What Is Eating My Houseplants

Spider mites are little, green or yellow insects that like the warm, dry environments frequently found inside. These harmful pests sucking plant sap result in leaf loss, mottled, and fading foliage. Plants can become coated in netting that resembles spider webs when infestations are severe.

Your best line of defense against this insect is to boost humidity around the plant and spray the plant vigorously with water every two weeks until the infestation is under control. Spider mites prefer dry environments. Another efficient treatment method is a spray of horticultural oil.

  • Scale are bumpy, 1/16- to 1/8-inch, brown or gray insects that are visible on plant stems and leaves.

What could be consuming the leaves of my houseplant?

Aphids can attack any part of the plant, however they often suck sap from tender new plant growth, tips, flowers, etc. Normally hidden from obvious sight, i.e. under the leaves, they are typically green, but can also be black or grey and arrive in small, but quickly reproducing colonies.

Chewing Damage

Beetles, caterpillars, earwigs, or slugs may be to blame if you notice holes or ragged portions of leaves missing and the damage has been happening gradually with a little feeding each night. Look for any remnants of these four to help you identify between them.

Caterpillars deposit their waste under the leaves or close to the damage. Droppings like tiny “pellets.” Certain caterpillars produce webbing. Damage can range from a few small holes in the leaves to the elimination of substantial amounts of the leaf. Cutworm caterpillars consume stems and leaves at night. Look for the curled-up caterpillars among plant stems close below the soil’s surface throughout the day.

Beetles frequently evade detection by falling to the ground and are less likely to leave droppings. As you search for them, they fall in reaction to the shifting of the leaves. Keep a close eye out for signals like egg clusters and small larvae under the leaves. Look for information on the plant that is being chewed to find out what insect pests are frequently linked with it. Caterpillars and beetles of many different varieties and sizes can be found in gardens.

The European earwig, which is common in New England gardens, can harm fragile fruit, corn silk, and young vegetables. The leaves of several varieties of vegetable plants will have numerous holes chewed in them. Older leaves typically have bitten edges, but younger leaves may have holes all over the leaf. Earwigs frequently gnaw on leaves that appear ragged.

As they feed, slugs exude a layer of slime that dries into a glossy trail. The slime aids in preventing their bodies from drying up, and it frequently leaves a deposit where the slug has crawled.

Look for pests at dusk or at night using a flashlight to conduct further research. Numerous earwigs, slugs, and beetles, in particular, feed at night and conceal during the day. In home vegetable gardens, handpicking caterpillars, beetles, and slugs and dumping them into soapy water can be helpful. Use shallow cans baited with fish oil or a dab of bacon grease in vegetable oil to catch earwigs.

Damage Caused by Piercing-sucking Insects

Look closely for tiny, soft-bodied insects in groups along the stems or under the foliage of plants with wilted, drooping leaves or small yellow patches. Squash bugs, whiteflies, and aphids all have mouthparts that resemble miniature straws. They take in nourishing plant liquids by sticking their mouthparts into a leaf or stem. This procedure leaves behind yellow flecks or patches. Whiteflies and aphids don’t get much bigger than 1/8 in length. Seek out a sticky substance known as “honeydew” on plants beneath or nearby where they feed. This residue frequently turns sooty from mold.

Squash bugs hatch from clusters of bronze-colored eggs that are typically placed on the underside of squash leaves. At first just about 1/8 long, grey, and soft, they develop into approximately 3/4-sized, brown, hard-shelled adults. While squash bugs travel around on the plant, frequently under the leaves, aphids and whiteflies feed primarily in one location.

Leaf-mining, Root-feeding and Stem-feeding Damage

Leaf miners are visible as winding, tan-colored spots on the leaves of Swiss chard, beets, and spinach. These minuscule fly larvae burrow between the leaf’s surfaces and form the splotchy tracks known as “mines. If a mine is still active, you can remove the top layer and find the tiny white maggot. The adult fly lays its eggs on a leaf’s surface, and the eggs hatch into larvae that burrow into the leaf’s inner tissue to feed.

Do the cabbage seedlings you have wilt? The cabbage root maggot fly lays its eggs close to the host plant (or seed), and its larvae emerge from the soil and burrow into the roots or seeds. It is closely related to onion and seed corn maggot flies. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, radishes, and other cabbage family members are among the plants that are impacted, along with onions, vine crops (cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, melons, and gourds), and corn, pea, and bean seeds. The adults resemble tiny houseflies in size. The harm is caused by the larvae, or maggots, as they feed and burrow. Damage can result in wilting, poor germination, unattractive radishes, and rotting onions.

