There are several types of houseplant bugs, and they’re all equally irritating. But it’s important to know the signs to look out for, and quickly identify an infestation before it spreads to your other indoor plants. Below I will show you exactly how to identify common houseplant pests, and give you tips for treating them.
There are several types of houseplant bugs that can attack indoor plants. The good news is that each one has its own distinct characteristics, so they are easily identifiable.
Discovering that one of your beloved houseplants has an infestation is never fun. But, before you can effectively get rid of houseplant pests, you need to know which one you’re dealing with.
So in this post, I’m going to talk about the most common bugs on houseplants, how to identify them, the symptoms and damage they cause, and also give you some quick tips for eliminating them.
Here’s what you’ll find in this guide…
- What Are The Little Bugs In My Houseplants?
- Houseplant Bugs Identification
- Natural Treatment Tips
Help! What Are The Little Bugs In My Houseplants?
I get asked this question all the time! First off, I’m so sorry to hear that you found bugs on your houseplants, there is nothing more frustrating! I know the feeling, and I’ve been there many, many times.
The first step to take as soon as you discover the infestation is to figure out the what type of houseplant pest you’re dealing with.
Once you have a positive ID, it will make it much easier to eradicate them as quickly as possible! So let’s figure out what we’re dealing with here…
The Most Common Types Of Houseplant Bugs
Below I will go into details about how to identify common houseplant bugs, including what they look like, and the damage they do.
This will help you figure out what is eating your houseplants, so you can exterminate them quickly and efficiently.
For each kind of pest, I’ve also included a link to the page where you can learn even more, and find out exactly how to get rid of it for good!
The funny thing about these soft-bodied scale insects is that they don’t even look like bugs at first glance.
Most people mistaken them for fungus or mold on indoor plants. But, when you take a closer look, you can easily see that they are indeed bugs.
- Identification: A mealybug infestation looks like cotton, small white fuzzy bugs, or white powder on houseplants. They tend to cluster on the stems and leaf joints, or along the veins of the leaves. Most of the time they don’t appear to move, but they can sometimes be seen crawling around.
- Symptoms/damage: The first sign of mealybugs is a white sticky substance, or white cotton-like bugs on houseplants. Damage includes stunted or deformed new growth, and leaf or bud drop.
Learn even more about mealybugs and how to get rid of them here.
The telltale sign of a spider mite infestation is fine webbing on houseplants. This webbing can be anywhere, but it usually starts on the undersides of the leaves, or at the tips of new growth. Take a closer look, and you’ll see tiny mites crawling around on the webbing.
- Identification: If you ever see spider webs on indoor plants, look closely. If there are little mites crawling around on the webbing, then you have just made a positive ID for spider mites.
- Symptoms/damage: The first sign of spider mites is fine webbing on the leaves, between branches, or on fresh growth and flower buds. Damage includes deformed, dead and dried out leaves, or the leaves and flower buds start dropping.
Learn even more about spider mites and how to get rid of them here.
Just as the name suggests, whiteflies look like tiny white flies or moths in houseplants. They lay their eggs on the undersides of leaves, so the population can grow very large without being detected. When you disturb an infested plant, the adults will flutter around, making them easy to identify.
- Identification: If you see small white flying bugs fluttering around houseplants, then check under the leaves. You can easily see little white dots (eggs) and bugs (nymphs/adults) on the undersides of leaves.
- Symptoms/damage: The first thing that most people notice is the damage that whiteflies cause. Damaged leaves will turn yellow and drop from the plant. Other symptoms include white spots on the undersides of the leaves, and tiny white bugs flying around when you disturb the plant.
Learn even more about whiteflies and how to get rid of them here.
By far the most common types of houseplant bugs are fungus gnats (also known as soil gnats). They are those annoying little black gnats that you’ll see flying around houseplants, and crawling in the soil. Since they live and breed in potting soil, they can be very difficult to control.
- Identification: Small gnats flying around houseplants, tiny white worms in the soil, and/or black bugs crawling on top of the dirt.
- Symptoms/damage: Thankfully fungus gnats are just annoying, and don’t cause much harm to healthy indoor plants. However, they do feed on roots. So very large populations could damage weak or young houseplants.
Learn all about fungus gnats and how to get rid of them here.
