Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I hate you - Pests on my cacti!

The pest and disease always visit your cacti & succulent without the invitation. In this year, I lost about 5-8 cactus for pests. I hate them so much and they inspired me to write this article. I think most people should feel like me, too when you look the pests damage your fat, green cacti.

It is said by experts that Healthy Soil can prevent about 80 percent of insect damage. Healthy soil breeds healthy plants that are better able to resist pests. If your plant pot has ant nest, get rid of it. It may look cruel but it's good for your plants because ants always bring pests to your plants according my experience.

I use the nim/neem oil mixed with plain water to spray once a week to prevent any pests. It's biological and safe to any animal or human.

The pesticide or insecticides are always my last choice to kill pests. Many pesticides are harmful to people, and though they do kill pests, they also kill soil nutrients and beneficial insects. If you must spray something on your plants, start with plain water—it will kill some insects and force off many others.

Here are the common pests for cacti & succulent:

Mealy Bugs:

These are white/gray insects about 0.1 inches in length. These bugs consume the cactus sap and reproduce rapidly by laying their eggs underneath a cotton-like covering. Mealy bugs are covered with these white spots and sticky texture. You will find these pests on the stem or spines of the plant. If left untreated, the cactus will stop growing, take on a sticky appearance, and begin to shrivel.

Non-chemical treatment:

  • Physically remove these bugs by using external objects such as fingernails, scrub brushes, tweezers, and/or water pressure.
  • Apply rubbing alcohol onto the insects by using a cotton swab. Rubbing alcohol will dissolve the waxy coat and kill the mealy bugs.
  • Mixing the dish washing liquid with water in the ratio of 1: 50. Best time to spray the mixed water on mealy bugs is the evening. If you do in another time, the solution will burn leaves

  • Use systemic or contact insecticides such as malathion and dimethodate to control widespread mealy bugs. Weekly applications of malathion or dimethodate are recommended to prevent recurring mealy bug attacks.
  • For root mealy bugs, remove the cactus from the pot, rinse off all white spots and soil with lukewarm water. Then, allow the plant to dry. After the plant has dried, you can repot the cactus in a well-drained, fresh cactus mix.
Red Spider Mite:

Mites are small, reddish insects less than 0.2 mm long. Red spider mites may also appear as brown dots or red pepper on young growth.Found on the top of the plant, these mites begin as pale yellowish spots and later turn rusty brown. Without treatment, these red spider miters lead to scarring and sometimes webbing on the plants

Non-Chemical Treatment:

The reddish-brown mites thrive in hot dry conditions, yet dislike humid conditions. Acting as a preventive measure and cure, overhead watering and spraying plants may reduce mite attacks. In addition, increase the humidity to prevent further attacks of mites.


Aphids are small, soft-bodied, slow-moving insects that suck fluids from plants. Aphids come in many colors, ranging from green to brown to black, and they may have wings. They attack a wide range of plant species causing stunting, deformed leaves and buds. They can transmit harmful plant viruses with their piercing/sucking mouthparts. Aphids, generally, are merely a nuisance, since it takes many of them to cause serious plant damage. However aphids do produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface growth called sooty mold.

Aphids can increase quickly in numbers and each female can produce up to 250 live nymphs in the course of a month without mating. Aphids often appear when the environment changes - spring & fall. They're often massed at the tips of branches feeding on succulent tissue. Aphids are attracted to the color yellow and will often hitchhike on yellow clothing.


Spraying with most insecticides is usually effective. A repeat treatment may be applied after a few days.


Apply miticide for widespread red spider mite problems. You can also use an all-purpose bug killer called “Rose and Flower Insect Killer,” which can help eliminate mite problems.


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