So, your pretty little succulent is infested with a bunch of mealybugs, white webs, aphids, ants, or maybe even gnats that fly in your face every time you walk by.
You’re worried if they’re harming your jade.
You’re sick of seeing those cottony spider webs all over your cactus.
And you can’t even enjoy your succulents anymore.
What’s the point?
In this complete guide, you’ll learn about:
- Why your succulent attracts so many tiny bugs
- The most common pest infestations on succulents
- How to get rid of succulent bugs
- Ways to keep your plant free of pests
- And more
You should have a good understanding of all the common pests and how to control, manage, and eradicate them by the end of this article.
And if you have any questions, you can post a comment at the end of the page.
Let’s dive in.
Why does my succulent have little bugs?
Succulents attract all sorts of pests because of their tasty foliage and nutrients they provide to a huge variety of bugs.
It’s no surprise that they flock to succulents with their bright colors whether you keep them indoors or not.
Some bugs are considered to be beneficial and should be kept, as they do minimal to no damage and will help benefit the plant by eating other bugs that are considered to be invasive or pests.
Succulents are hardy towards bugs in general, but if you start to see common signs of pest activity, you should kill them to protect your plant so you can enjoy it forever!
After all, I know the feeling of expecting a cutting to sprout after watching 20 videos on the proper method to propagate them- only to find that the cutting never showed up because of pests chewing it from below the soil line!
What bugs are attracted to succulents?
Again, succulents are mostly tolerant of pests and will do fine even with minimal pest activity.
But if you do nothing or there’s a huge number of them, you’ll want to act quickly because they can destroy and wither your cacti, string of pearls, jade, zebra plant, agave, houseleek, or even your chocolate soldier!
The most common pests that eat succulents are:
These are all common bugs you find eating your cacti or other succulents.
All of these bugs chomp on your succulents all day and night.
Depending on which pest you’re dealing with, the process to get rid of it varies.
We’ll go into detail on handling each one so you can save your succulents from them.
How to get rid of bugs on succulents
Here you’ll find some common DIY home remedies for getting rid of bugs on succulents.
I’d suggest trying out a few of them, one at a time, to see which one works for you. If it doesn’t, try another.
Avoid doing too many different things at the same time because you may end up harming sensitive plants.
You’ll also want to spot test any sprays, oils, or DIY solutions before you apply them to the whole plant. Cactus bugs are common, but can be controlled.
If you notice any burning or plant damage, stop and use something else.
Ready? Let’s roll.
These gnats are harmless to most succulents unless you find them in huge quantities.
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They can be a beneficial insect because they consume excess moisture that could otherwise lead to root rot or powdery mildew.
But if you have too many of them, they can be harmful to your succulents because they drink up all the moisture and your plant will dry out.
Succulents are by nature drought tolerant, so this isn’t too big of a concern to be worried about.
But when fungus gnats buzz around. And fly in your face when you walk by.
Who wants that?
You can control fungus gnats by minimizing watering. Let the soil go dry between watering sessions to reduce the amount of available moisture.
They may also come from infested plants that you recently bought, or from soils that were already infested from the store.
They also tend to breed very quickly once they find a suitable place to infest, so act quickly. If you have fungus gnats in your succulents, you have excess water and moisture in the area.
You can also try repotting your plant to another container to completely eradicate them.
Sticky tape and sticky traps also exist and can help reduce the gnat population.
Cinnamon is a powerful home remedy that works well to kill these pests.
You can sprinkle the cinnamon powder around your soil or even get pure cinnamon sticks and shove them into the soil. This helps deter fungus gnats from your cacti naturally and keeps them away.
Lastly, if you’ve done everything you could and you still can’t fully eradicate them, just get new soil.
Dump out the old soil and transfer your succulent to a new container. You can bake the new soil first to make sure that all the pests and eggs are killed.
This will guarantee that you have a clean slate when you start over.
See this guide for more ways to get rid of fungus gnats.
