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Insecticide/Pesticide Insights

6 years ago
last modified: 6 years ago

While wrapping up my red spider mite battle, I wanted to share a few helpful things I've learned about many insecticides and their usage. I am not an expert on the subject, but have done a lot of research and wading through the misinformation online. Hopefully it'll help or at least tell you something new.

I think most of us have run into pest issues and I'd rather share my findings then pretend I live in some kind of Canadian pest-free universe. =)

Are my pests really a problem?

  • Proper identification and evaluation is the most important. Mealybugs and spider mites start slow, but their populations explode quickly. A minor problem festering for a few months can suddenly turn into a major problem in just a couple days.
  • You need to know what exactly you are dealing with because insecticides and pesticides are target at different vermin in specific ways. Pick the wrong one and it will be ineffective and you risk damaging your plant.
  • The toughest part is noticing the early stages, pests are often hard to find and if you never dealt with a specific one before, it is easily overlooked.

Why is spraying recommended at dusk?

  • Less pollinators are out and many pests may come out as the sun goes down. Insecticide droplets and magnifying the sun's rays, causing leaf damage appears to be a myth.
  • However, putting a plant out in the sun after it has been sprayed with insecticide is a still bad idea. Many insecticides (Pyrethroids in particular) break down quickly under bright sunlight and high temperatures, wihch renders them ineffective in just several hours.

How should I prevent contact?

  • Nitrile disposable or rubber gloves are recommended. Wear long sleeved clothes for spraying. Respirator recommended.

Why do you need to shake well?

  • One of the biggest problems with insecticides is that many are not water soluble (only emulsifiable). Which means most companies are using solvents or emulsion agents to suspend the particles.
  • So shake as much as possible for use to ensure good mixing otherwise your dose could be too weak or too strong. Just think that a fraction of a percent of the total volume is actually insecticide and the rest is just some liquid to facilitate delivery of those tiny particles.

What active ingredients does your insecticide have?

  • It is important to know what your pesticides contain to ensure they will kill your pest, optimize their effectiveness, and for human health safety. Here are many common ones any my comments for each.

Why does insecticide smell bad? Why is a respirator recommended?

  • As mentioned above, many are not water-soluble so solvents are used. They emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which are bad for your health.
  • If spraying in an enclosed area or putting plants there, your respirator cartridge should be rated for filtering out VOCs. It should be fitted properly and you should not be able to smell anything in your mask.

Why does insecticide damage plant leaves?

  • It can be two-fold, the active ingredient is damaging and/or the solvent is damaging. Neem Oil can damage sensitive plants, as can some insecticidal soaps and other oils. The solvent could be oxygenated such as alcohol/esters or hydrocarbons, such as Xylene (previously used).
  • Dumping a ton of alcohol or paint thinner would be presumably bad for a plant, so be careful in your application. This is why they recommend testing on a leaf first instead of the whole plant.
  • It is important to know that phytotoxicity may not show immediately, but a few days after application. So take care not to stress the plant further (put it in a mild environment) and watch for damage. If your plant survives, then good! If not, then you will know not to reapply or to apply more carefully next time (and consider if death or further damage is worth the risk).

What should you do if the insecticide has been over-applied?

  • If you go overboard, note that insecticide is not necessarily washed off easily with water!! Most are not water-soluble, so spraying with water may get rid of some excess, but the rest will probably run into the soil/roots and cause further damage there. Better to be careful and not panic than do something rash.
  • One of my strategies is to spray and then put my plants in a small bathroom with the exhaust fan running and an air circulation fan. The circulation fan is intended to evaporate off any solvents to reduce their pytotoxicity, leaving just the active pesticide ingredients to work. Fumes are contained and safely vented outdoors (sorry to the environment, but it's the best option for me).

