Most home gardeners cultivate plants because they enjoy caring for them and appreciate the beauty green plants add to a home or landscape. Unfortunately, that beauty can be marred by insect pests. White bugs are common on plants and can signify a white spider mite infestation, mealybug infestation or white fly. All three of these insects can damage or even kill your plant, so take steps to get rid of the bugs as soon as you see them. The steps for getting rid of these insect pests are almost the same, regardless of the particular type of bug.
Isolate the plant. Remove it immediately from nearby plants if it is potted. This will prevent the white bugs from trying to escape your control techniques by spreading to a new plant.
Examine the plant. Check under leaves for bugs that may be hiding, and check the soil for larvae. If the plant and soil are heavily infested, consider throwing out the plant completely.
Hit the plant with a strong stream of water. This might knock off some of the adult bugs without using chemicals. Let the plant dry.
Remove remaining bugs by hand. Mealybugs and white flies can easily be seen with the naked eye. Dip a small paintbrush or cotton swab in rubbing alcohol, then rub that on any white bugs still clinging to the plant. You may see white, sticky globs (mealybugs) on stems and under leaves. Rub them well with the alcohol. You may also see some small white webs (from the spider mites, although the mites themselves are very small and hard to see with the naked eye). Be sure to knock those down. Dip the swab or brush in a bowl of water to drown the bugs between swipes.
Monitor the plant for more bug action. You may need to douse it and the soil with an insecticide if the insect pests return. If the bugs do return, it is possible they hatched from eggs in the soil. In that case, first douse the plant with insecticide, then remove the plant and re-pot it in a new, clean pot using new, untainted potting soil.