Houseplants offer a quick and easy way to add color, beauty and life to your home. However, houseplants also attract insects that feed and cause your plant to loose its lushness and drop leaves. Several of these pests appear white but differ in the damage they do to the plant. Learning to identify the type of white bug on your houseplant allows you to take the proper steps in controlling those insects and bring life back to your houseplant.
Small, pear-shaped insects, known as aphids, suck on the leaves and excrete a sticky substance called honeydew that gives your plant a shiny look. Aphids stunt the growth of houseplants and cause the leaves to grow distorted. When infesting a plant, these insects tend to cluster on buds and new growth, as well as on the underside of leaves.
Mealy bugs are identified by their powdery white covering. Most often, they appear in leaf axis' and branch crooks of your houseplant, resembling tiny cottony clusters. According to the University of Kentucky, mealy bugs suck plant sap, producing the sticky honeydew substance. Mealy bugs damage plants, causing them to yellow and drop leaves.
Contrary to their name, whiteflies do not belong to the same family as flies. These tiny insects span only 1/16th of an inch and look like powdery white moths. Small, round larvae cling to the bottom side of leaves and feed. The feeding of these insects causes leaves to pale, eventually dying and dropping off. Whiteflies also produce honeydew. As a result, sooty mold often forms in tandem with an infestation of whiteflies.
A simply non-chemical remedy like washing often quickly takes care of a light insect infestation on a houseplant. Wash your plant to get rid of aphids, mealy bugs and whiteflies by using a mild detergent solution to wipe insects off infected leaves. The University of Minnesota recommends using half a teaspoon detergent to one quart of lukewarm water.
Using the detergent solution, you can also dip your infected houseplant into the water, careful not to let the soapy water drain into the pot. If the infestation is particularly bad, try pruning off the infected parts of your houseplant to reduce the problem.
If non-chemical methods fail to rid your houseplants of bugs, try an insecticide made specifically for use on houseplants. Insecticides for indoor use come in aerosol form or as soap. A wider range of chemical products is also available for use outdoors. As with any chemical, read the label before buying and before use.