Succulents are popular among plant enthusiasts because they require minimal care and maintenance. There are approximately 10,000 succulent species worldwide, and most of them are continually being crossbred because of their unique colors, shapes, and sizes. However, just like other plants, succulents are prone to disease and pests. In this article, we will identify different varieties of black bugs on succulents and how you can protect your plants from them.
Types of Black Bugs on Succulents
These are some of the most common types of black bugs on succulents:
Aphids are soft-bodied insects that are also called plant lice. These pests feed on plant sap and excrete honeydew, a sugary substance that attracts ants and sooty mold fungus. There are around 4,000 species of aphids, which inflict damage not only on succulents but on other plants such as vegetables. Aside from black aphids, other species come in various colors such as green, yellow, and brown.
How to get rid of aphids:
Spray water with high pressure to get rid of aphids in your succulents. You can also remove the aphids from the plants using your hands. Another treatment option is using soapy water and vegetable oil. Simply put a few drops of dish soap in one to two cups of water, add one teaspoon of vegetable oil and mix well. Place the mixture in a spray bottle and spray it on any affected plant areas, including the undersides of the leaves.
Neem oil is also effective in removing aphids from your plants. Mix one tablespoon (15 ml) of neem oil into eight cups of water. Spray the solution on affected plant areas and the undersides of leaves. Do this only at night to avoid the leaves being sunburned. Repeat the procedure once a week as necessary, until there are no traces of aphids on the plants.
You can also introduce beneficial insects like ladybugs that prey on aphids. Attract them to your garden by planting chives, calendula, or cilantro plants.
Ants thrive on succulents because they feed on the nectar of the flowers. They also consume the honeydew that aphids excrete. You need to treat the aphids to remove the ants that flock to your plants.
How to get rid of ants:
Use soapy water or insecticidal soap, spraying it on the plants to remove the ants lurking in the leaves and stems. Repeat the procedure weekly as needed. Ant baits are also effective in drawing the ants away from the plants.
If there is a heavy infestation, you may have to repot the plant. Transfer the affected succulent to a new pot and place fresh succulent soil.
Fungus gnats resemble mosquitoes and are attracted to the moisture of potting soil. These black bugs are also called sciarid flies or mushroom flies. They look harmless but it can be hard to get rid of these black-colored bugs. If the soil in your plants is constantly moist, these pests become attracted to it and will start breeding.
How to get rid of fungus gnats:
Avoid overwatering your plants so that the soil is allowed to dry out. Make sure that your potting mix is fast-draining. Sprinkle cinnamon powder on top of the soil to get rid of these pests. Insect traps can help get rid of these insects as well. You can also spray the affected plant areas with a soap and water mixture.
Pest Prevention Tips
Here are some general pest prevention tips to keep your succulents healthy and pest-free:
- Use a mild, balanced fertilizer during the growing season of your succulents to keep them strong and healthy. Once the autumn season ends, do not add fertilizers again to your plants for the entire cold season.
2. Remove dead leaves so that bugs and pests cannot breed and hide. This will also prevent mold growth.
3. Make sure that you are using fast-draining soil so that it will not stay moist. If the soil stays wet for a long time it will attract gnats, mealybugs, and other pests.
4. Do not reuse soil or dead leaves from plants that have been affected by pests when making compost.
5. Spray your plants regularly with neem oil to repel harmful pests.
6. Pesticides should only be used in extreme infestations since some of them can contain toxic ingredients. They come in two types, contact and systemic. Contact pesticides need to be in contact with the pests to be able to kill them, while systemic ones are absorbed into the roots of the plants and poison the bugs when they feed on the plants. The latter type is more costly and comes in concentrated forms that should be diluted before application.
Black bugs on succulents may wreak havoc on your plants and could damage or kill them. Aphids can multiply quickly and can attract ants and sooty mold, which will aggravate the situation. Fungus gnats may not be as damaging, but they can also be a nuisance and hard to get rid of. Common treatment options include spraying plants with soapy water, using ant baits and insect pads, or spraying with contact or systemic pesticides.
Image: istockphoto.com / Aleksandr Krotkov