Types of houseplant bugs: Who they are and what to do about them

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While having the correct light levels and watering properly are two of the most important steps in growing healthy indoor plants, houseplant growers also have to constantly monitor their plants for signs of pests. There are many types of houseplant bugs, and arming yourself with a little information goes a long way toward preventing or eliminating an infestation.

Preventing houseplant pest infestations

Certain houseplants are definitely more prone to pest issues than others, but houseplant bug problems are often prevented by following a few simple steps.

  1. Carefully inspect all new plants before bringing them into your home. Many types of houseplant bugs piggyback their way into your house from the nursery where the plants were grown. Before buying new plants (or taking in “strays” from friends and family), be sure to examine the plant from top to bottom, looking on leaf undersides, along the stems, and even in the soil for signs of the common houseplant insect pests I’m going to introduce you to below.

    always inspect for houseplant pests

    Carefully inspect new houseplants for pests before you bring them home from the garden center.

  2. Even if you think a new plant is pest-free, it may have pest eggs or young pests that you can’t yet see. Before putting any new houseplants with ones you already have, put it in solitary confinement in a separate room for a few weeks. Watch it carefully for signs of houseplant insect pests and only put it in close contact with other plants after it’s been confirmed to be pest-free. You can also place a few yellow sticky cards just above the top of the plant. Many pest insects are attracted to the color yellow, and they’ll quickly get trapped on the card. Check the card every few days for any insects. If you have some on the card, you probably have many more on the plant itself.
  3. Before moving them back indoors, do a “detox” on any houseplants that have spent the summer outside. While most houseplants love to be outside during the warmer months, they often come back inside with several different types of houseplant bugs hitch-hiking on them. The day before moving houseplants back indoors, spray the entire plant – including the lower leaf surfaces and stems – with a sharp stream of water from the hose, using a spray nozzle that emits a forceful spray. This is often all that’s needed to dislodge any pests before moving the plant inside.

    Many types of houseplant bugs can be dislodged with water.

    Check all leaf surfaces carefully for signs of pests. You’ll need to use a sharp stream of water from the hose to dislodge them, not a hand sprayer.

  4. Keen observational skills definitely allow you to control many types of houseplant bugs before their populations explode. Examine plants weekly throughout the year, checking for both the insects themselves and signs of their damage.
  5. Another sign that indicates you may have one of several different types of houseplant bugs is the presence of a sticky substance on the plant itself, or on the surface of the table or floor beneath the plant. This shiny, sticky substance is called honeydew, and it’s the excrement of several different pests, including almost all of the houseplant pests mentioned below. The presence of honeydew is a clear sign of pest issues.

Types of houseplant bugs

The warm, consistent temperature of most homes is ideal for rapid pest breeding. Plus, without ladybugs, parasitic wasps, and other beneficial insects in your home to keep pests in check, houseplant insect pests can go from numbering just a few to an all-out infestation in no time flat. Here are five of the most common types of houseplant bugs and what to do about them.

Fungus gnats:

Adult fungus gnats are super annoying. These minuscule black flies are the classic example of a nuisance pest. When an infested plant is disturbed, a cloud of tiny flies lifts off the soil. Mature gnats life for about a week, and although they’re a pain, they don’t damage your plants. Neither do the larvae, who largely feed on the fungi that naturally grows in potting soil. Because the eggs and larvae need water to survive, fungus gnat infestations are frequently the result of overwatering. A simple reduction in watering is often all that’s needed to control this common houseplant pest. But, if that doesn’t do the trick, a product like Gnatnix will definitely take care of the problem.

Types of houseplant bugs

Fungus gnats are tiny but very annoying. Their larvae feed on the fungi living in potting soil.


Another of the more common types of houseplant bugs, scale is sometimes difficult to spot. There are many different species, each with a unique appearance, but the most common houseplant pest scales look like little bumps and are found along the stems and on leaf undersides. Scale insects often have a hard, shell-like covering that makes them difficult to spot and control. They can be gray, black, brown, or even fuzzy. Most scales leave behind the honeydew I mentioned above, so if you see a shiny glaze on the plant, check it for scale. When it comes to houseplant bug problems, scale is probably the most difficult to control. I like to wipe them off my plants with a special cotton pad (like these) soaked in isopropyl rubbing alcohol. Physically wiping the pest off the plant multiple times over the course of a few weeks offers the best control. But, another option is to use an organic, neem-based pesticide. Take the plant into a garage or outdoors to apply it, and be sure to follow label instructions.