Common insecticide/pesticide active ingredients:

  1. Imidiacloplorid - Systemic that kills a large range of pests, but not mites. Will kill pollinators, so be careful to keep flowering plants indoors up to six months after treatment. Included in Bayer Tree and Shrub and 3-in-1. Not available in Canada unless you have a special license.
  2. Pryrethroids/Pyrethrin - Kills a large range of pests, including mites. Only kills on contact and breaks down quickly with UV light and high temperatures. Included in Bayer 3-in-1 to kill mites (tau-fluvalinate), as well as Schultz Houseplant and Garden Insecticide 709.
  3. Alcohol - Included in many insecticides to help kill mealybugs and other pests. Similar/same stuff to isopropyl (rubbing alcohol).
  4. Neem Oil - Kills many pests by hormone interference. The oil can also suffocate insects. Don't douse your soil because oil and roots are not a good combination. Can by phytotoxic (toxic to plants)
  5. Canola Oil - Often put in some commercial pesticides. Functions to smother the breathing holes of insects. Oils like this are commonly used to kill wasps by suffocaton.
  6. Potassium salts of fatty acids - Also called insecticidal soaps. They penetrate soft bodied insects and disrupt cell membranes. Can be phytotoxic.
  7. Sulfur - Used as a fungicide in many pesticides, such as Safer's Fungicide.
  8. Tebuconazole - Used as a fungicide in Bayer 3-in-1. Not very good for your health, so avoid contact.
  9. BTK - Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki is a bacteria toxic to larvae. Good against fungus gnats, caterpillars, etc. Can take several treatments and is found in many dried or liquid forms (Bt bottles or mosquito dunks).

It's hard to say what solvents are actually in pesticides because manufacturers are not required to specify, even in the MSDS.

Succulents plants I've treated and sensitivities (if any were observed):

Please do not take this list as a guarantee. This is just my experience so far and I take no responsibility for plant damage!

  • Adromischus maculatus (Imidacloplorid and Pyrethrin)
  • Crassula aborescens (Imidacloplorid)
  • Crassula gollum (Imidacloplorid)
  • Crassula 'Morgan's Beauty' (Imidacloplorid)
  • Crassula 'Tricolor' (Imidacloplorid, Pyrethrin caused a few leaves to be damaged)
  • Echeveria elegans (Imidacloplorid, Pyrethrin caused some leaves to be dropped)
  • Aloinopsis schooneesii (Imidacloplorid, Pyrethrin)
  • Faucaria felina (Imidacloplorid, Pyrethrin)
  • Neohenricia sibbettii (Imidacloplorid, Pyrethrin)
  • Stomatium mustellinum (Imidacloplorid, Pyrethrin)
  • Anacampseros rufescens (Imidacloplorid)
  • Huernia zebrina (Pyrethrin major plant damage, but could have been my fault)
  • Stapelia giganta (Pyrethrin major plant damage, but could have been my fault)
  • Schlumbergera truncata (BTK)
  • Schlumbergera x buckleyi (BTK)

If you have any of your own experiences and information, please feel free to share below. I prefer to keep this discussion about commercial insecticides/pesticides and not home/DIY concoctions.

Comments (70)

  • lgteacher
    6 years ago

    On the back of every bottle of insecticide is a fold out pamphlet with impossible to read tiny printing. Read it even if you need to get out your loupe! There's important information there, like how much to dilute, when to apply, what pests it treats, what to do if you get some in your eyes, etc.

    Avoid overspraying or putting insecticides where they will get into runoff and contaminate other areas.

  • rina_Ontario,Canada 5a
    6 years ago


    Is it really humid where you are? Or something else - what would cause turface to go moldy? I use turface a lot and never have that problem - but it could, I believe, if it is constantly wet? Just wondering...

