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Tiny White Bugs on Plants – What Are They and How to Get Rid of Them

tiny white bugs on plants

Being a plant mommy comes with a lot of responsibility. Regularly watering, feeding and grooming are all ways of looking after your houseplant. When you do not pay enough attention to your plants, it can result in pests, diseases, and plant infections. On the other hand, over caring, like excessive watering and too much sunlight, can also damage plants. One of the most common plant problems is tiny white bugs on plants. 

You are probably hearing because, you too, have found tiny white bugs on your plant and want to get rid of them. Before we dive into the details of how to remove these bugs from plants, you first need to know what these white bugs are. 

What Are Tiny White Bugs on Plants?

Tiny white bugs on plants are called mealybugs, whiteflies, or other white-colored pests. These bugs live on houseplants and appear as white fuzzy material on leaves and stems. They don’t seem like insects at first glance and are frequently mistaken for fungus or mildew rather than plant bugs. There are different types of white bugs on plants.

Types Of Tiny White Bugs on Plants

Aphids

Aphids are tiny oval-shaped insects that come in various colors, including white, black, green, and pink. Although they are not as mobile as mealybugs or whiteflies, some of their species do have wings. They move very slowly and keep wriggling on the plant surface.

Aphids, like mealybugs and whiteflies, deplete the nutrients in plants. They can even transfer viruses that gradually weaken and kill some plants (if there are enough of them). Aphids reproduce quickly, so it’s critical to keep the population under control before the infestation becomes uncontrollable.

Mealybugs

You have a mealybug infestation if you see a white fuzzy mass surrounding your stems and leaves of the plant. Male mealybugs are rarely seen on plants. Plants usually get infected by female mealy bugs — they are tiny, light-colored, soft-bodied insects that drain nutrients from houseplants, causing the leaves and buds to wither and fall off the vine.

Mealybugs can cause enough harm to kill the entire plant if left untreated. The female buries her eggs in the white, cottony fluff. The eggs hatch in about ten days, resulting in a more significant mealybug population.

Whiteflies 

Although they resemble mealybugs in appearance, the distinction with whiteflies is in their name: they can fly and most likely do so if disturbed. Mealybugs and whiteflies have a lot in common. They are both tiny and white, and they both drain nutrients from plants, yellowing and damaging them in the process.

Whiteflies are small, triangular, and travel in groups, even though they are not technically flying. If your houseplant has a sticky substance on it, it could be honeydew, produced by their mouth when eating – this is a sweet material that ants may find appealing.

Insect Scales

Insect scales are insect groups with a waxy covering around their bodies that resembles scales or cottony cushions. The insect secretes the waxy covering after settling on the plant where it will eat the plant.

Depending on the family, these insect scales can be ‘hard and smooth’, ‘waxy and smooth’, and sculptured or filamentous. The eggs are always safe because they are encased in a mass of waxy filaments or hidden beneath the female’s body or the scale she secretes. The young scales, known as crawlers, disperse around the plant after hatching before choosing a feeding place.

Other Types of Houseplant Bugs

Spider Mites

Spider mites are not insects, although they do have a tight relationship with spiders. Plant damage is usually the first evidence of their existence because they are so tiny, it is hard to detect them with the naked eye. With more severe infestations, a silky web is frequently noticed on the plant surface. Spider mites can cause plant harm as they suck the plant sap. Light-colored speckling on the upper surface of leaves indicates damage, and the plant appears faded overall.

Fungus Gnats

Adult fungus gnats are about 1/8-inch long and have a delicate look. They are frequently observed under a houseplant, racing across or flying along the soil surface. They are clumsy flyers drawn to light. So, you will mostly find them on outdoor plants or those placed under direct sunlight. 

Root Ball Pests

Pill bugs, millipedes, and slugs may infest the root balls of houseplants placed outside during the summer. These houseplant pests can wreak havoc on root systems by feeding on them. If not dealt with quickly, root ball pests can kill a plant. They can also cause mold problems and damage the foliage. 

What Causes Tiny White Bugs on Plants?

Many typical gardens and greenhouse pests are so minute that they look like tiny white dots. These tiny white bugs, though, are not as innocent as they might seem. They can do a lot of damage to your plants. Whiteflies, aphids, or mealybugs are the most common tiny white bugs found on houseplants.