Common houseplant pest called scale

Scale is a houseplant pest that’s difficult to manage.


This common houseplant pest does not survive freezing winter temperatures, so it’s typically troublesome outdoors only in southern regions. But, whiteflies are one of the most problematic types of houseplant bugs because when they’re indoors, the insects are protected from freezing temperatures and their populations can grow quite rapidly. Whitefly issues frequently originate via a plant purchased at an infested greenhouse, which makes a careful inspection of any new plants extra important. These tiny, white, moth-like flies are found on leaf undersides and will quickly fly off the plant when it’s disturbed. Since whitefly reproduce so rapidly, their sap-sucking behavior can leave plants wilted, and with stunted growth and yellow foliage. Whiteflies are readily trapped by placing yellow sticky cards just above plant tops. Applications of insecticidal soap and horticultural oil are also effective. Since all three of these products work best when they contact the insect pest directly, try not to disturb the plant when applying, and be sure to cover both upper and lower leaf surfaces.

Whiteflies are houseplant pest insects

Whiteflies are tiny, white, moth-like flies that collect on leaves of infested plants.


Though they’re small in size, aphids can cause big problems. Of all the types of houseplant bugs discussed here, aphids are the ones I encounter the most frequently on my own houseplants. Tiny and teardrop-shaped, aphids can be black, green, red, yellow, or brown. Sometimes they have wings and sometimes they don’t, but they’re most often found grouped together on new growth or on the undersides of leaves. As they suck plant sap through their needle-like mouthparts, aphids cause deformed and stunted plant growth. Small infestations are easily wiped off of plants with a soft, plant-friendly cloth soaked in water, but as with all types of houseplant bugs, when there’s a big infestation, other measures may be warranted. Aphids can also be controlled organically with hot pepper wax, horticultural oil, or insecticidal soap. Be sure to apply these products so they come in direct contact with the aphids themselves for the best results.

Aphids are common houseplant insect pests.

Aphids use their needle-like mouthparts to suck out plant juices.

Spider mites:

There are many types of houseplant bugs, but spider mites may just be the ones with the biggest “heebie jeebie” factor. Actually, these guys aren’t bugs at all. Instead, they’re close relatives of spiders. These teeny-tiny houseplant pests cause major issues, not just for plants but also for the homeowner facing the infestation. Though you can barely see them without the help of a magnifying glass, once you know they’re in your house, it’s hard to get them off your mind. Spider mites spin a fine, silky webbing, and collectively, they can cover the entire plant with it. If you look carefully, you’ll see tiny specks crawling around on the webbing; those are the mites themselves. But, before you toss your spider mite-infested ivy or palm plant into the garbage, there are a few steps you can take to get this common houseplant pest in check. First, take the plant outdoors or into the shower and “wash” it off with a spray of water. Spider mites are tiny and are easily washed off the plant. Be sure to rinse both upper and lower leaf surfaces. Then, after the plant has fully dried, use a light-weight horticultural oil to smother them. Reapply the horticultural oil every 10-14 days for two more applications for the best control.

Spidermites on houseplant

Spider mites are small in size, but they’re big on giving houseplant owners trouble.

Though there are a handful of other indoor plant pests that may occasionally prove problematic, these five types of houseplant bugs are by far the most common. But, by following the five preventative steps featured at the beginning of this article and using the suggested mechanical and organic product controls, you’ll be able to keep most of these little buggers from causing any real issues.

Remember, arming yourself with a little information goes a long way toward growing healthy, pest-free houseplants. Be smart about your choice of plants. For apartment dwellers, our list of the best houseplants for small spaces offers plenty of great plant choices. Healthy houseplants are better able to fend off pests, too. We’re sure you’ll find our guide to houseplant fertilizer basics very useful, too.

More posts about managing pests

houseplant pest identification guide
Which types of houseplant bugs have you faced? How did you control them? Tell us about your experience in the comment section below.

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81 Responses to Types of houseplant bugs: Who they are and what to do about them

  1. Cynthia Clinton says:

    I would like to purchase the new Master Gardeners book . I do I go about doing this?