Commonly found outside in the garden, aphids can get into the house and wreak havoc on your indoor plants. They multiple very quickly, and can spread like wildfire.
They usually cluster on new growth buds, making them more obvious. But many times they will blend in with the foliage, and can easily go unnoticed until the houseplant is completely infested.
- Identification: Small, fat, juicy bugs clustering on new growth and flower buds. They can be a wide range of colors, from green, orange, red, brown, blue, or black. There are usually lots of little white specs (the nymphs) around the clusters of adult aphids as well.
- Symptoms/damage: Usually the first sign of that you’ll see is either tiny white flecks, or large clusters of insects. You may also notice a sticky residue around the base of infested houseplants. Damage includes stunted and deformed growth, as well as leaf and bud drop.
Learn more about aphids and how to get rid of them here.
It can be very difficult to notice scale on a houseplant because they don’t look like bugs at all. They look like harmless bumps or scabs.
For that reason, they usually go unnoticed until the infestation grows very large – which is part of what makes them so hard to control.
- Identification: Various sized brown, tan, greyish, or white colored bumps or spots on the leaves and stems. Scale is often found clustering around the stem and leaf joints, and along the veins of the leaves.
- Symptoms/damage: The first thing you’ll probably notice are the bumps or spots, and there may also be a sticky residue on or around the houseplant. Scale insects don’t appear to move at all. But they come off easily when you scrape them with a fingernail. They usually leave behind small pock marks when removed.
Learn even more about scale and how to get rid of it here.
This is another garden pest that can get inside and infest your houseplants. Since thrips are so small, they are difficult to see. So infestations often go unnoticed until the population becomes very large.
The good news is that thrips are the least common of all of the types of bugs on houseplants we’ve discussed so far. So, hopefully you’ll never have to deal with them.
- Identification: Small black bugs (they could also be brown, yellowish-green, or white in color) with skinny bodies and pointy tails. The adults have wings, but they aren’t great flyers. So you will probably never see them flying around.
- Symptoms/damage: Dull, white, or grayish looking houseplants, or the leaves look like they’re dirty. Eventually the damaged parts will turn brown, and leaves and flower buds could begin dropping. New growth is often deformed.
Learn all about thrips and how to get rid of them here.
Tips For Treating All Types Of Houseplant Bugs
There is no one magical way to exterminate all of the different kinds of bugs on houseplants. Many will require specific treatment methods based on their lifecycle, and behavior.
Also, it’s very important to keep in mind that all types of indoor plant bugs can quickly build up a resistance to chemical pesticides. So, whatever you do, make sure you only use natural products on them.
To give you a quick head start, below I’ve listed some of the best organic treatment methods to try. But you can learn all about using natural houseplant pest control remedies here.
- Hand picking – Dip a cotton swap in rubbing alcohol, then use it to kill and remove as many of the bugs as you can find.
- Insecticidal soap – Spraying the leaves with insecticidal soap will kill most of them on contact, giving you the upper hand.
- Strong stream of water – Simply rinsing the leaves with a strong stream of water from the hose, sink, or shower will quickly knock down the population.
- Neem oil – A naturally occurring pesticide, neem oil kills bugs when they feed on a houseplant. It also has a residual effect that helps deter them.
- Wash the leaves – Use a mild liquid soap to wash the leaves on the infested houseplant. Soap kills all houseplant bugs on contact.
- Soil covers – Covering the top inch of potting soil with a natural soil barrier can kill larvae, and help to prevent adults from laying eggs and reproducing.
- Sticky traps – Yellow and/or blue sticky traps work great to attract and capture flying bugs, like whiteflies, aphids, thrips and fungus gnats.
Now that you know exactly which types of houseplant bugs you’re dealing with, eradicating them is so much easier. Plus, you’ll be able to keep them from ever coming back!
If you struggle with constant bug infestations on your houseplants, and want them gone for good, then my Houseplant Pest Control eBook is for you! It will show you exactly how to maintain bug-free indoor plants. Download your copy today!
More About Houseplant Pests
- How To Debug Plants Before Bringing Them Indoors
- How To Use Neem Oil On Indoor Plants
- Where Do Houseplant Pests Come From?
- How To Keep Cats Out Of Houseplants
Share your tips for identifying the various types of houseplant bugs in the comments section below.