    I am not against using chemicals if really necessary, but using 'heavy duty' stuff every time a bug shows up doesn't make sense to me - just my opinion, and I am not suggesting you do...just musing...

    ewwmayo thanked rina_Ontario,Canada 5a
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    I can not stress enough how plants MUST be out of any light for at least a week after spraying with neem. I have used it even on mesembs but they were kept in a dark room away from windows and under a table afterwards. If you feel you must spray again, wait 7 days (this is how I space my applications, sometimes I do three because I'm paranoid). That's a total of 3 weeks that they are in deep shade. After the treatment, I flush the plants with water just because it makes me feel better when I reintroduce them to light. THen, here's the annoying part--I dab them with tissue paper to wick the water out of the rosettes, especially the center. Kevin is right about eggs. You can try commercially available predator mites or bacteria but they are tricky to use. Also, there are plants, especially the kind with powdery stuff on them whose name I can't remember before my morning coffee, that should not be treated with neem. Most thin-leaved succulents (that are really barely succulent), I also would not neem, like aeoniums and certain crassulas. Major cool points to you for trying neem first though, Yulia. That's not to say don't ever ever use chemical pesticides---sometimes they're the only options left. Just be careful with yourself, your plants and all the other creatures around that you don't want to maim or kill with such poisons. Being a coward about such things, I usually just throw my infested plants away first--in a bag, after soaking in soapy water for days lol I've had one adenium survive this pre-garbage treatment before. African violets, not so much. So I quit African violets. Too annoying.
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    I agree with Paul that the best time to deal with these is in the evening when they have returned to their nests. They are more calm as the temperature cools and you will be able to get rid of more in a single shot of spray. Pyrethroids aren't specifically listed to be harmful against Kalanchoe (like Chlorafenapyr in Pylon). You could wash down any leaves that get soaked to reduce chance of phytotoxicity but leave the nests dry so that any other returning wasps are also killed. At my home, we have yellow jackets and carpenter bees. The latter are the worst because they leave dime sized holes and tunnels in our wooden support beams. I think these aerosol cans are designed for people who are really scared of wasps/bees and worried they will get stung (or perhaps against more aggressive types of wasps/bees). It's pretty much the same stuff in a normal spray bottle of Pyrethroid pesticide except the propellant and aerosol additives may be phytotoxic as well? I really am not sure. If you use a spray-bottle instead of aerosol can probably you can better control the overspray and minimize potential damage to your plants by getting just the nests. One other method is using a vacuum to suck up the wasps. Some people and even beekeepers make a DIY bottle-mesh catcher to get the wasps without making a mess inside your vacuum or killing them, if that is desired. A few years ago my parents had a hive in their home and they used a Rainbow Vacuum (water filtration) which essentially did the same thing.
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  • breton2
    6 years ago

    Eww, I have sprayed many succulents with isopropyl alcohol many times, and have never had any problems. I don't dilute it. I have also used cheap vodka in a pinch..

    as for insecticidal soaps, I have found them pretty useless for mealies in the past and don't bother with it anymore.

    i have used neem outdoors and the smell is so bad I haven't dared try it indoors. The oiliness of it also sounds like it would lead to burning.

    my collection is large enough that there is usually a mealy or two to be found if you look, but they don't cause any problems, and I found it rather relaxing to inspect each plant every now and then, armed with an alcohol-dipped paintbrush. They are only a nuisance in winter, as natural predators seem to take care of them when they go outside for the summer.

    thrips on the other hand, are causing scarring on some plants, but Ina frustratingly inconsistent way. By this I mean some jades are affected, while one beside it is not..and I see them crawling regularly over other plants which don't show any damage. I am treating now by physically removing each one I see with an alcohol soaked paintbrush, on a daily basis. I had a spray that seemed to work, but can no longer find it locally, although I don't really like spraying plants indoors. Spraying the plants until dripping with alcohol doesn't seem to kill them, unfortunately..

    long story short, alcohol is pretty good, but there is no magic bullet for indoor pests available in my part of the world!!!

    ewwmayo thanked breton2
  • tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)
    6 years ago

    Eww: Great topic and thread.