  2. Trixie says:

    I have an insect that I cannot for the life of me identify. I have a Monstera deliciosa and about a month or two ago I noticed that the newly emerging leaves were turning yellow/brown on the leaf margins and they were curling under. I initially thought it was a watering problem but, upon inspecting the curled underside of the leaves, I noticed white slender (almost miniscule) insects moving around. I was thinking it might be thrips but, in my past experience with this insect, they have always been brown, not white. It’s definitely not spider mites, whitefly or scale. I am stumped. I have tried spraying the entire plant with a spray made of water with a few drops of dishsoap and rubbing alcohol, but they keep coming back. I finally decided to take cuttings of the plant and move the potted remains outside. I immersed the cuttings in soapy water for 15+ minutes, in the hope of eventually rooting them and starting ‘fresh’ plants… but the bugs appeared again!! If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them. Thanks!

    • Interesting. I’m guessing they are nymphs of either thrips or whiteflies. The nymphs of both of those insects look quite different from the adults and are typically pale in color. Instead of the homemade mixture you used, I suggest using horticultural oil and making sure you get it on both the upper and lower leaf surfaces. Two applications, timed about 14 days apart should do the trick to smother them.

    • Trixie says:

      Thank you! I think you are right that they are likely the nymphs of thrips. After I posted my question, I carefully inspected all my other houseplants and noticed that they are also on my Christmas cactus (which had been dropping leaves) and most of my prayer plants. I have isolated all the affected plants and will treat as you suggest.

    • Darci says:

      Hey Trixie,

      I am dealing with the same problem at the moment. The horticultural oil helps with the leaves, but NOT the soil. Take a flashlight and peak at your soil and see if you notice them there as well. I’ve recently purchased diatomaceous earth and forked it into the top layer of soil and it seems to be working. I’m also using plant spray made by doctor doom, it’s in a green Aerosoles container and I’ve been spray bombing my plants in garbage bags, tying them up and leaving them for 24-48 hours. For a couple that hasn’t even worked with all three treatments so I removed the plants from the soil and put my containers outside (we have snow) to kill what’s in the pots. Then I rinsed my plants roots with water and placed them in a jar of water instead of soil. If these little buggers keep coming back, I will be getting rid of ALL the soil I have in my plants and water root them to get rid of these guys. It’s been a battle since April with these guys and I don’t want to lose anymore plants. I’ve lost 8 so far. So try to be on top of them as much as you can because it can get out of control very fast. I hope this helps you with your plants.

    • Trixie says:

      Thanks Darci, I only noticed your reply now. I managed to get the thrips under control using neem oil. Unfortunately, I learned a bit too late that neem oil is phytotoxic to calathea leaves, as it is also used as a leaf shine, and calathea should not be treated with this type of product. I have been using the neem oil on the monstera as well as a newer Philodendron selloum that also became infested with thrips, and they seem to be responding well.

    • Carter Leaf says:

      Hey Trixie, this is literally the exact description I would use to describe my situation , has it cleared up the nymphs?

  3. I see little white bugs in my soil when I put water on my cactus plant. Can someone tell me what to do? I don’t want to toss it out. It’s the only plant that I’ve keep alive

  4. alexis says:

    I have a problem with tiny little white-ish bugs in my houseplants soil. I have lost every plant ive had for the last 4 years. I’ve tried neem oil, spray pesticides, dish soap spray, and nothing works. Any other suggestions?

    • Without seeing them, I’m guessing it’s fungus gnat larvae. When you see them, repot the plant with fresh, sterile potting soil and follow the tips in this post for fungus gnat control. Covering the top of the soil with fine gravel will help, too.

    • Trixie says:

      They might be root aphids if they look like pale tiny mites crawling around on the soil. They can cause a lot of damage to plants and often get introduced to your home via potting soil. I am working to control them among my houseplant collection. The only thing that has worked for me is to immerse the entire plant – leaves, soil, roots, everything – in a diluted neem oil bath. This has successfully killed them completely but sometimes is not enough to save the plant if extensive root damage has already occurred.

  5. Digant Patel says:

    What is this? And how to get rid of this ?

    • Looks like you have an aphid infestation going on. The white flecks are the empty exoskeletons that these insects shed as they pass from one lifestage (instar) to the next. The small, green, live aphids are present on the fruit in the photo. Control with the measures suggested for aphids in this article.

    • Jeffrey Boelter says:

      I have similar looking bugs infesting some of the 21 Windmill palm trees I planted in my yard a few months ago. The only time they swarm is when I water the trees. They seem to stay under the mulch until I water them. It looks like a lot die/drown as I soak the plants, but there are still swarms infesting the mulch, and dry areas.

    • raquel says:

      Arent Fungas gnat Larvae more like worms than mites though. This sounds very simliar to me except they look like mites not worms.