Different reasons can result in such white bugs on plants. Let us take a look at some common causes of white bugs on plants: 

  1. Contaminated potting soil
  2. Overwatering the plant regularly
  3. Placing the plant outside 
  4. Not cleaning and grooming the plant regularly 
  5. Ants can sometimes bring white bugs on plants to feed off of the honeydew 

Damage Caused by Tiny White Bugs on Plants

While a small infestation of mites is unlikely to cause apparent damage, a considerable infestation can mean disaster for your plants. Here are some common damages caused by white bugs on plants: 

Cause Weakness – Feed on the plant nutrients, making the plant weak. This results in leaf deformation, limited growth, and fewer flowers, seeds, and fruits.

Damages Leave – The plants that white bugs feed on suffer a lot of damage. These sap-sucking insects penetrate plant leaves, producing yellowing, spotting, deformity, withering, and premature leaf drop. 

Can Kill Plants – A massive infestation of white bug infestation can even cause plant death.

How to Prevent Tiny White Bugs on Plants?

Here are some simple and easy ways to prevent tiny white bugs from infesting your houseplants:

Inspect New Plants 

Your first way to prevent white bug infestation is to inspect all plants for pests before bringing them home, as well as to keep any new plants separate from the rest of your plants for a while. This will enable you to recognize and address any insect or disease problems that arise.

Regular Maintenance 

Regular maintenance and care will prevent tiny white plant bugs. Looking after your plant will also avoid other problems like root rot, infection, and diseases. Water your plants as and when required, give ample amount of light, and groom regularly. 

Keep Natural Predators 

Keeping natural predators around will keep the population of whiteflies from ever-increasing. A natural predator is hummingbirds. Make a habitat for dragonflies and damselflies, as well as lovely hummingbirds.

Don’t Use Chemical Pesticides

Avoid chemical insecticides when dealing with whiteflies; they are frequently resistant, and all you are doing is killing the beneficial insects—their natural predators—as well as the insects that fertilize the garden for a bigger harvest.

Use Mulch 

Mulch with aluminum reflective mulch early in the season, especially around tomatoes and peppers. Whiteflies have a hard time finding their chosen host plants because of the reflecting mulch.

How To Get Rid of Tiny White Bugs on Plants?

There are many ways to get rid of tiny white bugs on plants. Here is what you can do: 

Insecticidal Soap

Houseplant infestations are frequently treated with insecticidal soap. Ensure the product is labeled for both insect and plant use and follow the label directions. You can also prepare homemade DIY insecticidal soaps.

Wash Them Way with Water

Tiny white bugs and their eggs will most likely be washed away by water pressure in lesser infestations. It is worth noting that a single use of this strategy rarely eliminates all of the issues. So, wash the plant thoroughly for at least 2-3 days to remove most of the bugs. 

Use Rubbing Alcohol

Soak a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and wipe down every inch of the plant for lesser infestations. Because alcohol kills bugs only when they come into contact with it, so apply the alcohol with a cotton pad multiple times to remove the bugs. 

Use A Sticky Yellow Trap

Sticky traps may be adequate for small infestations. Because some houseplant bugs are drawn to the color yellow, sticky traps in yellow color are an effective remedy for white bugs on plants. 

Remove The Damaged Plant

Some of these houseplant bugs are movers, meaning they can readily move from plant to plant, depositing eggs and multiplying their population. If an infestation has become uncontrollable, it is advisable to remove the afflicted plant to avoid causing damage to other plants nearby.

Conclusion 

It is tough to get rid of tiny bugs from plants growing in a greenhouse. All microscopic insect species have a life cycle that allows them to multiply quickly in enclosed, warm, humid settings.

Regular washing, sticky yellow traps, and the introduction of beneficial insects are all methods for controlling tiny white bugs on plants. Follow the tips mentioned in this article to prevent your houseplants from tiny white bugs infestation. 

Written by Chris Buckland

Hello, I’m Chris. I’m a houseplant expert. I have been Cultivating and Growing Houseplants for 20 years. Plants are like my children. I love to write about Indoor plants and share my experience. That's why I started writing everything I know about houseplants.

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