You spend a good amount of time in your garden nurturing your plants and vegetation, and it can be unnerving when you notice damage to your plants. It can be worse when you discover that the culprits are little white bugs on plants that you don’t quite recognize.
There are thousands of different plant-eating pests in the United States, so identifying white bugs on plants isn’t the easiest of tasks.
Still, in order to properly get rid of these pests it’s important to have a good idea of what they are. Not only will this help with removal, but it can aid in prevention and your plant’s future health.
So, what are these white bugs on plants and how can you get rid of them? Keep reading to find out!
White Bugs On Plants – The Three Most Common Culprits
There are a number of different pests that could be the culprits of your white bugs on plants.
What are those white bugs on plants? We wish we had an easy answer for you, but there are actually numerous potential insects these pests could be.
The good news is that they are most likely going to be three types of insects, including Mealybugs, Aphids, or White Flies. All three of these pests are related, but they can require different methods of removal and control.
What Are Mealybugs?
Mealybugs are small, white pests that feed on plants. They can be especially problematic in warm, humid environments where they can feast on plant life and vegetation year-round. There are different types of mealybugs that like to infest different types of garden plants and houseplants.
These pests are often a whitish pink color and grow to be around 0.1875 of an inch. They are coated in a white, waxy cover that makes them appear as if they are coated in candle wax.
Mealybugs are especially problematic when it comes to white bugs on plants. That’s because they procreate in very large numbers and attack plants by the hundreds.
These white bugs on plants feed using a tube in their mouthpart. They eat sap, and they insert this tube into the plant to suck the sap out. In very large numbers or in especially severe infestations mealybugs can suck plants dry of their sap, eventually killing them.
But even in smaller infestations, mealybugs are problematic. They weaken plants, causing deformation, brown patches, and an overall unhealthy look that is unsightly in your garden.
Worse still, they easily transfer to other plants and can wreak havoc on entire gardens.
What Are Aphids?
Most of us know about aphids, but not all of us think of aphids when we consider white bugs on plants. That’s because aphids can be different colors. Some are green, others are a pale orange, and many are white or beige.
Aphids grow to be about 1/8th of an inch in length, but they can vary in size. In general, most adult aphids are wingless pests, but if populations become overcrowded they can grow wings to help transport them to other plants that are less infested.
While this is a kind of amazing anomaly, it is especially problematic because aphids are so damaging. Like other white bugs on plants, aphids can infest entire gardens and cause serious destruction.
Aphids live in large colonies and can produce live young sometimes without mating. These tiny insects reproduce rapidly and infestations can quickly and easily get out of control if gardners are not careful.
They destroy plant life much in the same way as mealybugs, using their long tube-like mouthparts to suck the sap from plants and vegetation.
Some of the most common plants that aphids are attracted to include ornamental flowers like sunflowers, alyssum, marigolds, and daisies. Of course, they also feed on a wide variety of other vegetation including cabbage, green peaches, apples, and potato plants depending on the species.
What Are Whiteflies?
Another common culprit of little white bugs on plants are whiteflies. Whiteflies are winged insects in the order of Hemiptera. They feast on the underside of plant leaves and are especially attracted to garden vegetables like tomatoes.
There are roughly 1,550 species of whiteflies, though it is not the adult whitefly that does the most damage. These pests lay their eggs on plants and it is their nymphs that feast on the leaves and plants most ravenously.
The cause of the plant damage is most likely due to the honeydew produced by these nymphs, which causes the plants to wither and turn yellow. In large infestations of whiteflies, garden plants can die off entirely.
Unfortunately, whiteflies can be problematic on both indoor and outdoor plants. When they lay their eggs, these eggs become almost glued to the plant as well, which makes them difficult to remove.
The good news is that there are several products you can use to get rid of not only whiteflies, but all the above little white bugs on plants.
However, there are different tactics you should use for each, which is why it helps to know the difference between these pests, their common traits and appearances, and the products that work best when it comes to removal.
Don’t worry. We have done our research and we are here to help. Let’s talk about how to get rid of these little white bugs on plants, beginning with mealybugs.
White Bugs On Plants – How To Get Rid Of Mealybugs
Mealybugs have a unique waxy coating that helps protect them from the elements.
When it comes to mealybugs, they are luckily easy to spot and identify. Because of their unique look and the waxy coating on their bodies, coupled with the fact that these pests raid plants in such large numbers, it’s pretty obvious when you have a mealybug infestation.
