I have a clay planter with two pest problems in the planter; I have an Aeonium species known as ‘Irish Bouquet’, a Crassula argentea or finger jade, an Echeveria ‘Lola’, a torch cactus and a split rock living rock, Pleiospilos nelli. In the soil there are some silvery dark grayish bugs which seem to stay in the soil under rocks and around the base of the Aeonium and the finger jade. Despite this the plants are doing well and have grow much since I got them.
I also have another pest I have found in the same planter which are found on the torch cactus and finger jade – these flattish kinda eye shaped or almond shape the smaller ones tend to be reddish and the larger ones are white. I have only found them on the finger jade mostly but when I first discovered I had a pest problem there were three white ones on the torch cactus one of which had formed a cocoon or spiderwebbing around it. This is the only instance I have seen of this webbing/cocooning.
I have been looking for an identification for these pest for a few months now and have not been able to pin point them.
I used Schults insecticide on the soil pests and they are no longer seen around the planter. A few weeks later I dug around the base of the plant and found some hiding under a dried stump like piece of the finger jade which came off and around the Aeonium.
I sprayed them and haven’t seen any since but this was only a week or two ago. Thank you for your time and I hope someone can help.
Drought Smart Plants reply:
Hi Anja – what you have sounds like one of the very few pests that succulent plants are susceptible to – the mealy bug. Luckily, it is likely that you’ve caught it in time as your plants aren’t showing signs of stress yet.
These pale pink to grey bugs cover themselves with the white waxy cotton like substance as they prepare to breed. The reddish ones you have seen will be the young. Occasionally, ones with wings will emerge, so they will spread to other plants.
They can be dealt with, but now you’ve had them you have to very carefully inspect every nook and cranny of every plant, especially at the soil line, in leaf axils and the growing point where the new buds will start.
To deal with them, you can find beneficial beetles mail order – look for one called Cryptolameus montrouziieri commonly called ‘crypto’ which is a predator that feeds on the mealy bug.
They are not as useful against the root mealy bug, so you may have to try beneficial nematodes for these as they are the only thing that will travel in the soil looking for its prey.
If you’re not keen on introducing any more insects into your home, look for neem oil sprays, or a horticultural oil mixed with insecticidal soap. These only work if you are religious about repeat spraying, getting the mixture into all the hiding places.
Other sprays you can try are homemade concoctions such as hot pepper wax insect repellent, which will help protect the plant from re-infestation as well.
Rubbing alcohol is one of the older methods of getting rid of mealy bugs – make sure you test a leaf with this first as it can burn – then you may have got rid of the pest, but your plant will be dead too!
Comments for unknown pests
Nov 22, 2010
So you think that that the soil bugs are mealy bugs as well? I have failed to find a good pictures of either – the soil bugs look very different from the ones found on the plant and today I found a small mealy bug on my silver coral as for the neem oil where would I usually find that? Is it expensive and is it harsh on the plant or could I pretty much use as needed?
Nov 26, 2010
It’s hard to find pictures of these little critters, as they hide so well in the soil or the axils of leaves, so they’re not often seen.
if you decide to investigate Neem oil, here is a good source of information:
Neem Oil Insecticide
This page shows you how to make Neem Oil Insecticide
Good luck with your pests!
Nov 27, 2010
I don’t think that the soil bugs are root mealy bugs; every picture I find they are white – these bugs are dark silver and look like they have wings though I have never seen them fly and are the shape of and size of a small grain of rice. Every few days I have been digging around the base and roots of each of my plants, I found a few around the torch cactus which I sprayed every one I found with insect spray.
A few days later I found more by my living rock and has caused damage to it (which I’m not pleased about at all!)
I really wish I could figure out what they are so I can get rid of them once and for all.
As for the mealy bugs on the plants I have them under control it seems I find less and less every week.
Nov 27, 2010
You’re on the right track!
You are almost there, Anja! Just keep a close eye on all your plants, and continue to spray once a week until you are absolutely sure you have them beat. I’ve had them re-appear months after, so continue to watch – all it takes is for one bug to escape to lay eggs, and it starts all over again.
As for the ones in the soil, could these be fungus gnats?? They live in the soil, but generally only in really moist conditions (if you do have fungus gnats, you are watering way too much!)
The larvae look as you describe – tiny grains of rice, but the adults are silvery, with wings. Do they fly up when the pot is disturbed or watered? If they do, then likely they are fungus gnats.
Stop watering immediately.
Your plants most likely will go dormant, and the gnats will die off as they require damp soil. You can place yellow sticky traps around to catch the adults, but the ones in the soil will continue to feed on the roots of your plants.
Don’t give up, it may take a long time to get them all, but with determination, you’ll win!