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Indoor plant pest identification

Updated February 21, 2017

Even when indoor plants are quarantined, inspected and washed with insecticidal soap, bugs can appear. Check the damage from these pests and identify them before they become a plague.

Sap and sticky spots

Aphids, whiteflies and scales excrete sweet waste called "honeydew" as they eat young leaves and shoots. Although attacks by these pests seldom kill a plant, they can leave it weakened and vulnerable to infections or moulds.

Specks or spots

Whiteflies, mites, aphids and mealybugs leave yellow mottling in leaves they attack. Mites and whitefles leave webbing between new growths as they graze. Spider mites are tiny red specks that move as they feed.

Grey-brown patches

Scales create hard, roundish exoskeletons, usually on the undersides of leaves as they reproduce. As they eat the leaf, it develops yellow spots on its surface. Leafminers leave wiggly brown trails.

Holes in leaves

The majority of houseplant pests consume sap; holes in leaves mean that a chewing insect such as a beetle or caterpillar is at work.

Drooping or stunted leaves and branches

Mites, thrips and aphids "suck the life out" of new growth, leaving it shrivelled and weak. Mealybugs also leave honeydew.

Dying roots and stems

Maggots of a number of damp-dwelling bugs may be deposited in garden pots by garden or shower stall-dwelling bugs including fungus gnats and springtails.

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About the Author

An avid perennial gardener and old house owner, Laura Reynolds has had careers in teaching and juvenile justice. A retired municipal judgem Reynolds holds a degree in communications from Northern Illinois University. Her six children and stepchildren served as subjects of editorials during her tenure as a local newspaper editor.