    I have a mix of tropicals of various heights and some pretty close to the soil including succulents. I usually use a grocery bag to protect the soil where I have a exposed stem. Quite effective. Ez, I am going to try your idea using tissue paper for smaller plants where there is no distinct stem. Seems like a very good idea.

    Also I tilt the infected plant a little while spraying and rotate it around to get all sides. I do this in the laundry sink.

    I usually use alcohol but sometimes I find the fumes to be kind of overwhelming too. When spraying I tend to apply to the neighbouring plants too whether they any sign of infestation or not. Recently, I started using horticultural oil too. Seems like very effective in fighting aphids, mites and other soft bodied insects. So far, in my collection, gardenia seems like does not like the soap treatment.

    Never tried spinosad. Got to read up first. So far for 20yrs or so I have avoided any systemic insecticides. I am in the as-close-to-natural-as-you-can-get camp. The only time I really wanted something aggressive was when we had the stink-bug infestation in the yard a few years back :)

    ewwmayo thanked tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)
  • aztcqn
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Ewwmaypo, hhuh." Azadiracthin is extracted from the seeds of the neem tree (and possibly the leaves and bark as well)." Thanks for this. Did not know that. Yeah, the trichos sprayed area burned black then the blackened parts fell off and left horrible scars. It also melted the leaves off my succulents. Pyrethrin does, also but, less so. My orchids, on the other hand, can take Pyrethrin at the lowest percentage. I spray in afternoon when cool or shaded and that took care of scale. I use the this only on the worst attacks. Alcohol is always the first choice. Mealy is seldom a problem, but, scale (apparently, they are related) love an opportunity. All my plants are outdoors, so, it's always management never experienced eradication as of yet.

    Agree with as well on the next step up in pesticide. I went as far as pulling out every plant and dousing them, roots and all, with pyrethrin. Hated uprooting, but ,seemed every 3-4 months they were re-infested and I tried to be thorough. I treated every new plant came into the garden, as well.... Did this for 2 Springs and the darn bugs came back and grew fat. I couldn't find the source and I was exhausted. Now I can, finally, manage the mealys with lesser weapons and my succulents are looking healthy with the chance given them to recover. I, unfortunately also, have a brown widow infestation. A night HK (Terminator reference) routine twice a month for last 2 years has kept them at bay. It makes me consider the idea of a lush garden less and succulents and non bushy types more. I love the garden, but, not what I'm seeing showing up uninvited, recently.

    ewwmayo thanked aztcqn
  • bernardyjh
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Kevin, DE works great on Mealies. I have heard even ants and some mites too, they primarily target smaller bugs with smaller exoskeleton bodies. The plankton structure deteriorates the pests, and do very little to almost no disruption to my plant's health, you'll just only see alot of white patches around your plants, which doesn't bother me. I generally add DE into all my soil mix, dust all of my pots and humidity trays as a preventive measure.

    The problem though, as I heard is that you have to wet the DE to activate the sharp plankton structure, and they become more effective along with the movement of water.

    Another issue is that you have to reapply (on the leaves and stem) quite often, as they do not affect eggs. New larvae will not be affected by the time they hatch as most of the DE would have already been washed off after a few waterings. So far, I've treated a few plants with DE. They are all in a quarantine zone with DE dusted trays. I always monitor their progress. some of my cuttings manage to regain their vitality, but some had experienced the mealy resurgences. I plan to keep the DE application going through at least a year cycle until the plague is absolutely wiped out before I reintroduce these quarantined plants back into my collection.

    It's a slower process to recovery, but then again this hobby is all about patience, and I prefer natural methods over chemical, unless I really have to.

    ewwmayo thanked bernardyjh
  • Crenda 10A SW FL
    6 years ago

    I've tried a lot of different home concoctions for pests. First I was told that a weak solution of Dawn dish liquid sprayed on the shrubs would knock back aphids. But they didn't tell me to wash it off! and I was too naive to know better. So of course everything look terrible for a while.

