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Plant Bugs: Identifying And Getting Rid Of Houseplant Pests

Houseplant bugs are natural problems that every gardener or plant owner should be used to. These nasty creatures are known to attack healthy plants much like outdoor pests. But Indoor plant bugs reproduce with ease due to favorable breeding conditions.

Plant bugs - common houseplants

This is why indoor plant pests identification is quite important. Understanding the various types of plant bugs and how to get rid of them could save you a lot of stress.  

Check your houseplants often for any signs of a pest attack. The earlier you can spot them, the better for your plant.

Here are the common houseplant pests, their symptoms, and possible treatments. 

Fungus Gnats

Fungus Gnats the most popular houseplant pest

Fungus gnats (Sciarid flies) are tiny common indoor houseplant insects. They are quite harmless but are known to disturb the indoor plant by hovering around its base.  

Spotting Fungus Gnats

These tiny flies can be found hovering around the plant or perched up on them. Fungus Gnats measure up to 2 millimeters in size and also appear as small colonies on the plant soil.  

You can also find their larvae underneath the soil surface. There, they can reproduce under ideal conditions. These larvae are worm-like and also tiny. They measure up to 1 centimeter long and are a little hard to spot. 

Treating Fungus Gnats 

You can treat fungus gnats using natural/ organic means or with the use of chemicals. Common plant bugs like fungus gnats feed on organic matter located in the soil.  They also love moist soil conditions.

This is why it is recommended that you reduce watering the plant till they leave. Also get rid of any dead plant organic matter or tissue, to starve them out.  Nematodes can also be used to treat gnats. 

They feed on the larvae of gnats, which could help reduce the pest population. To do this, mix the nematodes in water and pour them into the soil. Within a few weeks, you should be free from these insect bug pests. 

The use of chemical products containing pyrethrin and pyrethroids is also encouraged. These compounds are harmful to adult gnats. So ensure you treat  2 to 3 times to kill any larvae that might have developed into full adults. 

Spider mites 

Spider mites 

Indoor plant mites are some of the most difficult plants pests to deal with. They are descended from real spiders and are known to spin tiny webs all over the plant. These webs are like roads that grant them easy access to the plant. 

Insect spider mites feed on the chlorophyll that is located inside the plant’s leaves. This leads to tiny holes in the plant’s leaf. 

Spotting Spider Mites

Spotting or identifying house plant mites can be easy. The most obvious symptom would be the tiny white webbings they leave on the plant. Another would be the tiny brown spots or holes they leave on the plant’s foliage. 

When spider mites attack a leaf, they attack the plant cell. This causes it to die, resulting in the tiny brown spots you see. 

Treating Spider Mites   

Spider mites don’t do well when exposed to water or wet surfaces. This is why it is recommended that you wet your affected plant in the shower once a week.  

Regular misting is also recommended. Mist the webbings first, to get rid of them, then proceed to mist the entire plant.  This might be a slow approach, but within a few weeks to months of this, the plant should be healthy. 

You can also use chemical products that contain fatty acids. Horticulture oil works great on plants with spider mites. And so does the use of insecticidal soap. 



Mealybugs are larger pests than most pests on this list. They are related to scales and can be found in clusters resembling white woodlice. 

They are quite dangerous to plants as they feed on plant sap. This could damage the plant’s leaves, causing them to turn yellow and drop off. 

Spotting Mealybugs 

Mealybugs can be found at the undersides of affected leaves or plant leaf joints. It is easy to mistake them for white cotton wool when grouped together. 

The affected plant would start wilting and would also start dropping some of its leaves. They could also produce a brown honeydew residue.  

Treating Mealybugs

Due to their large size, you can get rid of mealybugs by spraying them with water. Or poking them with a stick. 

Another method would be rubbing alcohol (Isopropyl) on the affected leaves.  Dip the cotton swab in the alcohol and rub it on the undersides of the leaves. 



Whiteflies are second cousins to aphids and scales. They look like white moths and are known to form colonies on plants. They are winged houseplant bugs that could take flight with ease when spotted.  

These creatures suck on the sap of the affected plant’s leaves. This can cause it to turn yellow and fall off. They also secrete honeydew, which attracts other pests to the plant. 

Spotting Whiteflies

Asides from the obvious white appearance, whiteflies can be found perched on leaf tissues. Or they can be found hovering around the leaf joints and underside of plants. 

They lay eggs on plant leaves which are white and tiny. These eggs hatch after a few weeks to form into nymphs that crawl and attach themselves to the plant. 

Treating Whiteflies 

The color yellow is attractive to whiteflies. You can make use of yellow sticky paper to set traps for them.  You can also introduce insects like ladybug beetles to feed on them. 

Due to their large size, you can try spraying them with water. A hose is more ideal than a spray bottle as little spurts of water won’t scare them off. 

Liquid soap or insecticidal soap can also be useful for these plant insects. Pour the solution into a spray bottle and spray on the affected plant. 



Springtails are houseplant pests in soil that are hard to spot due to their tiny size.  They are small, harmless insects that are gray or white in color. This gray color makes them easy to spot when in dark organic compost. 

Spotting Springtails

Watering soil with springtails causes them to make quick, sudden movements. These movements are easy to notice with the ordinary eye. 

