Have you noticed white fuzz or yellow and rust-colored spots on your succulents lately? Chances are they might be infected with pests or harmful insects that are not easily detected by the human eye. Plant owners tend to rely on insecticides for succulents to fix the problem. Read on for a closer assessment of the pros and cons of using synthetic insecticides, and for organic alternatives that are safe for your plants and the environment.
Insecticides for succulents: What are they?
These are some of the most common insecticides for succulents:
This is an effective insecticide, but it should only be used for very extreme situations or when there is a huge infestation. This insecticide tends to cause major harm to bees and bee colonies. The chemical is also found in some Bayer and Merit products. This insecticide comes in small granules that are diluted in water before being sprayed onto plants. The product may not be available in some US states.
This is usually found in products by Bonide. Just like Imidacloprid, you have to dilute the chemical in small amounts and spray it on the plants. Pour the leftovers on the soil but use the insecticide with great care to limit damage to the environment. This product also may not be available in some US states.
3. Neem oil insecticide
Neem oil is from the Azadirachta indica tree, which is endemic to South Asia and India. It is known for its insecticidal properties. The key ingredient is Azadirachtin; the highest amounts of this are found in the seeds. Neem oil insecticide is applied as a soil drench and causes insects to reduce or cease feeding. It also prevents larvae from maturing; the oil coats the breathing holes of insects and kills them.
4. Insecticides with essential oils
Some systemic pesticides contain essential oils like thyme, cloves, cinnamon, and rosemary. Products that contain these oils include SNS 209 and Ed Rosenthal’s Zero Tolerance. However, some pests are not affected by these insecticides.
Pyrethroid insecticides are also commonly used by pest management professionals. They are a special chemical class of active ingredients found in most modern insecticides. Pyrethrin insecticide, in particular, contains pyrethrum, a compound extracted from chrysanthemum flowers.
Insecticide sprays, such as acephate and dimethoate, are also effective for succulents when they are diluted and sprayed on the plants. These should be applied only as often as the label recommends.
Systemic insecticides and pesticides absorb into the succulents through the roots. When the pests drink the juice, they die, or their hormones are affected so they cannot procreate or multiply. Extreme caution should be used when handling these insecticides to protect other plants, bees, animals, and children from getting into contact with them.
Safe alternatives to eradicate pests from succulents
These are safe alternatives to remove pests from succulents:
1. Beneficial insects
Not all insects are pests that are destructive to succulents. Some insects are beneficial and help ward off harmful pests from your plants. These insects include the following:
2. Ladybugs or lady beetles
They feed on soft-bodied pests and eggs.
3. Spider mite predator
These are an important biological controller for two-spotted spider mites.
4. Mealybug destroyer
They attack all species of mealybugs and also feed on aphids.
5. Fungus gnat predator
These tan-colored mites feed on fungus gnat larvae.
6. Aphid parasite
This tiny parasitic wasp lays eggs inside aphids, causing them to mummify and die.
7. Aphid predator
This gall midge attacks many species of aphids.
8. Diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a naturally occurring sedimentary rock formed from diatoms, or fossilized hard-shelled microalgae. It is typically 80 to 90% silica mixed with iron oxide and alumina, a clay mineral. Once ground, the resulting powder is coarse, hard, absorbent, and microscopically sharp-edged.
DE is popular as an insecticide since it effectively kills ants, aphids, mites, and gnats, which are common pests among succulents. It is considered an economical and safe alternative for pest control. It also helps absorb excess water among potted succulents and can keep the soil dry easily. DE helps bind newly applied fertilizers to the plants and has proven to be beneficial for succulents grown hydroponically.
Other succulent owners attest that spraying the affected areas with rubbing alcohol or soapy water are effective in removing insects. Regular spraying should be done until the insects are totally eradicated.
Succulent growers note that commercial or synthetic insecticides should only be used as a last resort and if there is a heavy infestation. It is ideal to use natural and organic ways first to treat pests before settling for synthetic insecticides that can be harmful to the environment.
Succulents are easy to cultivate and propagate since they are low-maintenance plants. However, they are not immune to invaders; harmful pests put them at great risk. The use of insecticide for succulents is an effective way to wipe out pests, but it is also dangerous since it can harm beneficial insects like ladybugs and bees. It is ideal to utilize organic and safe options first in treating pests and to only use synthetic insecticides as the last resort.
Image: istockphoto.com / ronstik