    Then I was told to add some vegetable oil to the soapy mix so it would cling to the pests. That didn't work either, and no wonder. Isn't Dawn's claim to fame being a grease and oil cutter? They use it on animals caught in oil spills. So I don't think I was doing anything significant with the soap neutralizing the oil.

    I bought some Neem, but then was told it was terrible for succulents. So I was afraid to give it a try.

    When mealies or scale have taken over - more than I can remove with alcohol and a cotton swab - I will resort to a pesticide drench. Otherwise, I have sprayed a few plants that have too many hiding places with 50/50 alcohol. Like E. agavoides or a dense Echeveria. So far, no adverse reactions. I've never protected the soil, but then I don't spray so heavily that much would run off and drench the pot.

    I know we were supposed to be talking about commercial products, but my first move is alcohol. Isopropyl for the plants, rum for me. LOL

    ewwmayo thanked Crenda 10A SW FL
  • gardenfanatic2003
    6 years ago

    For the person who's battling fungus gnats - when I sprayed my plants with neem oil for the spider mites, I didn't have any more fungus gnats. I read on the label that it kills them, but I assumed it meant spraying the adults. I'm guessing it dripped off the leaves into the soil and killed the larva, because no more fungus gnats.

    ewwmayo thanked gardenfanatic2003
  • ehuns27 7a PA
    6 years ago

    Kevin, great topic and thread!

    I saw above you mention the alcohol solution getting into the soil during application. I usually inspect my plants right before I water them and remove any large visible mealys with a qtip followed by a little spray. Afterwards I water the mix from the top. I've never experienced any damage from my regimen, which include Crassula, Portulacaria, and Kalanchoe to name a few. I use a 50/50 mix of 70% IPA with water and a splash of Dawn dish soap. While I do find the mealy issue to be recurring, it's not out of control and I will find one here or there.

    The only time I have not been able to recover a plant from a mealy infestation was a really bad one on my Sempervivum 'Oddity'. They were not there one day but covering the plant the next. I removed as many as I could and continued to apply the solution over the course of several weeks. The plant just got destroyed as I was not able to control their spread.

    When I brought my variegated P. afra in for the winter I found quite a few mealys. I thought I was never going to get rid of them but I persistently sprayed the plant with the solution keeping it under intense grow lights. I never saw any damage to the leaves at all and eventually the infestation subsided.

    I only had one case of a pest infestation other than mealy bugs and it was mites on my E. Black Prince flower stalk. I sprayed it with the hose and doused it in the alcohol solution but I couldn't get rid of them. I eventually had to get rid of the plant after keeping it in extreme quarantine. The alcohol seemed to had done nothing to control them.

    I have considered using insecticidal soaps but I found too many 'unknowns' when I was researching it as an option.

    Thanks for sharing all of your research and experiences. It's something everyone can benefit from whether they are new to growing succulents or seasoned veterans.


    ewwmayo thanked ehuns27 7a PA
  • breton2
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago


    that is also the only plant I have ever lost to a mealie infestation too! Too many hiding places, with those tubular leaves!!!

  • ewwmayo
    Original Author
    6 years ago

    A big thanks to all who have kept contributing to this thread. Learning lots from all your experiences! I was planning on posting sooner, but some unexpected things came up.

    Guide to eradicating red spider mites on succulents:

    1. Inspect your plants closely and often! Early detection is key. Watch out for strange shriveling or abnormalities in leaves.
    2. A 40x loupe is highly recommended, very cheap online.
    3. Wear gloves, separate change of clothes, and a mask when spraying.
    4. Spraying Pyrethrin does work, but repeat treatments are required.
    5. After spraying, keep the plant out of sunlight in a cool area for at least a day or two, otherwise the Pyrethrin will degrade quickly and not be effective.
    6. Plan for up to 3 treatments per plant, approximately 7 days apart (allowing the eggs to hatch and killing the new mites). It is virtually impossible to solve with one treatment.