When cucumber seedlings wilt, become yellow, and maybe die, they may have Erwinia tracheiphila, a bacterial wilt disease that is spread by cucumber beetles. Look for small, 1/4-long beetles with yellow and black stripes or black spots that are eating the tender leaves of vine crops (cucurbits). Massachusetts is home to both the striped and the spotted cucumber beetle. Their harm includes spreading the wilt illness and feasting on stems, leaves, and roots. Most at risk are seedlings with less than five leaves.

The leaves of squash plants may start to wilt when they start to bear fruit. Look for excrement, also known as feces, along the stem from the wilted leaf “Frass is the sawdust-like residue that the insect feasting inside the stem left behind. Make a lengthwise slit in the stem close to the frass and look inside to find the huge, cream-colored caterpillar. After removing the caterpillar, add several inches of soil to the damaged area of the stem to promote roots. On squash plants during the day, keep an eye out for the orange and black adult moth, which soars like a little hummingbird. The moth deposits minuscule, rust-colored eggs on leaves and along stems.

Management Options

After determining the source of the damage, think about how you will handle the situation. You can either let natural enemies control the insect population or manually wash or remove the pests off the plants, depending on the extent of the damage. To protect crops from insects like flies, beetles, butterflies, and moths that lay eggs for caterpillars, consider using lightweight row coverings. For vine crops and seedlings of plants in the cabbage family, row coverings used at planting time frequently offer the best protection.

Products derived from natural components that contain Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), neem (azadarachtin), or spinosad can be used to control some insects and caterpillars in vegetable gardens. Neem, various oil products, and insecticidal soaps may work well as both pesticides and/or deterrents for soft-bodied insects. Insects in their early, immature stages are always more susceptible to treatment than those in their later stages. Choose a product that is labeled for both the insect and the crop after carefully reading the labels.

Dusk is a good time to treat for active pests if you choose to apply a pesticide for three reasons:

  • Pollinators and helpful insects are less likely to be active.
  • Organic insecticides’ active components deteriorate more slowly in the absence of sunshine.
  • At dusk, the wind frequently slows down, reducing spray drift.

Why do the leaves on my houseplants have holes in them?

It pays to be knowledgeable about some of the most typical houseplant diseases and how to treat them in order to keep your houseplants as healthy as possible.

Browning leaf edges/tips: Your houseplant may be suffering from a number of conditions, including low humidity or high temperatures, if the leaf margins are brown and crisp or when new growth withers. The plant might have also been allowed to fully dry up in between waterings. Try utilizing a lower temperature while raising the humidity and watering amounts.

The accumulation of salt, which may be removed from the soil by running water through it, is another cause. Too much fertilizer can frequently be blamed for leaf edge and tip burn, with extra salt building up on the leaves. Reduce fertilizing and thoroughly wash the leaves with water.

Leaf holes: Leaf holes are typically a sign of inadequate hydration or hot, dry air. Many people think insects are to blame, although this is rarely the case unless you keep the plant outside.

Wilting leaves: If your plant’s leaves are dead or they keep wilting, your container can be too small or it might be too dry. Your houseplant might require repotting. Place the seed in a bigger container and add lots of moisture.

Lack of blooms: You may need to give your houseplant extra light and phosphorus fertilizer if you’re having trouble getting it to flower. If bud drop is the cause of the issue, you might need to look for drafts. The plant can be overly dry due to insufficient humidity. To improve humidity, try spraying the plant with water.

Mushroom or moss growth: If you see mushrooms or moss on the soil surface of your houseplant, don’t freak out. In most cases, this won’t hurt the plant, but it might be an indication of poor drainage. Aerating the soil or adding more sand or perlite are two options.

Plants with fuzzy mold: If you notice fuzzy, grey mold on your blossoms, leaves, or stems, your houseplant may have Botrytis blight, a fungal disease. This is typically brought on by excessive humidity, inadequate ventilation, or dead blooms and leaves that have been left on the plant. Cleanse the plant by removing any dead growth and removing any mold. The plant might need to be taken out and replanted. Reduce the humidity and make sure there is enough ventilation.

Yellowing leaves: When leaves become yellow, it can be an indication of stress caused by too much light, bad drainage, overwatering, or too much lime in the water. Limiting light, aerating the soil, watering less frequently, and filtering the water before applying it to the plant are all things you should try to do. Remove the yellowed leaves as well, but gently. If your houseplant’s bottom leaves start to yellow and fall off, it might want more humidity, fertilizer, or a different location. Another possibility is pests. Neem oil should be used to cure any pest issues.

Dropping leaves: If a plant is gradually losing its leaves, overwatering may have also damaged the roots. On the other hand, if the defoliation happens quickly, the plant can be in shock as a result of extreme temperature variations. Leaf dropping on a regular basis could be a sign that your houseplant is being exposed to gases or other air contaminants. Consider moving the plant and making sure it has enough airflow.

