Thoughts of insect infestations usually bring to mind attacks on outdoor ornamental planting and vegetable gardens. But, house plants are not immune to insect invasions. Of course, plants growing indoors are better protected than those exposed to outside conditions. However, a number of insects may infiltrate your home in search of a leafy meal.
Major enemies of indoor plants include spider mites, mealy bugs, aphids, and scales all of which cause damage by sucking out plant juices.
Spider mites, which may be green, yellow, red, or almost colorless, are very small –only about one-fiftieth of an inch long. They’re difficult to see without a magnifying glass. As the name implies, they look like tiny spiders, and are usually found on the undersides of leaves. If your plants are heavily infested with spider mites, you’ll see fine webbing on the foliage.
Mealy bugs are small, soft-bodied insects, about an eighth of an inch long they’re covered with a white powdery material. Some species are long, waxy filament at the rear of the body.
Aphids, which may be green, pink, brown, black, yellow, or blue, are usually less than an eighth of an inch long. They are pear-shaped, have long antennae, and two short tubes that extend from the rear of the body.
Scales, like aphids, are found in a wide range of colors. They range from an eight to a third of an inch in length, are covered with a waxy material,
and may be circular, oblong, or pear-shaped. Scales are found on both sides of leaves, as well as on twigs and branches, where they hide in crevices.
Although primarily an outdoor pest, whiteflies occasionally are found on
house plants. These pests which resemble tiny moths, are about one-sixteenth of an inch long as you’d expect, they’re white. You can usually tell if you have a whitefly problem by gently shaking suspected plants. If the pests are present, they’ll swarm around the plants for a few seconds. They also can be found on the undersides of leaves. Like the other critters we’ve described whiteflies injure plant by sucking out juices. They cause the most damage while feeding in their immature stage, when they look like tiny green to whitish fish scales.
Other house plant pests include fungus gnat maggots, psocids (soe-dids),
and springtails. These soil-borne pests cause little or no damage. However, large populations may become a nuisance. Fungus gnat maggots are white, worm-like, and reach a length of about one-quarter of an inch at maturity. Psocids generally are a six tenth of an inch or less in length. They’re grayish in color, and may or may not have wings. Spring tail range in size from microscopic to as much as a fifth of an inch long. They’re usually white, and they jump when disturbed.
Bugs often invade out homes on new plants. It pays to give such introductions a close inspection, before placing them near established plant residents.
For more information on house plant pests contact the Gulf County Extension Service @ 639-3200 or visit our website: http://gulf.ifas.ufl.edu or www.http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu and see Publication ENY 476 , ENY 317 & ENY 320.