    I am also now testing the translaminar miticide Avid 0.15 EC, so will be able to report if there is any damage from that or not. A single treatment lasts over two weeks so I expect it to be highly effective.

    One thing I've now observed is that phytotoxicity definitely increases with multiple exposures. So ensure you treat properly each time to reduce chances of having to re-apply the pesticide again (and causing further damage).

    Updated succulent sensitivities (if any were observed):

    Please do not take this list as a guarantee. This is just my experience so far and I take no responsibility for plant damage!

    • Adromischus maculatus (Imidacloplorid and Pyrethrin)
    • Crassula aborescens (Imidacloplorid)
    • Crassula gollum (Imidacloplorid)
    • Crassula 'Morgan's Beauty' (Imidacloplorid)
    • Crassula 'Tricolor' (Imidacloplorid, Pyrethrin first spray caused minor damage; second spray damaged almost all leaves)
    • Echeveria elegans (Imidacloplorid, Pyrethrin causes leaves to be dropped each time sprayed)
    • Aloinopsis schooneesii (Imidacloplorid, Pyrethrin)
    • Faucaria felina (Imidacloplorid, Pyrethrin)
    • Neohenricia sibbettii (Imidacloplorid, seedlings are very sensitive to Pyrethrin)
    • Stomatium mustellinum (Imidacloplorid, Pyrethrin)
    • Anacampseros rufescens (Imidacloplorid)
    • Huernia zebrina (Pyrethrin major plant damage, but could have been my fault)
    • Stapelia giganta (Pyrethrin major plant damage, but could have been my fault)
    • Schlumbergera truncata (BTK)
    • Schlumbergera x buckleyi (BTK)

    Tamiya - Regarding Malathion, there are now many 'safer' options that this older pesticide. It's getting harder to buy here too, but I still can find it if I go looking.

    Breton - I think one of the biggest issues with mealybugs is they are so persistent.

    • Insecticidal soap only kills the live ones and none of the eggs, so it needs repeat treatment. With that effort and isopropyl alcohol being just as good, I haven't seen a need to buy the stuff yet.
    • Any update on your thrips?

    Tropicofcancer - Appreciate the input! Which horticultural oil did you use and on what succulent species? Any tips?

    • I'm not against the stuff, just still very wary because I haven't heard many people who have.
    • Good on you for choosing to not use of systemic insecticides. They're bad for the environment!

    Aztcqn - Good to know the first choice for treating scale is alcohol and pyrethrin in case of heavy infestation.

    • Real bummer to hear about your garden woes! I think my wife would set my garden on fire if it was infested with spiders.

    Bernard - Still haven't tried DE yet, I'm actually not even sure where to buy it!

    • I have asthma, so I'm always very wary about powders and dusts since they might cause me problems. It's a potential option for others though. =)

    Crenda - I actually had some interesting discussions about surfactants (soaps) with a chemist who specializes in them. Also did a lot of reading to make the discussion make sense and meaningful, of course.

    • One important note is that surfactants should have long carbon chains (10-16) to reduce phytotoxicity in plants. This is why there is "insecticidal soap". Which is really a fancy name for a soap with long chains that is less likely to damage plants.
    • There are many soaps and detergents used, but it is often hard to find out which surfactant is used by each company. There are also ionic types, non-ionic, it's all quite complicated! Glad I have some background in chemistry to at least understand the basics. =)
    • To me, using a random household soap/detergent on plants is just gambling on potential damage. The chemist recommended Lutensol XL90 or Triton X-100 to be used with pesticides, if a surfactant is needed. I think they can be bought at chemical supply stores and online for fairly cheap.
    • When spraying alcohol, it's such a fine line between getting all the hiding spots vs having it pouring out the pot! I had trouble restraining myself from spraying too much in the past, which ended badly as I had mentioned. I always have to remind myself to not spray so much. It's too easy to go overboard!

