The Carnivorous Plant FAQ v. 12

Q: How do I kill bug XXX?

Sarracenia leucophylla
Sarracenia leucophylla
A: Did you read the previous FAQ entries? Good. Now, let us talk about your specific pest bug. If I do not mention your bug below, either it is not worth killing or I do not know how to kill it.

Aphids: If you have so many that you cannot just smash them with a toothpick, isopropyl alcohol may work (see the entry on mealy bugs). Imidacloprid/Cyfluthrin sprayed on the plant also works well. Watch for survivors---these critters reproduce like mad. Look at them under a microscope. The babies are particularly darling, and make you feel miserable about killing them.

Black vine weevils: The best method is prevention. The best review of prevention techniques is given in Rice (2001b).

Caterpillars: Ooh, these things annoy me. What really bugs, er, bothers me about them is that you may be growing your plants just fine. Then without warning you get a caterpillar and instantly your plants are chewed to pieces. Argh! All you can do is find the offenders and kill them. Look for the black poops that the caterpillar makes, then follow gravity backwards. There usually are not too many of them. If you have lots of problems with caterpillars, consider Bacillus thurengiensis (see previous page).

Fungus gnats: Imidacloprid/Cyfluthrin can be effective, otherwise leave them alone. Unless you are growing seedlings, they should not cause you trouble. Every now and then some plant may die because of these, but I have terraria filled with healthy plants, and fungus gnats do not seem to be a problem for them.

Mealy bugs: I find good results from dabbing an isopropyl-soaked cotton swab on the pests. Smoosh the adults, and let a little alcohol dribble into the rhizome tip to kill individuals hidden in the scale-leaves. Imidacloprid/Cyfluthrin should work. Marathon is an expensive compound which has been used effectively against root mealy bugs on Utricularia, with no harm to the bladderworts.

Mosquito larvae: These may start growing in your water filled trays. Drain the trays. (Easy, eh?) For more suggestions, read the next FAQ entry.

Scale: If you can't just smash them, isopropyl alcohol may work (see the the entry on mealy bugs) but you will have to do a number of retreatments. Imidacloprid/Cyfluthrin can be effective.

Slugs and Snails: Pull them off and kill them. They may only come out at night, so hunt for them by flashlight.

Sooty mold: The best way to treat sooty mold is to treat the bug infestation that produces the sugary secretions that the sooty mold lives on. Once those are gone, the mold goes too. Mold can be cleaned off Sarracenia and Nepenthes leaves with water and a bit of gentle scrubbing.

Spider mites: I do not know. You tell me. One FAQ-reader suggests using a spray bottle, and just hitting the mites with a jet of water. He said it washes the mites right off.

Thrips: Usually, this is not too much of a problem. Plants grown out doors often have thrips, but natural biocontrols keep the populations under control. In some terraria and greenhouses, thrips can get very bad. I do not know good controls.

Whitefly: These seem to be mostly seasonal for me. I bet they can be controlled by insecticides. When I have had these in my greenhouse, I found that by shaking the infected plants, the whiteflies take to the air in panicked flight. Then by waving a large sundew in the air, such as D. capensis, all the whiteflies were taken care of nicely. After a few of these treatments, the infestation was decimated.

Worms: Many gardeners will tell you that worms are your friend. WRONG! Worms eat nice, acidic peat moss and convert it into rich soil. (This is why gardeners like worms. But we are not growing garden plants!) If you get worms in your carnivorous plants' pots, the worms will eat away at the soil, and transform it into a rich mulch that will kill your plants. I hate worms. I have to pick them out of my pots several times a year. They are particularly nasty to Utricularia. I've been told that Isotox is good against them, but I have never used it. Apparently Imidacloprid/Cyfluthrin kills them, because after I treated my terrarium plants with this stuff (to control aphids), the multi-year worm infestation I had was gone!

Page citations: Rice, B.A. 2001b, 2006a; personal observation.

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Revised: 2018
©Barry Rice, 2018