Succulent Pests

Succulents are drought-resistant plants that are quite tolerant of insects.  While some of these pests may not bother the plants, some are harmful and may inflict serious damage to your succulents.  

Common succulent pests 

These are some of the common succulent pests:

Mealybugs 

These bugs are common pests among cacti and succulents. These tiny and elliptical insects are gray or light brown-colored and are two to three millimeters long. They are named after the waxy or mealy white material that they produce. If you notice white cottony substances in your succulents, it means mealybugs are thriving in them.

Mealybugs produce honeydew or a sugary substance that could promote mold growth and succulents may become susceptible to fungal and bacterial infections. These bugs also consume the sap from the leaves which leads to yellowed and wilted leaves. They easily spread among the plants and usually live on the underside of the leaves and joints of the plants. 

Scales

These insects have two groups that attack succulents: armored and soft scale. There are over a thousand species of these insects that vary in size, color and shape. Small, brown bumps in your plants indicate a scale problem. These pests eat the sap, damage the plants and make them susceptible to diseases.

Aphids 

These small insects are also called greenflies or plant lice and they have fat and teardrop-shaped bodies. They come in various colors, though most commonly green. They thrive in large numbers and they suck on leaves or flowers found at the end of the stems. 

Aphids also secrete honeydew(a sugary white substance) as they feed on the sap. The honeydew attracts the growth of molds and when these pests suck on the plants’ tissues, the leaves become misshapen and growth is stunted. 

Spider mites

These mites are small and their presence is hard to detect. These pests like to suck on the sweet sap of succulents. Red-colored mites are the most common kind. Infested plants turn white and silvery and early signs of these pests include spider webbing and small brown spots on the plants.

Whiteflies 

These small, white and flying insects are usually found among leafy succulents. They multiply easily and are hard to control. They are usually seen on the underside of leaves and just like aphids, they produce honeydew that promotes mold growth.

Fungus gnats

These insects are not as harmful compared to the other pests, but they can still cause damage to your succulents. They look like mosquitoes and they are easily attracted to constantly moist soil. If your succulents have soil that is always wet these pests will most likely live in the plants and start to breed.

Ants

A few ants may seem harmless for plants, but if you see an army of them, they could cause damage to the succulents. Ants are attracted to succulents because the plants most likely have aphids, scales or mealybugs that secrete sugary substances.

How to get rid of succulent pests? 

Here are the steps on how to get rid of succulent pests:

First, examine your succulents. 

Check and determine which of the plants are affected. Identify what kind of pests ravaged the plants, whether it was mealybugs, aphids or fungus gnats. It is essential to administer proper care to avoid the spread of damage.

Quarantine the affected succulents. 

After you have identified the infected plants, quarantine them to stop the pests from spreading further. It will help you keep a closer eye on the plants so you can give extra care to the ones that are not responding to treatment. If you bought new succulents, separate them in another area before you allow them to be with the other plants. 

Next, administer pest control measures.

A great way to keep pests away is to take preventative measures such as spraying systemic insecticide on newly-purchased succulents while they are quarantined.  It will protect the plants from damage and you should spray them again upon re-potting. 

If your current succulents are affected by pests, spray them with a water mixture with at least 70% alcohol. Be sure to cover all angles and if there are still pests, use a mixture of dish soap and water or insecticidal soap or spray.  Once the plants are bug-free for a month it is already safe to return them to the group. 

Stay watchful and monitor your plants.

Do not be complacent. Being pest-free does not mean the pests will not come back. Monitor and check your succulents regularly for any signs of pests and bugs and quarantine affected plants at once.

Repeat the steps if there is a re-infestation.

Should you notice the presence of pests again, repeat the steps indicated above. If you find the pests too stubborn and you cannot get rid of them, it may be time to call a pest control professional to handle the problem. 

Preventative tips to keep pests away  

Here are some preventative tips to keep pests at bay:

  • Keep your succulents dry, as wet soil attracts pests. 
  • Remove dead leaves so pests won’t have anywhere to breed and hide. It will also reduce mold growth. 
  • Avoid placing dead leaves or reused soil from infected plants in your compost pile. 
  • Use a mild and balanced fertilizer to keep your succulents resistant to pests during the growing season. 

Conclusion 

Succulents are easy to take care of and not easily bothered by insects. However, succulent pests may attack them and inflict damage. Follow the steps discussed above on how to get rid of these bugs so your plants will grow healthy and pest-free. 

Image: istockphoto.com / ViniSouza128

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