    Gardenfanatic - Yes, your neem oil probably went into the soil as well and killed the fungus gnats.

    • I think BTk/BTi are better solutions for next time, with less risk of root damage.

    Erica - Appreciate the detailed alcohol treatment tips and species info!

    • With the dish soap, I'd just be a little careful with how much you add as it can be phytotoxic. As you haven't run into any troubles, I guess "a splash" is okay. =)
    • I think you highlight one of the big advantages with alcohol - you don't have to decrease light exposure after spraying.
  • aztcqn
    6 years ago

    "Real bummer to hear about your garden woes! I think my wife would set my garden on fire if it was infested with spiders." I've thought of this, too. lol. But, I persist that one day my garden will be a safe habitat for me and my mom.

  • breton2
    6 years ago


    The battle continues.....I'm still picking of each thrip I see with an alcohol-dabbed paintbrush. Last week I found some juvenile stages for the first time, though overall numbers seem to be decreasing (only finding a few each day under my lights).

    But...I found red spider mites on my big jade, in my upstairs grow area..... I am increasing humidity in the room and anxiously waiting till May when things can start going outside to the open greenhouse, where natural predators can get at them!

    ewwmayo thanked breton2
  • ewwmayo
    Original Author
    6 years ago

    Aztcqn - Haha, here's hoping!

    Breton - Glad to hear the thrips are in the decline. They are another pest I hope I never get (but probably will one day). It's a learning experience I guess... one day I hope to at least know how to easily deal with all succulents pests, it would be a lot less stressful.

    With the red spider mites, you can control them somewhat with a similar alcohol-manual-removal treatment. Be sure to keep that jade quarantined away from your other plants - mites can spread like crazy! They can even drift in a breeze between plants.

    I'd make sure to wash hands and clothes between grow areas to prevent cross-contamination. In my opinion, those little monsters are 10x more troublesome than mealybugs.

  • breton2
    6 years ago


    Too late, the jade is in the centre of my grow table and I have nowhere to quarantine it.... But I have been liberally painting the jade and anything else that looks affected with alcohol. Also misting the jade to increase humidity, as the mites appear to like low humidity.

    For the thrips, I am debating soaking a cigar (my SO has an ancient box around somewhere that he got as a gift) in water and seeing how bad it smells before I try it indoors, otherwise I'll have to wait for warmer weather and do it outside. I really hate the smell of tobacco..

    ewwmayo thanked breton2
  • Crenda 10A SW FL
    6 years ago

    Thanks for the great update!

    On a side note - This is the month I am supposed to trim back my Poinsettias here in Florida. SO - waiting until the last moment, March 31st - I found a little tag in the bottom of the pot. All of my new plants had been treated with neonicotinoids. I wish I had known this before I set the plants outside where the bees could access the flowers. Sigh. You really have to be careful, don't you?

    ewwmayo thanked Crenda 10A SW FL
  • tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)
    6 years ago

    Ewwmayo: I use the Bonide concentrate Hort oil. I use it mostly on
    other tropicals that I have. I may have used it a few times on
    succulents. I usually do not have much problems with succulents. Seems
    my tropicals attract the pests before they do. So far I have not seen
    any problems using the oil except that it is a bit messy and leaves an
    odd shine on the leaves. Since it lasts longer the oil tends to be
    effective over a longer period of time.

    So far I have not had a
    thrips problem. This year mites and scales seem to be under control and
    occasional aphids, wooly aphids, etc show up. Last yr was a disaster and
    so this year I switched to the oil and as the go-to pesticide and have
    been happy so far.

    ewwmayo thanked tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)
  • ewwmayo
    Original Author
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Beth - For red spider mites, I've now tested Avid with no apparent damage for the following species:

    1. Aloinopsis luckhoffii
    2. Aloinopsis rosulata
    3. Faucaria felina
    4. Haworthia hybrid
    5. Pleiospilos nelii
    • Only the A. rosulata had mites on it, but the others I was worried for and sprayed them anyway. The plant is in quarantine and I'm observing it closely.
    • I also am happy with using Lutensol XL-90 as a surfactant with Avid, there is no apparent damage to any of the plants. The concentration I used was 0.25mL/L and seemed to be enough to prevent the solution from beading off the leaves.
    • Avid seems extremely effective so far and the translaminar action (which remains with the plant) should hopefully kill off any new mite generations. Will keep you all posted to if it was worth the high price!

