If you've purchased a good few houseplants lately, you may ask yourself, do indoor plants attract bugs? Without question, they sure do. Any plant growth can attract insects regardless of location, and houses provide an ideal climate for bugs and their offspring.
Which Bugs Do Indoor Plants Attract?
According to Dr. Joey Williamson and Janet McLeod Scott of Clemson University, there are many common pests that plague indoor plants. Mealybugs, aphids, fungus gnats, and whiteflies are some of the worst.
The insects listed above pierce, suck, or chew into juicy plant growth (roots, leaves, or stems), killing them as they indulge in the plant’s carbohydrates. Although not all the bugs that meet your houseplants are dangerous to them.
Spiders are one of the most beneficial bugs for plants because they eat all the unfavorable insects that kill your houseplants. Plants attract a myriad of insects because bugs want to eat, protect, or live neutrally with the plant.
From an aphid to an innocent housefly, it is customary to see insects around your houseplants, especially with plants being autotrophs.
How Did Bugs Get onto My Houseplants?
I always run away when I see spiders hanging around my indoor plant corner and leave them to eat the other insects that would otherwise hurt my houseplants.
Bugs enter homes daily, whether they slip through the door while you’re carrying a new houseplant into your cottage or if they have a decade-old nest in your basement. Insects can be brought in by humans through clothing, fresh produce, or other plant purchases.
The wind or rain can also bring bugs into your house, and they instantly find a home in your plants because insects, and any type of pathogen, go hand in hand with indoor plants.
Why Are Bugs Attracted to Indoor Plants?
As far as harmful insects, they are attracted to indoor plants because they are a food source, and our homes have ideal, stable environments. They particularly go after new, succulent plant growth and feed on the sugar-rich plant cells.
Other bugs have complex mutualistic relationships with plants, where both organisms benefit. Pollinators, whether it be ants, bees, flies, or butterflies, are prime examples. Insects get pollen (their food) from the plant, while the plants’ gametes are spread in order to reproduce.
Some insects are also attracted to indoor plants because they need to hitch a ride or spend the night in cozy foliage. They are mere passer-buyers and maintain a neutral relationship with the plants.
What Are Signs or Symptoms to Look for if a Plant Has Bugs?
Unfortunately, as plant owners, sometimes we do not know that there is a problem until the stems or roots are already rotted, or yellow leaves keep littering the plant room floor. That is why prevention is always key.
A main part of prevention is constantly scouting for any abnormalities in plant growth or symptoms from an insect. Signs would be the bug, fungi, or bacteria itself, while symptoms are the result of the damage from the pathogen (in this case, an insect).
Penn State University highlights multiple symptoms that a plant can develop from an insect such as wilting, chlorosis, and necrosis. If your houseplant loses its turgidity and begins to wilt, search around the plant, under the leaves, and below the soil line for creepy crawlies.
Some insects will replicate symptoms or signs of other pathogens, so be sure to positively identify the problem before treatment.
How Do I Prevent Indoor Bug Infestations?
Two extension educators from the University of Minnesota, Julie Weisenhorn and Jeff Hahn, state that there are many prevention steps such as scouting, sanitation, and giving proper care to the plant (correct watering, sun, and temperature).
One key to prevention is observation. Checking your plants and getting up close and personal is not only good for your mental health but also the plant’s life. Hundreds of times I have not found insect problems until they were extremely bad.
A few years back, the cucurbits (cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkins) in my vegetable garden began to wilt every day, regardless of if I gave them a gallon of water the day before. After a few days of noticing this, I became very concerned.
If I had taken a close look at all those plants, I would have seen that colonies of squash bugs were eating the base of the plants and laying tiny red eggs underneath their leaves. The same scenario had happened to me with aphids in a greenhouse as well.
If we spend more time with our plants, we will be able to catch any sort of problem right away, making it way easier to treat the plant and hope for its recovery.
Other methods of prevention include rotating your houseplants’ locations within your home and cleaning their leaves (both sides) with either a light mist or gently with a damp cloth. Also, too much debris around your houseplants will efficiently invite unwanted insects.
So, observation, and clean plants in a tidy environment will keep the unwanted bugs away from your indoor plants!
What Are Some Plants That Keep Bugs Away?
With having over 80 houseplants, I like to acquire species that repel bugs naturally such as geraniums, mint, basil, sage, rosemary, and other herbs. These plants serve as an ecological control and alter your home environment to ward off insects.
Moreover, integrated pest management (IPM) is a great excuse to expand your indoor herb collection!
How Do I Get Rid of an Indoor Bug Infestation?
Having mentioned common insects that harm houseplants, there are many ways to treat your plants to rid of the bugs and save your plant friends.
With houseplants, you mainly have the choice of mechanical, cultural, and chemical control.
Mechanical control would include picking off bugs from your plants and killing them or creating a barrier to where the bugs are unable to get to your plants.
Cultural control goes along with the keys to prevention; sanitize your equipment, wash your hands after dealing with pests, and keeping a clean plant room. You could make it a routine to always clean up and take out plant trash after watering or admiring your houseplants!
Chemical control is always the last option, for the combo of prevention and the other controls are certainly useful. Chemicals don’t always have to be extremely harsh and could include something as simple as dish soap.
Neem oil (comes from a tree), and dish soap are two of the main “chemicals” you can spray on your houseplants when mixed with water. They repel the bugs and injure the ones already eating your houseplants but are nothing compared to common commercial insecticides.
To clarify, neem and dish soap weaken the bug and will slow down plant symptoms and the bug’s reproduction. Commercial insecticides on indoor plants are a bad idea because it is an enclosed space and morally impractical (because we are mainly doing it for pure enjoyment).
Meanwhile, insecticides will eliminate biodiversity and could easily cause an ecological collapse.
Of course, it is more complicated if you depend on your crop to live, and in that case, professional advice from an entomologist, plant scientist, or agriculturalist would be where to start to treat an infestation.
If your infestation is extreme on your houseplants and you must result in chemical use, natural, homemade repellents will help save ecosystems from irreversible damage.
Indoor Plants Attracting Bugs is Inevitable
With all the above in mind, and with the help of some experts, it is important to remember that not all insects attracted to indoor plants are bad. Although, you do have to stay on your toes for the harmful ones!
Indoor plants and any plant, in general, will always attract bugs. Insects and plants, at this point in plant evolution, rely on each other. Since the development of angiosperms, a lot of plants need insects in order to reproduce, and in most cases, the pollen is food for the bugs.
With that, many other relationships between insects and plants (as mentioned above) are essential for nature too.
As humans, we have to learn to live peacefully with bugs but also protect our houseplants. This can be approached by including bug-deterring plant friends in your indoor collection or considering mechanical, cultural, and chemical controls.
Are you still wondering about this relationship between your indoor plants and bugs? Feel free to comment below and we can chat about it!
If you are experiencing battles with insects on your houseplants, you could consider these steps to keep your plants healthy and safe:
- Prevention! Look at every part of the plant when observing or scouting
- Rotate your plants (to different locations)
- Clean your plants (damp cloth)
- Have a tidy area (sweep and dust)
- Sanitize your equipment (pots, scissors, etc.) with dish soap or bleach
- Make sure to buy healthy plants
- Correctly identify signs and symptoms of a harmful insect
- Implement mechanical and cultural controls on indoor plants
- Use dish soap and/or neem oil solution to injure and deter bugs
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