go for spider plants, whereas red spider mite does.

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By (Guest Post)
September 26, 20050 found this helpful

Sounds like thrips to me. I am still battling them. Spraying them doesn't seem to work but a systemic insecticide is making progress. You have to be very diligent as they are prolific and come back with a vengence.

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