    • They are definitely more like nearly microscopic worms, but to some people, larval fungus gnats may look mite-like. But, there certainly are plenty of soil-dwelling mites and other organisms that can take up residence in houseplant soil, especially if the plants spend the summers outdoors. Most, however, are not harmful to your plants.

  6. Catherina Filazzola says:

    Hi there I have a problem… I’ve been trying to look at pictures to see what type of past I have lurking in my house plants, but I cannot figure it out as The Pests are in my soil and not on my actual Leaves of the plants. They are white very small and they are calling in and out of the soil and I’m trying to look at pictures to compare them as I said but I’m having a hard time doing this… do aphids Actually go in the soil as well? Or am I dealing with another pest altogether?

    • Hi Catherina – You could have fungus gnat larvae in the soil (as mentioned in the above article) or perhaps another small soil-dwelling insect that may or may not be feeding on the roots of your plants. I would suggest that when spring arrives, you repot the plants, using a new, sterile potting mix formulated for houseplants. Use clean pots and try to remove as much of the old potting soil from the plant roots as possible when making the transfer. Another option is to place a product like GnatNix (mentioned and linked in the fungus gnat section of this post) on top of the soil. Aphids do not go into the soil; they feed on plant sap from the leaves and stems, so that’s definitely not what you have.

  7. Tammy says:

    I have a house plant that I take outside in the summer months, I believe it’s a Jade plant.
    The problem I’ve been having is, once I brought it in several months ago I’ve noticed these black flies around the plant and in the soil that I can’t get rid of. I just changed the dirt and rinsed the roots along with spraying the leaves with water. I put new soil in the bottom and left the plant to rest on top to allow to dry out for the day before I put the rest of the soil in pot.
    I’ve placed the plant in another room to dry roots because I don’t want the black flies to make home in the new soil.
    Will this do the trick of getting rid of these black flies? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I’ve tried almost everything I came across in the internet and can’t rid them.
    I’ve attached a picture of both the plant and the black fly.
    Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

    • HI Tammy – Looks like you had fungus gnats in your soil. Swapping the potting soil like you did often eliminates the problem. However, if they should happen to return, cut down on your watering and use GnatNix (link to purchase is in the description of fungus gnats in this post).

  8. Ashley says:

    Hello i don’t really know what’s going on with my plant .so I grew a plant from a pineapple its been a couple of months started small and is growing beautifully i water once a week and let the water run threw but to day when i was running the water threw i noticed alot of little tiny black bugs all over the soil jumping idk what to do my fiance whats me to throw out my plant is there Amy way of saving it?

    • Hi Ashley. Congrats on growing your pineapple! That’s cool. You definitely don’t have to throw it away. Just take it out of the pot, remove as much of the soil as possible (outdoors or in the garage somewhere) and rinse off the roots carefully. Then repot the plant in brand new potting soil and a clean pot. That should get rid of the soil gnats that have infested your soil. Also, you probably don’t need to be watering a pineapple once a week. Cut back on the watering and allow the soil to dry out between waterings. That will help, too. Good luck!

  9. Mudit says:

    I find these small black tiny balls on my plant pot after every 2 or 3 days. These are particularly found on top surface of soil of the curry tree plant. Any help would be of great support. Thanks in advance

    • Not sure what those are, but they don’t look like an insect. Is there a tree or another plant growing over the place where you keep this pot? Perhaps the tree is dropping seeds or debris? Could also be some type of insect excrement, again falling from an overhanging plant or maybe even on your curry tree plant itself. Hard to tell

  10. Barb Breyfogle says:

    I have no idea what this is or even if it’s some type of pest? I noticed these on the underside leaves on my bird of paradise plant. The plant started dying over the past month n has one leaf left.

  11. Luna says:

    I have a lot of little black bugs that fly in my house plants, especially the spider plants. I think they might be fungus gnats based on previous despcription however they look a bit different than the photos. They look a bit like fruit flies and live in the soil. How do I find a balance between watering enough and over watering and attracting bugs?

    • Hi Luna. Yep; it sure sounds like you have fungus gnats. There are several different species, which may be the reason why yours look a bit different from the one in the photo. Describing them as looking like fruit flies that live in the soil is an excellent description! Finding a balance between watering too little and watering too much is a challenge, but one that’s doable. I would start by extending the number of days between waterings by three. So, if you watered once a week, try watering every 10 days. If you notice a plant wilting, try 9 days for that particular plant. If the plant doesn’t wilt, try extending it to 12 days between waterings. Each plant species has different water needs, so each plant will have its own watering schedule ideally. Plus, in the wintertime, most houseplants are not in a state of active growth and therefor require less water. So, you can definitely go a bit longer between waterings during the winter time.

