House PlantsGardening

African Violets Infested with Insects


I have been having a problem with my African Violets for months now and have actually lost some. I have some kind of spider or bug that you can't really see but there are tiny cottony white spots all over the plant stems and a few on the leaves. I have tried the normal insect spray and also dipping them into liquid dish detergent and nothing seems to work. Please help me, I don't want to lose any more of them. I only have a few left.


Diane from Pingree, ID



It sounds like you have a bad infestation of mealy bugs. These tiny, sucking bugs are covered with a white wax that gives them the appearance of cottony white spots on your plants. This wax is tough to penetrate, and usually requires a special spray designed specifically for mealy bug control, or the use of alcohol over a period of days in order to kill the eggs and larvae.

First, isolate all of your violets that appear affected to avoid spreading the infestation to healthy plants. Try gently swabbing affected leaves and steams with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. You will need to do this daily for 3 - 4 days to make sure you kill off the eggs and emerging larvae. Another method is to dip leaves in a 1:3 solution of Clorox and water. Worst - case scenario, you can also consider clipping off infected leaves or cutting plants back almost to soil level.


If despite your best efforts your violets still seem to be losing the battle, consider cutting some healthy leaves from your remaining plants (or crown cuttings) and starting a new collection before discarding your infected plants. Just make sure you watch new growth carefully for signs of new infestations. When mealy bugs appear primarily near the stems of your African violets, they may be the soil - born variety, which can suddenly appear out of nowhere months after bringing home a perfectly healthy looking plant. That is why whenever purchasing a new plant, I recommend isolating it for a period of months to make sure it is 'clean' before moving near other houseplants.

Good luck!


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January 24, 20080 found this helpful

Sound to me like mealy bug and they are horrible to get rid of. They have a waxy protective covering to them which means that anything you spray does not get through to them.


You could try dabbing them with a cotton bud dipped into some kind of alcohol(vodka, gin etc), it is a tedious, unpleasant job and not guaranteed to work, but is all I know of. The alcohol destroys their protective coating. Good luck.

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January 24, 20080 found this helpful

Sounds like mealy bugs. They live in that cottony stuff. Dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and rub the cottony things away. It won't harm your plants but it will dissolve the bugs, at least temporarily. They may come back but you can do this as often as you need to.

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By (Guest Post)
January 31, 20080 found this helpful

I used ivory snow the flakes and washed the violets off with that and this was years ago. carol

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By (Guest Post)
January 31, 20080 found this helpful

To me that would be aphids/spider mites. I get that on occasion here. All I do is screw a spray nozzle onto my rubbing alcohol bottle and drench it totally. (all leaves, and top of soil)


If you use the wintermint alcohol, it leaves a really nice scent in the house too!

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