When it comes to getting rid of little white bugs on plants, getting rid of mealybugs doesn’t have to be difficult. If you use the right tactics and products, you should be able to get rid of them quickly and prevent them from returning.
Like many little white bugs on plants, mealybugs can infest both indoor and outdoor vegetation. They are most common in warmer climates and humid environments. Experts recommend not putting your house plants outdoors during the summer, and ensuring you consistently prune and care for outdoor gardens carefully.
Isolate infested plants and trim away any infested branches or leaves. Be vigilant and diligent, especially when the weather is warm and the mealybug season is in full swing.
If you are in the early stages of a mealybug infestation, you can remove the pests by manually using a cotton ball or q-tip soaked in rubbing alcohol.
The alcohol will kill mealybugs and their eggs on contact while also wiping them from the plants. However, this can be time consuming and you’ll need to be vigilant to ensure you get all eggs and mealybugs.
Unfortunately, like some other white bugs on plants, mealybugs can reproduce and lay eggs even without mating. This means that even a single egg missed can lead to an entirely new infestation.
If these white bugs on plants are outside in your garden, grab your garden hose and give the garden a good, hard rinse. Use your thumb or a garden hose attachment to increase pressure to ensure you dislodge any stubborn mealybugs from the leaves.
You also have the option of using soap spray, neem oil and inviting the predators. If you want more tips on home remedies you can use to get rid of mealybugs and other white bugs on plants, skip down to the home remedies section of this article for recipes.
If you would prefer to buy pest control products specifically for the removal of mealybugs, we have listed an option for you to consider below.
Earth’s Ally Insect Control Spray
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One of the products we like for getting rid of mealybugs is by Earth’s Ally. This product kills and repels insects without harming your garden or covering it in harsh insecticides or chemical sprays. The spray works using essential oils including peppermint oil, rosemary oil, and clove oil.
It works on edible plants as well as flowers, trees, shrubs and ornamentals. This product not only works for mealybugs, but you can use it for whiteflies, aphids, mites and other white bugs on plants.
White Bugs On Plants – How To Get Rid Of Aphids
Aphids are commonly thought to be green, but they can be a multitude of colors including white and beige.
Aphids are some of the most common pests when it comes to plant damage and dealing with little white bugs on plants. Not only are they annoying, but they can eradicate entire gardens. Aphids are most common in late spring and in climates with warmer weather.
Aphids are particularly fond of new plant growth and plant buds. They can also reproduce without mating and sometimes even produce live young, as we mentioned above.
However, many species also lay eggs, and these eggs are hardy and often able to overwinter on plants without dying. In the spring, these eggs hatch and wreak havoc on plants.
They feast on plant sap and cause plants to weaken and die. Because they are most attracted to new growth, they can also cause deformities and unsightly brown spots in garden plants, or even cause plants not to grow altogether.
You can use similar methods to get rid of aphids that you would use to get rid of a few other white bugs on plants.
Hosing them off as soon as you see them using a high pressure hose can help dislodge these pests from the plants, but you’ll need to follow through with a contact insecticide or home remedy spray to kill them and prevent them from simply going back to your garden if they survive the initial rinsing.
You can also remove aphids by hand or by using a bucket of soapy water to shake them off into. Soapy water mixes, essential oils and neem oil can also help to kill and repel aphids and other white bugs on plants.
Unfortunately, aphids are not picky and can infest a variety of different plants in your garden, so it’s especially important to keep an eye out for them everywhere.
There are also products you can purchase to control and remove aphids.
Garden Safe Multi-Garden Insect Spray
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The above product by the Garden Safe Store works on a variety of plants and garden veigation and works using plant-based ingredients to kill aphids and other pests. It is ideal for vegetables, roses, ornamentals, flowers, and even house plants.
The worduct is especially effective against aphids, but it can also work against tomato hornworms, fruitworms and other pests. You can use this spray inside and outside. It comes ready to use in a spray container and is safe to use around children and pets.
White Bugs On Plants – How To Get Rid Of Whiteflies
Adult whiteflies are problematic, but it’s their nymphs that do the most damage.
Because whiteflies can infest both indoor and outdoor plants, your methods of removal could vary. Adults can fly, though they lay their eggs on the underside of plants and these eggs stick to the plants, making them tough to get rid of.
Luckily, identifying a whitefly infestation is not difficult if you know what to look for. These pests are elusive though. They tend to take shelter beneath leaves, where they can stay safe from the sun or predators.