    • Trixie says:

      Hi Jessica and Luna,
      One strategy for dealing with fungus gnats is to water your plants from the bottom, versus watering from the top. This keeps the top layer of soil a bit drier, making the plant a less attractive host for the gnats.

    • Darci says:

      You can also get yellow sticky traps to attack them. And cinnamon also works to keep them away. They hate cinnamon.

    • Luna says:

      Thank you!

  12. Lilia says:

    I’ve been having a major problem with mealybugs. It started from a plant that I purchased at HD, at that time I never in my life seen or known about mealybugs. And I thought I was fighting with some sort of fungus or meldew. I found out about them when half of my houseplants were infected, and I have over 20 plants. I talked with the people at the nursery and used their suggestions, but no luck with completelygetting rid of them.
    I used an insect sprays and oil sprays, and DIY soap sprays and DIY neem oil sprays, I used soil insect control pellets, I spray hosed them all outside periodically, but nothing seems to remove them for good. They keep coming back!!!
    A couple plants became clean, a few of my lovely plants died and some are badly damaged and still fighting, specially my cornplant.
    What else can I due?

    • Mealybugs are very difficult to control as you have to get rid of eggs and nymphs, too. The best way to be rid of them is to physically remove them with a cotton ball or swab soaked in rubbing alcohol by wiping off every stem and leaf (both under and upper surfaces). This is a big chore and my not be worth the effort, depending on how attached you are to the plants. Soap and oil sprays aren’t very effective against mealybugs due to their waxy body covering. Those products may do more harm than good when trying to control mealybugs depending on the sensitivity of the plant. Neem-based products are your best bet, though I do not recommend those you mix up yourself. I would suggest a combination of a weekly physical removal and a spray regimen using a commercial preparation of a neem-based pesticide applied every 21 days for 4 applications. Consistency is key and be sure to treat all plants, not just a few. Always take the plant outside to apply the neem and follow all label instructions exactly. Good luck!

  13. Jc says:

    Hello, I bought new plants from a stranger and now all my plants seem to be infested 🙁
    Not sure what it is…. tiny things fly around some of my plants when I move them. I’ve been using the soap and water technique…. my plants also seem to have white or yellowish rock formations? And tiny egg like things…. I’m kinda wore about that. I pop some and some are dry and others seem to have something. I don’t know if it’s some fertilizer? Maybe? I doubt it though.

    • If the small white or yellowish things you describe are perfectly round and they’re in the soil, then, yes, they’re probably some type of slow release fertilizer. I doubt very much they are eggs of any sort. As for the things flying when you move the plants, that’s probably fungus gnats. Follow the instructions above for managing fungus gnats.

  14. Karla says:

    I have indoors plants and I saw like fruit flies on the soil. I changed the soil but I still have the same problem. The soil I use is organic soil and I water the plants twice a week. Hope you can help.

    • Sounds like fungus gnats. Follow the instructions above for managing this pest and definitely cut back on your watering. Twice a week is far too frequent for most houseplants.

  15. Teiya says:

    I have small mites on my Elephant ears that i thought were spider mites, but they haven’t woven any webs and there’s no evidence of any threads. They’re perhaps half a millimeter in length and have a round almost chubby beetle like shape. They are a very light yellow color and slightly transparent, however a small few amount are a darker almost black. They have three pairs of legs and look to have two horns on the rear of their back? They haven’t caused much visible damage yet. I’m concerned that the mites could be doing more long term damage, and cause the plants to not survive this upcoming winter.
    I am not sure what they could be, and It has been bothering me for some time now. I haven’t been able to specify what they are, as everything contradicts itself in the research I’ve done on the internet.