Spots on leaves: A houseplant may develop spots on its leaf for a variety of causes. If there are any yellowish spots on the plant after watering, the water may be too cold for the plant. Apply warm water to plants or wait until it reaches room temperature. This might potentially be connected to leaf spot caused by bacteria. Consider enhancing the lighting and lowering the humidity. Remove any damaged leaves as well.

Spider mites may be responsible for the yellowish leaf mottling. By lightly tapping on the leaves while holding a piece of white paper underneath, you may check this. Blotches of silver or red on the foliage usually signify too much exposure to sunshine. Change the location of the plant so it receives less direct sunlight.

Plants that are sagging: Are you experiencing issues with mushy stems or drooping of the entire plant? Overwatering or inadequate drainage are the most frequent causes of this. This causes root or crown rot. If the houseplant is unwell, you could try to improve drainage and let it dry out, but by then it might be too late. This condition may occasionally be caused by bacteria found in soil. Consider replanting in a different container with brand-new, clean dirt.

Leggy growth: If the only issue you’re having with your plant is leggy or asymmetrical growth, the culprit is probably poor light or humidity. Simply enhance the lighting conditions and humidity levels for the plant. Additionally, make an effort to rotate the plant frequently to maintain even growth.

Growth that is stunted or weak can be brought on by a variety of factors, including inadequate drainage, inadequate lighting, low humidity, and an insufficient supply of fertilizer. If the soil needs to be aerated, try repotting. Place the plant in a location with better lighting and raise humidity levels. Additionally, you ought to fertilize it further.

What is consuming the plant leaves I have?

Even the best gardeners occasionally experience leaf rot when their plants are at their most attractive. It takes some detective effort to identify the perpetrators that are munching holes in your plant’s leaves, but typical offenders offer plenty of hints. You can identify the culprits and stop their hole-making by examining the holes that have been made in your plants. It can be helpful to recognize these four typical leaf holes:

1. Extensive, erratic holes in leaves.

Slugs and snails are the best pests for chewing holes in leaves. Usually, rather than near the borders of leaves, these slimy critters consume holes that are closer to the center of the leaves. They leave behind big, crooked leaf holes.

Slug and snail holes can have a variety of shapes, although they generally have smooth edges. The last piece of proof that slugs and snails are to blame is trails of slippery, silvery slug or snail mucus.

Many kinds of plants, such as basil, hosta, hibiscus, cabbage, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, and peppers, frequently have slug and snail leaf holes. Most of the damage these pests cause happens at night. Your hunch will become more accurate with a flashlight-assisted evening stroll.

2. Leaf edges have both large and small holes.

Other pests aren’t as fussy, however slugs and snails start eating toward the cores of the leaves. Caterpillars often begin their feasts around the leaf edge and chew holes in the entire leaf.

Although some caterpillar holes resemble slug holes, these pests don’t leave behind mucus trails. Instead, you’ll see a lot of dark feces. Caterpillars that feed on leaves at night can be seen hidden on the undersides of leaves during the day.

Caterpillars range in size from inchworm-like cabbage loopers that bite holes in plant leaves to 4-inch tomato hornworms. Many plants, such as roses, hydrangeas, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, and cabbage, are favorites of caterpillars.

3. Holes in the leaves that resemble skeletons.

It is clear who is to blame because some leaf holes are distinctive. The holes that form when Japanese beetles begin eating plant leaves resemble those of other pests. However, the more time these ravenous insects spend feeding, the more recognizable their leaf holes become.

Japanese beetles consume the veins of leaves, leaving behind a lace-like skeleton. On warm, sunny days, they frequently assemble in huge numbers as they feed. Plants are frequently entirely stripped of their leaves, leaving only the leaf skeletons.

Over 300 different plant species are consumed by Japanese beetles. Numerous plants, including hydrangeas, roses, and hibiscus, have their skeletonized leaf holes. Along with eating holes in plant leaves, these parasites frequently eat holes in flower petals.

4. The leaves include a few tiny “shot holes.”

Japanese beetles leave behind damage that is almost as recognizable, although these holes have a very different appearance. Flea bugs of several species bore small holes in plant leaves that resemble shotgun bursts in miniature.

Leaf holes made by flea beetles have a windowpane appearance because these parasites don’t entirely gnaw through the leaf. Many different kinds of plants, including roses, hydrangeas, broccoli, cabbage, kale, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and even fragrant mint, are attacked by flea beetles and develop holes.

Cucumber beetles and other microscopic insects are responsible for similar-appearing leaf holes. The harm is more severe the longer they devour plant leaves. However, cucumber bugs normally only cause leaf holes in a few types of plants, such cucumbers and squash.