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Many insect pests are associated with indoor potted plants, including aphids, scales, whiteflies, mealybugs and thrips. These insect pests inflict damage to houseplants and often become a nuisance within homes. Pests of houseplants are made up of insect species that are not typically known as indoor pests, but most are well known landscape and/or agricultural pests. Some houseplant pests like millipedes, pillbugs and fungus gnats are relatively easy to control, while other houseplant pests like whiteflies, scales and mealybugs are relatively difficult to control. However, houseplant pests are generally well controlled with either chemical or non-chemical methods.

Aphids may be the most commonly controlled pests of potted plants within homes, and they are usually found on the undersides of leaves and some feed on roots. These pests use their piercing mouthparts to suck sap from plants, which causes stunted growth, yellowing of leaves, and bud deformation. As aphids feed on sap they excrete honeydew, which makes leaves appear shiny and sticky to the touch. Eventually, a sooty mold grows on honeydew, resulting in unsightly dark splotches on the plant. Aphids are small, pear-shaped, and between ⅛ and 1/16 inch in length, and they are easier to control than many other plant pests because they respond to both toxic and green insecticides during all stages of their life cycle.

Multiple mealybug species are common pests of houseplants, and they are among the more difficult plant pests to control. Like most plant pests, mealybugs feed on plant sap, usually from the part of the stem located directly beneath leaves, and one species collects sap from roots. Adult female mealybugs and their nymphal offspring are covered in a waxy material that forms once they start to feed. This wax resembles bits of cotton and it serves as a barrier to insecticides, making reproductive adult females and nymphs difficult to exterminate. Insecticidal soaps and synthesized insecticides are both useful for eliminating mealybugs from houseplants.

Have you ever struggled to eliminate an insect pest infestation in your houseplants?