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3 Common White Bugs on Plants And How to Get Rid of Them.

Are you noticing white bugs on your plants? If so you may be dealing with  whiteflies, mealybugs or aphids. These are the most common white bugs that infest gardens of all types. They are usually spotted on plant stems and underside of the leaves. Their infestation causes leaves to lose color, wilt, curl and other symptoms.  

If these bugs are left untreated, they spread quickly from plant to plant and with heavy infestation your plants may die. Therefore you need to take action before your beautiful plants become a memory of the past. Continue reading to learn more on how to identify and get rid of white bugs in your plants.

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    Types of White Bugs

    Let's look in more detail at these 3 common white bugs that you can come across in both indoor and outdoor plants.


    These are soft-bodied winged insects that are closely related to sap-sucking aphids and mealybugs. They have pear-shaped bodies and adults look like a very tiny moth. Regardless of their name, whiteflies are not a true of flies at all, even though they do have wings and are capable of flying. They just fly unsteadily or hover by flapping the wings quickly and lightly only when they get disturbed.

    Whiteflies are found underside of the leaves of a wide variety of plants and that's where females lay eggs. Both the adults and immature whiteflies feed by sucking plant sap. They excrete honeydew which is a sugary substance that makes the leaves sticky. This sugar-rich secretion attracts ants infestation and also encourages the growth of black  mold. If the invasion is heavy, it could possibly lead to plant death.

    2. Mealybugs 

    Mealybugs have a lot in common with whiteflies. They're both small, white and feed on the sap in plants. Females have soft and oval-shaped  waxy bodies which makes infestation look like tiny cotton balls. However, they don't have wings whereas males have two wings and long tails of white wax. Males are much smaller and seldom seen (they sort of resemble gnats)

    These invaders are hard to spot because they hide in crevices, petals, undersides of leaves, gaps between branches and other protected areas at the base of the plants. They are drawn to all kinds of vegetation. Since they're hard to spot, they can multiply unnoticed for some time until you see evidence of their destructiveness. High population of mealybugs can slow plant growth and cause the leaves to yellow and drop. Additionally, honeydew they excrete can attract other insects.

    3. Aphids

    These are tiny, soft-bodied and they're sucking insects just like whiteflies and mealybugs. Aphids may be white, yellow, green,  brown, grey,  or black depending on the species. They all belong to the Aphididae family and management of most aphid species is similar. The group includes more than 4000 species of which some are difficult to distinguish from one another. A few species of aphids appear waxy or woolly.

    Generally adult aphids are wingless, but most species may develop wings especially if populations become high. Aphids have pear-shaped bodies and most species are easily identified by their cornicles (tubelike structures found at the end of the abdomen). If aphids are in low or moderate numbers they cause little or no damage to the plants. But large populations can cause significant damage and kill plants.

    How to get rid of white bugs in plants

    Now comes the time to exterminate these persistent pests. This needs to be done very carefully and requires conservative and eco-friendly approach. Here are some of the options that will help you get rid of white bugs safely. 

    You probably won’t use all of these measures, but using a combination of 2-3 methods  can help to keep white bugs from setting up residence in your garden.

    Vacuum Bugs Off Plants 

    Vacuuming is an effective method of removing and breaking all stages of bugs. It instantly removes pests along with egg cases. Use a small handheld vacuum to suck up the bugs and make sure to lift leaves so that you can vacuum undersides. When the vacuum bag is full of bugs, you can empty the contents inside the plastic bag and  seal it before disposing of it in the garbage can.

    Prune Damaged Leaves and Heavily Infested Sections

    These leaf sucking bugs get sap from leaves, causing them to lose color, appear curly, or die. Also honeydew they secret as they feed on plants damage the leaves. Therefore you should prune damaged leaves, stems, or branches to avoid further spread of the disease.

    Additionally, cutting off leaves improves the overall appearance of the plant, and keeps it in good health. When pruning, always use sharp pruning shear as dull one can damage your plants. Also make sure to wear gardening gloves to protect your hands while pruning.

    Spray Insecticidal Soap

    Small, soft-bodied bugs are most susceptible to the soaps. Therefore you can spray these bugs with insecticidal soap. Insecticidal soaps are specifically designed for bugs and can not harm plants. 

    Treat the infected plants every 4-7 days. Make sure to spray both top and undersides of the leaves since these invaders usually hide there. The area should be thoroughly covered with solution for it to be effective.

    Use Neem Oil Spray

    Neem oil is one of the most popular organic solutions to get rid of bugs in the garden, including aphids, mealybugs, and whiteflies. It is a plant-based oil compound that is not harmful to plants, humans, and animals.

    Apply neem oil in the morning or evening when  temperatures are cooler. The package will give information on dosage. You can get neem oil in most grocery stores, as well as online.

    Apply Diatomaceous Earth

    Diatomaceous earth is a great eco-friendly powder that is used to get rid of unwanted pests including mealybugs, aphids, and whiteflies. You can apply it as a wet mixture or as a dry powder. 

    Make sure to use food-grade diatomaceous earth because pool or industrial grade powder is toxic. Make a wet application to spray on trees and hard to reach areas and in areas that are really windy. In this way the dry powder wouldn't just blow away.

    Hose off Those Bugs

    Spray infested plants with a strong stream of water. This option works like rain that keeps insects away from plants. It just knocks these soft-bodied right off and when they're in the ground they won't be able to return to the plant. 

    Additionally, this method will not only help to wash away pests, but the residue they leave behind too. This solution works well in sturdy garden plants and fruit trees. Make sure to direct the stream toward the underside of the leaves where pests tend to hide and lay eggs.

    To Sum Up

    Now that you know how to get rid of white bugs on plants, you should take action before it's too late. Don't wait until there's heavy infestation because your plants will become weak and may be unable to carry out photosynthesis. 

    All the above-mentioned solutions can safely keep your plants free from white bugs. Again keep in mind that successful garden pest control requires diligence and persistence. At the end of the day the reward is a healthy and gorgeous garden that flourishes season after season

    RELATED: How To Get Rid of Gnats



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