Ah, good old greenflies. These pests have been the bane of many gardeners’ existence.
They eat anything and everything from veggies to fruits to decorative plants.
There are home remedies that range from using dish soap to spraying peppermint oil and you can easily find dozens of different ways to get rid of them online.
So I’m just going to list two methods here that I’ve had success with.
How do I control aphids on my succulents?
Flying bugs on your succulents are likely aphids, and they come in a variety of colors like green, yellow, and black.
Spray with a hose
The first is to simply spray down the plant with a garden hose on full blast.
The water pressure will blow them off your succulents and drive them away. This gets rid of them quickly without you having to pluck them off manually.
You can also first soak them with a mild solution of soapy water then spray the plant down. Note that this doesn’t get rid of them in one go. You’ll need to do this repeatedly until they’re gone.
The point is that you keep disturbing their activity until they all scatter and eventually leave your succulents alone. Unless you have a severe aphid problem, this should do the trick in a month or so.
Use neem oil
The second method is to use neem oil.
You need to dilute it and then spray down your plants in the time when the sun isn’t up so that you don’t burn your plants. Use as directed.
Spray down any excess neem oil with water. The neem adds a protective layer that repels and kills a multitude of bugs. Repeat until the plant lice are gone.
You can also refer to this guide on aphids.
Mealybugs are extremely common, especially in succulents. These are those microscopic, tiny white bugs that are gray, silver, white, or even tan. They’re only about 2mm in length, so you won’t see them easily.
What do mealybugs look like on succulents?
Mealybugs are responsible for making that white, fuzzy material left behind on the plant similar to scale.
The difference is that the white cottony substance from a mealybug is everywhere, compared to scale which uses the white material to hatch eggs.
Mealybugs utilize this “fluff” all over the plant and you can usually find it on the stems, undersides of leaves, and between each plant joint. Mealybugs are invasive and will infest all your succulents (and other plants). So don’t wait. Because they won’t.
How to get rid of mealybugs on your succulents
Mealybugs are difficult to control, but there are few DIY remedies you can try for natural control.
Often, gardeners resort to uprooting the plant and starting over entirely after the plant has been completely purged of bugs.
But for starters, you can use isopropyl alcohol.
Spray down the plant
Get a spray bottle and spray the alcohol directly on the white fuzz. This will start to kill them and you’ll see it take place in real-time.
You can also dilute the alcohol if it’s too strong for your succulent. Repeat this daily until the fuzz is gone. Be sure to use a sponge or brush to wipe the fuzz off the plant after you spray.
Let it dwell for at least a few minutes after you spray for best results. Alcohol doesn’t damage the plant and it’s regarded as safe for succulents.
Spray the solution on stems, joints, leaves, and the soil. This will kill any eggs left behind. Repeat as necessary.
Watch out for sticky honeydew
You’ll often find mealybugs paired with ants. This is because they produce and secrete a sticky carb-loaded secretion known as honeydew.
It’s sweet, sticky, and turns tarry over time. Ants will eat this substance and also carry other bugs with them at the same time, or vice versa.
Aphids also are common in this trifecta, so you may very well find that your succulent is infested by all three pests.
The honeydew rots and promotes bacteria and mold, which can lead to fungal problems on your succulent. So now you have 3 different pests and a soot problem to deal with.
Isolate the succulent
Isolate the plants that are infected or suspected of infection immediately.
Place them somewhere contained without any wind that can carry the mealybugs. This will help stop the pests from traveling to your cacti.
Keeping the plant clean and tidy is critical. Prune off ALL foliage that has the white fuzz- even ones that you’re unsure if it’s been infected yet.
This is necessary to help reduce the cottony fuzz from infesting your entire plant and nearby ones. Use a soapy solution to clean it at least every other day.
Alcohol can be used in the dense areas of mealybug activity. You can use a Q-Tip or cotton swab or toothbrush for thorny cacti or hard to reach areas of your plants.