However, if you shake the leaves of plants and whiteflies disperse, you now know your enemy.
Though they are winged, whiteflies are actually related to aphids and mealybugs, and they cause a similar type of damage.
Remember, while whiteflies are annoying, it is their nymphs that are most problematic. With that being said, both adults and nymphs feed on plants and can lead to weakened gardens and plant death in large numbers.
We should also note that a single whitefly can lead to an insane amount of eggs, with a single adult female able to lay up to 400 eggs at a single time.
Within a few weeks, these eggs hatch and begin feeding on the plants until they mature.
Because whiteflies fly, you can control and kill them using common sticky traps you would use for similar small pests. These types of traps are especially helpful when used on indoor house plants.
Outdoors, you can hose the flies off using a high pressure hose as you would with mealybugs or aphids, and you can also use a vacuum.
Soap sprays, neem oils, vinegar and water sprays, and over the counter pest control products can also help get rid of these white bugs on plants.
Bonide Products Ready To Use Neem Oil Spray
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Using pure neem oil to get rid of white bugs on plants is highly effective, but it can also be time consuming when it comes to application. That’s why we recommend investing in a ready to use spray that is easy to apply heavily to gardens and vegetables.
The above product by Bonide is a neem oil spray that comes in a 32 ounce ready to spray applicator. You can use it for a number of pest issues and white bugs on plants including mites, whiteflies, mildew, fungice, mealybugs, aphids and more.
Best of all, this spray works against pests in all of their life stages like eggs, larvae, and adults.
Home Remedies For How To Get Rid Of White Bugs On Plants
Neem oil can help repel and kill a number of different pests, including whiteflies, mealybugs and aphids.
Because the above white bugs on plants are related to one another, it is no surprise that many do it yourself pest control methods would work for how to get rid of them.
There are a few different products and home ingredients you can use to get rid of these white bugs on plants, but we have listed some of our favorites that are not only easy, but also safe and effective.
Take a look.
Neem oil is a natural and effective oil you can use to get rid of not only white bugs on plants, but a number of other pests including mites, snails, nematodes, cabbage worms, roaches, flies, mosquitoes, scale insects, termites and more.
It works for some pests by killing them on contact, and it is especially harmful to eggs and larvae. When sprayed or applied on plants, neem oil provides a protective coating that leaves the plant with a bitter taste, effectively deterring or repelling pests it does not kill on contact.
This video explains how neem oil sprays and other neem oil products can work effectively against pests like whiteflies, mealybugs, aphids and other white bugs on plants.
Many people have found essential oils to be helpful when it comes to deterring garden pests and white bugs on plants. Of course, not all essential oils work the same for all pests, and the best essential oils you can use to deter white bugs on plants are listed below:
- Rosemary Oil
- Lavender Oil
- Lemongrass Oil
- Peppermint OIl
- Citrus Oil
- Spearmint oil
You can make your own essential oil spray to repel white bugs on plants using 10 to 20 drops of the essential oil of your choice and combining it with two cups of water.
Put the mixture into a spray bottle and spray it directly on the pests and plants.
While this method is effective, remember that some garden plants may not tolerate essential oils. Be sure you use only pure essential oils that are diluted in water and that you do a bit of research on specific plants before spraying them,especially if they are sensitive.
You can also use cotton balls soaked in your favorite essential oil above and leave them in the garden to repel certain pests simply by the smell. You will need to replace these soaked cotton balls with freshly saturated cotton balls once every three days for best results.
Vinegar and Water Spray
Vinegar and water is another mixture you can use to deter white bugs on plants. Combining equal parts vinegar with water. Adding a bit of essential oil to the mixture can help deter whiteflies, mealybugs, aphids, and other pests like spiders and ants.
However, vinegar can harm or irritate plants if sprayed directly on them. As with the essential oils, it’s important to do plenty of research before spraying plants directly with this home remedy.
As we did mention briefly above, you can use cotton balls or q-tips dipped in rubbing alcohol to clean your plants and remove white bugs on plants manually. However, be careful of not dousing your plants directly with rubbing alcohol, as this is a drying substance.
Also be sure to rinse plants off with water once you are done removing the white bugs on plants using this method.
DIY Soap Spray
Last, we have a DIY soap spray method you can use.