Treating Springtails

Springtails are indoor houseplant pests that don’t need to be treated. This is because they are harmless. 

But if you find them too annoying, you can get rid of them by reducing how often you water the plant.   Be careful when doing this as plants need water to survive.

Root Aphids

Root Aphids

Aphids are the most popular indoor houseplant insects. They survive by sucking on the sap of young plants by attacking their tips or flowers. Aphids can be found on the undersides of leaves. This way, they are hidden from plain sight. 

They come in a variety of colors ranging from green to black to gray. And are known to form small colonies. 

Spotting Root Aphids   

Because they form colonies, it can be quite easy to spot them. Look out for gray or white husks on the soil of your houseplant. 

The foliage of the affected plant could also develop yellow patches. This could affect the overall growth of the indoor houseplant. 

Treating Root Aphids 

Treating root aphids is easy. A simple liquid soap solution could help get rid of them. You can also make use of insecticidal soap or try poking them off with a stick. 

Chemical products like neem oil also work on root aphids. Pyrethrin or permethrin products are also recommended. 

Leaf Miners

Leaf Miners

Leaf miners are dangerous houseplant pests.  They attack the leaves of natural indoor plants. Their attacks leave a nasty yellow trail on the affected plant’s leaf. These attacks are caused by the larvae of black flies (which are adults).

Spotting Leaf Miners

The visible houseplant leaf problems caused by leaf miners include a yellow trail. This trail is caused by the larva of the insect, boring through regions of the plant’s leaf. It could also appear as blotches or patches and are quite nasty to look at. 

Treating Leaf Miners 

Getting rid of leaf miners can be frustrating.  This is because these tiny insects stay hidden in the leaf tissue. A natural way to get rid of them would be the introduction of beneficial insects. Diglyphus isaea is a species of wasp that feeds on leaf miners. 

You can also make use of Neem oil on leaf miners to help get rid of Leaf miners. Rub it on the affected plant for a week. 

Russet Mites

Russet Mites

Russet mites are uncommon insects that are dangerous to indoor plants. This is because of their small sizes. They are so small that it is difficult to see them with the naked eye. Most times, the affected plant would have to be damaged before you can spot them. 

To move around, russet mites can attach themselves to the bodies of other pests. Insects like whiteflies or aphids are good examples. 

Spotting Russet Mites 

It is almost impossible to identify russet mites before they damage the plant. They measure a size of 0.2 millimeters and have slim yellow bodies. You can mistake them for mold or pollen on the roots and stems of plants. 

Russet mites can cause damage or stress on plants, so use a magnifying lens to search for this. If you notice a plant is stressed, be on the lookout for the house pest. 

Treating Russet Mites

Most times the affected plants might need to be destroyed. But if you are able to discover it on time, make use of water and micronized sulfur.  Mix the sulfur in the water and spray on the plant with a spray bottle. 

Amblyseius mites feed on russet mites. They can be used as beneficial pests and introduced to the plant. 

Broad Mites

Broad Mites

Broad mites share a lot of similarities with russet mites. They both measure 0.2 millimeters in size and both require magnifying lenses to spot. 

For broad mites, it’s a lot easier, as they form groups or colonies at the underside of leaves. These colonies are black in color and feed on plant leaf tissue.  

Spotting Broad Mites 

These harmful small plant bugs are known to lay eggs on the underside of leaves. These eggs are oval-shaped and appear as white dots on leaf surfaces. Broad mites cause deformation on the leaves they feed on. The leaves could become gnarled or curled. 

If you notice deformed plant leaves on your houseplant. Pick out a magnifying lens and search for signs of broad mites. 

Treating Broad Mites

Broad mites hate heat. You can control the nasty infestation by applying heat to the plant. This can be done with the use of a steamer. Or by soaking the plant in hot water.

You can also make use of special mite-specific pesticides like Kontos or Avid. Regular application of these products could limit Broad mite infestation. 


Thrips are the worst pest infestation your plants can suffer. They can lead to the death of the plant if left untreated.  They are also called thunder flies and can deform affected plants in little time. 

In addition to that, getting rid of thrips can be very difficult.  It is also recommended that you dispose of plants with severe thrip infestation. 

Spotting Thrips

Adult thrips are difficult to spot, and their larvae are more difficult to spot. They can be found perched on the underside of affected leaves.  They vary in color from being white or translucent to being black or dark brown. 

Affected plants suffer a deep yellowing or browning. They can also begin to molt or deform over time. 

Treating Thrips 

During the beginning stage of the infestation, you can limit it by getting rid of the affected leaves. To do this you would need to spot it on time. Be careful when cutting off the affected leaves, so it doesn’t spread to healthier ones. 

You can also make use of neem oil by spraying the plant with it. Products with pyrethrin or deltamethrin can also prove useful in testing thrips. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most common houseplant pest?

Aphids and mealybugs are the most popular houseplant bugs. 

What is the best pesticide for indoor plants?

Neem oil is a natural organic pesticide that is quite potent in killing pests.

Can I make my own insecticidal soap?

Yes, by mixing some vegetable oil, liquid soap, and water.

Is Neem oil better than insecticidal soap?

It all depends on what infestation is being treated. Both are potent in killing houseplant pests. 

What causes thrips to come around?

Thrips can be picked up from exposure to the outdoor environment. Keep your houseplants indoors to protect them.