Prune infested foliage
Remove any dead foliage so they don’t have a place to reproduce.
Keep the plant dry during this time.
Let it tolerate some drought. The moisture attracts bugs.
Don’t keep any plant materials from infested succulents or use them as cuttings. They have bugs on them and need to be thrown out right away.
If both rubbing alcohol and dish soap don’t work, you can try completely uprooting the plant and soaking it in rubbing alcohol or vinegar diluted with water. Or bleach.
This is often used for plants in the aquarium hobby. It’s called dipping.
Here’s a video showing off the process:
This will kill all mealybugs and eggs left on your succulent. It may or may not harm your plant, so I suggest starting with a milder concentration.
Then bump it up until you kill them.
Will vinegar kill mealybugs?
Vinegar can kill mealybugs when used repeatedly at the right concentration. You can dunk your plant in vinegar if you can safely unroot it.
Or you can spray it down with the acidic solution regularly until you kill the rest of them. Vinegar works best when paired with regular pruning, cleaning, and rubbing alcohol spray.
If you have a lot of white fuzz, see this post I wrote on how to get rid of mealybugs.
Spider mites are a nuisance and never beneficial for succulent plants.
These guys may have the word “spider” in their name, which is commonly associated with beneficial spiders, such as cellar spiders and daddy long legs.
But the “mite” is what makes the difference. Spider mites will pierce your plant leaves with their sharp mouthparts (to keep it simple) and suck the plant juices out of them.
They also make the plant unable to properly retain moisture and hydration because it’ll leak water out of the small pierced holes they created.
This is one pest you DON’T want at all because they will kill your succulent.
The common signs of spider mites include:
- Lighter or yellowing leaves
- Wilted or irregularly shaped foliage
- Drooping or partial limping of the plant
- White or silver coloration
- Visible foliage tears or damage to the leaves
- White webs or “cottony” appearance on the leaves
- Brown spots on the plant
Spider mites can be difficult to get rid of because they are so small so it’s hard to tell if you still have them or not. You can refer to this guide on spider mite control.
Start with using dish soap. Get a liter of water and add a few tablespoons of dish detergent.
Mix it well and pour it into a spray bottle. Then spray down the leaves (test it first) and wash off the excess. The dish soap drowns the mites by trapping them into small bubbles from the soap.
Do this daily for two weeks and see if the spider mites are still causing damage to your succulents.
If you spot an infested part of your plant, consider snipping off the foliage with the mites. You can also use a cotton ball dipped in 70% rubbing alcohol to kill the mites upon contact.
The alcohol evaporates by itself so you don’t need to clean your leaves after you wipe them with the swab. Spraying it directly on the succulent can also work.
Additionally, set up sticky tape around the edges of your plant container. The mites travel by walking like typical spiders (albeit they’re microscopic) or through the air.
The tape around the rim of your succulent’s pot can instantly trap any mites that try to walk across it.
You can also sprinkle diatomaceous earth directly into the soil. Make a ring of it around the stem of your plant or around the container, whichever works.
Use it like a barrier that blocks out any spider mite from coming to your plant. If they walk on it, the diatomaceous earth will kill them over time by piercing their hard exoskeleton and depriving them of precious liquids- just like they do to your plant!
If you need help, check out this guide on completely getting rid of spider mites.
Scale is a group of pets that attack a variety of host plants and is very common throughout the US.
There are thousands of different types of scale, with the most popular being the “white fuzz” found on the leaves of plants. The pest itself is a small, oval shaped disk-like insect.
These pests consume the precious plant nutrients (sap) by extracting them from the leaves and stems.
Scale produce a “white fuzz” just like mealybugs
They focus on congregating in the vulnerable parts of your succulents and are extremely harmful in large numbers. Scale can kill a vulnerable succulent.
Scale are some of the most common cactus bugs you’ll come across and you get rid of them with basic household solutions.