LIquid dish soap can be used in the same way you would use an insecticide, as soap coats insect bodies and kills them on contact. This method can work for both adult white bugs on plants as well as nymphs, larvae and eggs.
However, some soaps can be damaging to plants. Be sure you do research before deciding which type of soap you should use.
To make this soap spray at home, simply add a few drops of liquid dish soap to two cups of water and mix it in a spray bottle. Then spray the pests directly to kill them.
Expert Tips On Plant Protection – Preventing Future White Bugs On Plants
Growing mint can help keep problematic pests at bay, as can a number of other methods and plants.
Controlling little white bugs on plants can begin before you even notice the pests. In fact, we like to think of prevention as one of the most important parts of pest control.
Preventing pests doesn’t have to be difficult or costly, and there are plenty of methods and products you can use to help keep your yard and garden healthy, as well as keep white bugs on plants at bay.
Take a look.
Invite the Predators
There are many predatory insects and animals that feed on white bugs on plants, and inviting them to your yard and garden can help control not only these pests, but many others as well.
Some of the most common pests for typical white bugs on plants include:
- Soldier Beetles
- Damsel Bugs
- Brown or Green Lacewings
- Parasitic Wasps
- Cryptolaemus Montrouzieri (AKA Mealybug Destroyers)
- And Predatory Mites
Keep Your Garden Healthy and Cared For
A little bit of TLC can go a long way when it comes to preventing and repelling white bugs on plants. Keeping your garden routinely pruned, watered and cared for will help keep it healthy, which can in turn make it less vulnerable when it comes to pest attacks.
Even if your plants do become infested by white bugs on plants, they will have a better chance of surviving the infestation when they start off healthy in the first place.
Furthermore, when you are actively caring for your plants both indoors and outdoors, you are more likely to discover white bugs on plants early, or many other types of pests for that matter.
Use A Year-Round Pest Control Spray
Being proactive is one of the most effective and efficient forms of pest control you can use. This is especially true when it comes to garden plants and protecting vegetation from little white bugs on plants.
Using a year round pest control spray is going to be one of the easiest ways you can not only prevent little white bugs on plants, but also many other pests as well.
If you’re passionate about green or organic gardening, the good news is that there are all natural products you can use to remove and repel white bugs on plants.
One of our favorite all natural products that is safe to use year round in gardens is a product called Wondercide.
Wondercide Outdoor Pest Control
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Wondercide is an all natural, plant based insecticide that works against a number of pests and white bugs on plants. It is made using plant-based ingredients and essential oils and is gentle enough to spray directly on gardens and ornamental vegetation.
There is also no spray and wait time, which means children and pets can be actively playing as you spray or use this product.
When applied correctly, Wondercide pest control spray can help repel whiteflies, mealybugs, aphids, and many other pests including ticks, fleas, spiders, ants and more.
Remove Or Isolate Infested Plants As Soon As Possible
No one wants to lose a plant that they have been nurturing and working on growing from a seedling, but a single infested plant can lead to the death of an entire garden.
If you want to try and salvage the plant, it’s best to remove it or isolate it from other plants while you attempt to treat it.
If you feel the plant is beyond saving or is too infested, you may just need to cut your losses and say goodbye. Losing one plant, afterall, is better than losing your entire garden.
Plant Pest Repellent Plants
One of our favorite ways to get rid of white bugs on plants is to use companion planting. Not only will companion planting help enhance your garden’s aesthetic, but it will also help to keep a number of pests away.
Some of the best pest repellent plants, according to experts, are listed below:
- Lemon Balm
- Garden Nasturtium
- Lemon Thyme
- And Borage
Know Your Enemy
Last but not least, know your enemy. This is a theme we touched on multiple times in this article about white bugs on plants.This is because getting rid of these pests is going to be easiest when you understand what you are dealing with.
Although some of the removal and control methods are similar for all three, it’s important to remember that aphids, mealybugs and whiteflies are not the only little white bugs you might contend with.
Be sure to do your research and look into the types of insects that are causing your plants problems, and do your best to attack the issue head on and early, before it gets out of control.
So, do you know your enemy? Which of the little white bugs on plants above do you believe you are dealing with?
Tell us what you think in the comment section below.
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Jack founded our blog after two decades of working in the pest control industry. His vast experience dealing with a wide array of pests allows him to diagnose issues quickly and get to the heart of pest problems quickly and effectively. He has serviced more than 2,000 homes over his career and there is hardly any pest situation that he has not seen before.