    ~Here’s some extra information that may or may not be useful:
    About maybe 5 months ago in spring I had bought the two Elephant Ear plants (Bikini Tini variant) from a nursery that looked very happy and healthy. I had originally planted them in plant pots outdoors. Where I live has high elevations, due to this it is very windy, dry as well. Since these conditions prove fatal to Elephant Ears, I decided to move them indoors. They’ve been sitting by south-west facing windows and seemed to be doing great the first couple of weeks to months I’ve had them.
    Awhile ago I had noticed that they’ve seemed sad and I looked closer and noticed small mites on the undersides and the tops of the leaves, partially along with the stems (I suspect the mites were dormant in the base of the stem until this point and came out). Without doing much research, I had sprayed flying bug pesticide on the leaves. Regrettably I found my leaves basically dead the next morning. But a few weeks after, the plants grew maybe 4 more stalks with healthy leaves, however i still saw the mites. I did more research and decided to wipe it down with water for several days, which seemed to work. They had still come back in small numbers inside the stems and on the leaves between cleanings. I had missed some days and forgotten to do that, and found that they had grown to a slightly concerning amount.
    The mites haven’t seemed to have caused too much damage, but the plants do seem reasonably sad, and the edges of the oldest leaves, at most were a month old, have become brown and crumble off if disturbed. The leaves also lose their resistance to water a few weeks after sprouting. Not mite wise, I have been watering them every time the soil starts to feel dry, and been spraying water in the air and on the plant to try to keep its native humidity. The pot that they are in is around 2 feet in diameter, and perhaps 12x the size that their original enclosed pots I had bought them in. I don’t think that I’ve lacked in nurturing it, so I believe that it is being caused by the mites.
    So far I’ve only seen the mites on my Elephant ears, as i planted several small Impatients in the pot originally with them, although I did see several directly below the Elephant Ear leaves that might have fallen down. I have a small potted Basil plant on the windowsill less than a foot away that i have inspected multiple times and I haven’t seen a single mite on it. I have other plants within the house that haven’t ever been seen to have mites and seem all okay.

    • I don’t think you have mites on your Elephant Ears; I think you have an aphid infestation. The two “horns” (called cornicles) at the back end of the insect are a defining feature of aphids. No other insects have cornicles. Follow the instructions for management in the aphid section of the above article and that should remedy the issue.

  16. Michelle says:

    I just noticed tiny dark brown things that move like an inch worm. They seem to be hanging in air. A Web maybe. But is on a philodendron plant in my house. Help! Any suggestions? I’ve had this plant for 4 years and never saw them before. I’ve had my plant hanging in the same place since I got it. Thanks, Michelle

    • If there’s just one or two of them, I wouldn’t worry about it. Probably just piggybacked indoors. They don’t sound like any common houseplant pest, so I doubt they’re feeding on the plants.

  17. KJ says:

    Hi! I just noticed these tiny red bugs have taken over my string of pearls. They’re only on the foliage stems, not soil (as far as I can tell), and they don’t move at all! Any ideas what they are and how I can get them gone? I have so many house plants and only two large windows so my plants are all in close proximity. Please Help!!! Thank you!

    • If they aren’t moving, it sounds like it may be a type of scale. Follow the management instructions in the scale section of this article and that should solve the problem.

  18. dolores says:

    Hi l notice on some of my indoors plants got like a tiny cotton ball..is a small as a pin head..when l squeeze it there is blood..l try to spray them with soap and water but l cannot get rid of them..please help ..

  19. Ives says:

    I think i found one singular thrip on my alocasia (one tiny tiny skinny black bug) — there’s no damage so far, but should I spray down the entire plant with neem to be sure? I haven’t found any other bugs on it, and I’ve inspected every leaf with a flashlight.

    • I would avoid spraying unless you know there’s a clear infestation. Most times the presence of a single bug does not mean your plant is doomed. Watch it carefully for more insects and should more happen to arrive, try hand squishing or washing the plant off before using any pesticides, organic or otherwise.

  20. Bryan says:

    Hi Jessica!
    None of the above examples look or sound familiar.
    Living in the soil of some of my large indoor houseplants (fig, poinsettia) that otherwise seem to be healthy and thriving are small 4-5cm brown powdery straight-bodied winged insects– maybe a moth of some kind? I don’t see any evidence of leaf munching.
    Any idea how to get rid of something like these?

    • Is it possible that they would be clothes or pantry months that are sitting on the soil of your houseplants to access moisture? I would put out a pantry moth trap (available on Amazon or other online sources) next to the houseplants and see if you catch any moths. If they go into the trap, which is pheromone-based, then you know that’s what you have.

  21. Gina Otvos says:

    Hi. I have thes tiny bugs that jump. Similar to flea but in my plants indoors. What are they?

  22. Deb Aberle says:

    Hi Darcy, I saw your response to someone about using cinnamon to get rid of the flying nuisances. What kind of cinnamon a.e ground, sticks and how do I use it??

