Indoor plants serve many purposes. They add to the decor, help purify the air and eliminate bad odors, and help make the ambiance of a room soothing and pleasant. But plants are also a source of food, not just for human beings but for many other organisms like worms, insects and pests. Insect and pest infestations make houseplants unhealthy and, in extreme cases, can kill the plants over time.
Aphids, or plant lice, are small, oval-bodied insects. They may be green, white, black, brown or orange. Some species have wings while others don't. Flower buds or new leaves are the usual areas of aphid infestation. The insects camouflage themselves easily against the color of the plant and can be hard to spot. Symptoms of aphid infestation are distortion of leaves and flowers, as the aphids suck the juices out of plants. The best way to get rid of aphids is by washing the plant thoroughly under water.
Mealybugs have soft oval bodies, similar to aphids. Mealybug shells are covered with waxy powder that is similar in appearance to cotton. The presence of cotton-like spots on plants indicates a mealybug infestation. Mealybugs feed on plant sap. They spread easily from one plant to another, as they are lightweight and carried easily by air. Mealybugs are found in clusters where leaves or branches meet the main stem. A symptom of mealybug infestation is the yellowing of leaves. Mealybug infestation can be controlled by rubbing them off with a cotton swab or cloth dipped in alcohol.
Scales are parasitic pests. Because of their color, they blend well with the leaves and branches of plants and are not easy to spot. Scales feed on the sap of plants. A symptom of scale infestation is the appearance of sticky spots on the plant leaves. Scales can be removed by rubbing the plant with a sponge or cloth dipped in alcohol. Slightly coarse sponges will ensure that the dead scales are scraped off the plant so any new scales can be seen easily.
Spider mite infestations are common in the summer months. Because of their extremely small size, spider mites are almost invisible to the naked eye, and it is not easy to detect an infestation. When a plant is infested with spider mites, symptoms like graying or spotted leaves appear. Severe infestation causes the appearance of webbing on plant leaves. Biological and cultural means can be combined to get rid of spider mites. Ladybugs feed on spider mites and are a natural form of defense against them. Spraying horticultural oils, insecticidal soaps and sulfur powder also gets rid of spider mites.