How to get rid of scale on cacti
First, you’ll want to isolate the infested plant so that it doesn’t infect others. Then prune off ALL infested foliage with visible pests. Use a sharp pair of scissors or pruners dapped with rubbing alcohol and cut cleanly.
Wash it afterward to ensure sanitization and disinfection. The last thing you want is for all your succulents to be covered in white fuzz.
Similar to spider mites, you can use a bottle of 70% rubbing alcohol with a cotton ball and wipe your plant.
Bath your plants and clean them off of any scale you see by giving them a good cleansing.
The alcohol kills scale and makes it easy to remove from the succulent. You can also use a Q-Tip soaked in isopropyl alcohol to reach finer areas such as between levels or in sharp cacti spines.
Dish soap and water also works. Mix half soap and half water and spray down your plant. Test it first in a small area, as always.
The dish soap eliminates the scale and then you can brush them off with a wet paper towel. Let it soak for a few minutes before you wipe so it can do its job.
Essential oils, such as neem oil, can be used to kill scale.
Neem oil is powerful so you need to dilute it before you apply it. 2-3 drops of neem oil for 1 cup of water is more than enough. You can try 1 drop first and see how potent it is.
Depending on the concentration and purity of the oil you purchased, you’ll need to adjust as needed.
Test spray the neem oil on a small leaf first and see how your plant reacts. Spray only in the morning or late afternoon.
Avoid spraying when the sunlight is strong. Neem traps the scale and will cook your plant if you spray it in the peak sunlight hours. Wash off the excess.
If none of that works, check out this guide for scale control. Scale can be dangerous so you’ll want to get rid of it right away.
If you want to keep your plants organic and need a 100% natural way to get rid of the bugs on succulent, neem oil can be bought organically.
This is good for edibles, like aloe Vera or prickly pear.
What should I spray on succulents for bugs?
You can spray rubbing alcohol, neem oil, vinegar, or soapy water to get rid of bugs on your succulents.
All of these should be diluted with water to the proper concentration so you don’t burn or harm your plant.
Most succulents are quite tolerant of most household remedies for bugs, so you don’t need to worry too much about it.
Will rubbing alcohol kill succulents?
No, rubbing alcohol is perfectly safe for the majority of succulents.
You can use diluted alcohol if you’re worried, but straight 70% should be OK. Test it on a small part of your plant first before spraying the entire thing.
Can I spray neem oil on succulents?
Yes, but you just need to make sure that you spray only when the sun is down- so early morning or in the evening.
Neem can burn succulents if sprayed in the direct sun. Wash off excess with water. Dilute it as necessary according to directions. Use as directed.
Some animals and people may be sensitive to neem. So read up on that.
What is eating my succulents at night?
You’ll need to examine the behavior of the plant damage and go from there. Are they big bites? Do they eat the whole plant? What happens if you move the plant indoors?
Examine, assess, and plan.
Here are some additional references you may find useful when trying to rid these pests:
- Common pests on cactus
- Cactus bugs? – Reddit
- Does any of this look like scale bugs ? : cactus – Reddit
Did you get rid of all the bugs on your succulents?
You should now have a good understanding of the most common pests you’ll come across on your cacti, jade, aloe Vera, string of pearls, or houseleek.
Whatever succulent you may have, bugs are out to get them.
Their bright colors, drought tolerance, and nutritious foliage target them as a source of food.
By using a combo of DIY sprays, trimming and pruning, and then constantly monitoring your plants, you can effectively control, manage, and eliminate bugs on your succulents.
It just takes patience and some time, but the gorgeous blooms you get out of it are worth it, no?
What pest are you dealing with? Do you need help? Post a comment and let me know.
Currently an active researcher in the pest control industry for the past 8 years- with a focus on using natural and organic methods to eliminate pest problems.
I share handy DIY pest techniques I come across here to help out others (and possibly save them from a mental breakdown).
Fight nature with nature.