  23. Sam says:

    I have these super super tiny black pill shaped bugs on a Philodendron Selloum, I think they might be thrips but not sure. Never seen anything like them before. How should I treat them?

    • That sounds more like a species of scale than thrips. One easy way to tell the difference between the two is how quickly they move. Scales are fairly stationary while thrips will crawl or fly away when disturbed.

  24. Sue-Ann says:

    I know this is a bit of an older feed, but I have recently found some tiny white bugs in my soil, nothing on my leaves. I have a baby fern that I am trying to keep in humid temperatures so it (the leaves) doesn’t dry out, and so put it into a greenhouse with 2 of my ivys. I have since removed the ivys because the leaves started to yellow more so than they were before, and have now noticed that my fern’s soil is infested with some tiny white bugs, they jump around a little bit when I dig my finger through the soil to see them. After doing some research on them (which is how I ended up here) I think they are probably springtails? They basically look like white thrips, but they jump and are quite quick when crawling through the soil. Just wondering what you think the best way to get rid of/ control them may be? Also I have read through research that they are beneficial in some ways, but the plants that are infected with them seem to be yellowing (the ivy) and drying up (the baby fern).

    Thanks in advance!

  25. Christie says:

    I found tiny, what seems to be black bugs in the soil of my nerve plants. They seem to be limited to the soil and are not on the leaves. I did notice one or two flying bugs, but only one or two. There are however, multiple bugs in the soil. They move when I disturb or blow on the soil. No idea what they are, are they damaging to my plants or to human health. Really bothered by this.

    • They likely are more of a nuisance than a danger. Very few insects cause true harm to humans. I would repot the plant in early spring, using a new bag of sterile potting soil. Try to get as much fo the old soil off the roots as possible prior to re-potting.

  26. Kristen says:


    I’ve seem tiny, crawlie black bugs, about the size of a pin head in only one of my plant’s soil. I see them when I move the bark on top and they’ll scatter when the light hits them (I know roaches do this, and I’d be mortified if these were. To be clear, I’ve never been infested with those). I’ve searched everywhere, but can’t figure out what they are and what to do. Maybe take off the bark and put diatomaceous earth on the surface? The only thing is I don’t know if they’re throughout the soil, so then DE would be useless.
    Just one more thing…if I mixed the DE into new soil, before using it, would it still be effective after it gets wet (what I mean is, if the soil dries out completely between waterings)? I’m thinking maybe it would prevent any soil living pests from taking up residence, sort of like insurance.

    • Hi Kristen. DE will not work after it gets wet and is not recommended for indoor settings as it can be an irritant to your lungs and nasal passages if you breathe it in. I would suggest following the guidelines for fungus gnats and using something like GnatNix.

  27. Shanese says:

    I have a Pothos Marble plant and it does on me everytime I buy it or my grandmother gives me a piece shes growing
    2 weeks later it’s always turning yellow! Please help this is the only plant I have trouble with. Also how do you make a mini compost pile?

  28. Danielle says:

    I have cuckoo wasps in one of my potted plants. They were outside last summer, and the bugs started popping up in late Feb. I definitely want to try to save one plant as it is an heirloom cutting. Google says these live in dirt but I can’t find how to get rid of them.

    • Hmmmm. I’ve never heard of cuckoo wasps living in a potted plant. They’re parasitoidal and usually parasitize solitary bee species in their brood chambers; they don’t build nests of their own. Regardless of what the insect actually is, I would suggest repotting the plant with fresh potting soil. As you repot, gently brush off as much of the old soil as possible from the roots. Early spring is the best time to do this.

  29. Kathy says:

    SO enjoying reading all posts… I am BESIDE MYSELF, with definitely infestation of tiny white bugs mostly on my baby succulents!!!! For yrs I have had great success starting succulents from one petal, & making lovely pots of a variety of them, like u see in HD. These little white bugs (at 1st thought they were fungus… but on closer inspection, saw they move). Was a yr & 1/2 ago that this issue started. Had put together a nice variety of “babies”, had planted in container safe to ship to my new daughter in law, who had been so fascinated w my succulents. Just before packing, I noticed these tiny white bugs on more mature succulents in a pot. Began investigation… to my horror, I had major infestation in most all pots of succulents!!! Checking what I was about to mail….. found on EVERY PLANT, on roots, on up into every little fold! Did what any good “mom” would do: 1st isolated any infected; little by little, addressed each pot by a “combination of methods”…. took each plant out of soil, brushes off ( with fingers or small tool) as many as I could see, then washed soil off, & each plant, w soapy water, until I could not see any. Many of the small ones were ruined simple bc of size & how fragile… just getting to these tiny white ‘buggers’ between the folds, close to “base” or stem. Bugs are ALWAYS at the base plant & roots…& on roots, into soil!!! I was so bummed!!!! Threw out ALL soil were any plant had been; washed & thoroughly sterilized pots. Was SO DILIGENT , like u would be if treating LICE….. sterilized sounding shelves ( this in a screened in porch area), didn’t keep any plants that might have a TRACE, even “purged” any nearby pots w different plants, that might have been nfected!
    What a production!!!!!!!
    It has been a year & 1/2 now…..& THEY ARE BACK!!!!! Same level of infestation!
    1st question, what are they? Are they able to get INSIDE a plant? Where do they come from? & How do I AFFECTIVELY treat & PREVENT from coming back??

    • They sound very much like aphids which can readily get to plants on air currents or even by hitchhiking indoors on your clothes or pets. I suggest following the treatment protocol for aphids in the article.

  30. Meghan says:

    Thanks for this article! I recently got a beautiful pink caladium and just noticed a giant infestation of what I now know is aphids. I didnt realize aphids could be various colors (these were black), I assumed they were always green. This was new to me as I usually deal with spider mites. I immediately took the plant outside and hosed it off, removing all the soil with the jet stream and washing all the bugs out of all the crevices and new leaf splits. I plan on leaving it outside in a bowl of water for a couple days and repotting when it seems the coast is clear. Any other tips to be sure my delicate plant is safe? I’ve already had two caladiums die after not being able to recover from pests.

    • Sounds like you’ve done a good job getting the aphids under control. Keep a close eye out for new ones and wash them off when they appear. Aphids aren’t as problematic once the plant is moved outdoors because they have lots of natural predators that help manage them, including lacewings, ladybugs, syrphid flies, and more.

  31. Zachary Ryan says:

    My wife has a garden of vegetables and herbs in pots and planters and we found a bunch of redish to orange (i am color blind) type larvae or eggs in her blueberry pot
    (which has not been growing) how can we get rid of them if they’re bad bugs for our plants?

    • They don’t sound like any familiar blueberry pest. They’re probably just benign and happened to move into the pot. I wouldn’t worry about getting rid of them unless you see outright damage on the plants (chewed holes, pock-marked foliage, etc). If you do, then I’d repot the plant, cleaning as much of the soil off of the roots as possible and replanting with new soil.

  32. Jess Winter says:

    Hi, I have a indoor palm tree and there seems to be 2 types of bugs living in the soil, one is small with antennas and the other is even smaller and slightly silver. I’m not sure how to get rid of these or what to do so I need some advice.
    thank you

    • It’s likely that the insects you describe are feeding on the soil and the organic matter in it, not on the plant itself. From your description, they don’t sound like any common houseplant pest. I would let them be. If you feel you must get rid of them, simply repot the plant in the spring, using new sterile potting mix and washing as much of the old soil off the roots as possible. This is the safest, most effective way to get rid of critters living in the soil of a houseplant.

  33. Mahogany Styles says:

    I have a bug problem, i have very small worm like bugs that look like centipedes, very tiny and they crawl very fast. They’re in the plant and also, they’re coming from different directions now, what do I do?

    • I suggest repotting the plant with new, sterile potting soil. Try to remove as much of the old soil as possible, carefully washing off the roots and then repot using the new soil.

  34. Tracy says:

    FUNGUS GNATS!!! Neem oil application seemed to hurt my plants especially the small propagating ones but those seem to attract the nasty things because of the need to keep them moist during the propagating period. I tried sand but it looks bad, now I am trying the peroxide water mixture and the sticky tabs. Pray for me!

  35. Erika says:

    I have very very very tiny black bugs all over my indoor pony tail palm leaves and it’s slowly killing it. Have not seen one article that can tell me what they are! They are small enough to look like flecks of pepper. Help!

  36. Avangaline Hull says:

    I have sticky white cottony things on the underside of my Pothos leaves. I touch them and they aren’t a bug. Never the same shape. I wipe it off and it comes back. I originally had it on a indoor basil plant. Three that out. But now my Pothos is infested. Any thoughts?

    • Sounds very much like cottony scale or perhaps mealybugs, both of which don’t move much and don’t look like bugs at all. They look like little tufts of cotton. Treat according to the scale instructions above.

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