    Regarding use of Insecticidal Soap and Succulents:

    • Been doing a huge amount of reading on soaps, surfactants, and their effects on plants. In case you want to do your own reading, I recommend the following article: Iowa State University on Patterns of surfactant toxicity to plant tissues
    • It appears that concentrations of just 0.25% can be phytotoxic to some species. Insecticidal Soaps are commonly sold in 1.5-2% concentrations, so I would exercise caution in their use with succulents as they are potentially quite damaging.
    • If using insecticidal soap, do not get it in your soil as it is damaging for roots. Repeat folar applications will also become increasingly more toxic.
    • For these reasons, I am not planning on buying insecticidal soap and plan on using other pesticides instead. Your mileage may vary, just be a bit cautious if you go this route.

    Crenda - That's so upsetting! It does make me glad they are restricted here...

    Tropicofcancer - Bonide horticultural oil is made of mineral oil (98%). It works by smothering pests and does have some residual action. It is listed for use in dormancy and active growth, which is a good thing.

    • Do you happen to remember which succulent species you successfully used Bonide horticultural oil on?
    • Thanks for confirming it works on mites, scales, and aphids (please correct me if I misunderstood).
    • I can see the oil shine and residue to be the most annoying part of using horticultural oil. With succulents, it's probably advisable to keep this in mind before application, as many are fuzzy or have a waxy farina that is easily wiped off.

    Again, thanks for all your contributions so far. Feels much better to know what to use and have grower experience to back it up.

  • tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)
    6 years ago

    Ewwmayo: Got caught with the impending cold snap here and moving
    temperate plants around for better protection (19F tomorrow night).

    I do not know all the names of my succulents. I have used it on Jades
    and P. Afras. I have used it on others too without any ill effects. Here
    are couple of pictures during a watering session. If you know the names
    let me know.

    I have some more but I do not have any pictures handy.

    ewwmayo thanked tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)
  • ewwmayo
    Original Author
    6 years ago

    Tropic - Photo is well enough! Probably better under a separate thread for IDs, but I'll put my best attempt here:

    1. Anacampseros telephiastrum variegata 'Sunrise'

    2. Crassula ovata

    3. Graptopetalum something? (I'm bad with rosette types)

    4. Sedum x rubroctinctum

    5. Sedum morganianum

    6. Rhipsalis cereuscula?

    7. Sempervivum sp.

    8. Crassula sp? (No idea with the powdery one)

  • tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)
    6 years ago

    Thanks, that helps a lot. Which one are referring to as "powdery"? I guess the the one in the second pic (right side behind). I think it is a sort of a Jade. Longer darker leaves with a whitish surface that looks like powder. Started from a leaf cutting that I got from a friend. In any case, I have applied hort oil to all of them at some point.

    ewwmayo thanked tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)
  • ewwmayo
    Original Author
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Tropic - Yup, the Crassula on the right in your second picture.

    Red Spider Mite Eradication Update:

    Avid was totally worth the cost. Doesn't appear to be any plant damage and the red spider mites are still dying because of the translaminar residual action. Much less work/stress than Pyrethrin.

    Timeline of observations/actions with Avid:

    • Day 1: Removed all visible mites with isopropyl alcohol on cotton swab. Sprayed thoroughly with Avid + Lutensol XL90.
    • Day 2: Kept plant in a dark area with a fan for airflow.
    • Day 3: Large number of dead spider mites. Removed all with 40x loupe and wet cotton swab (used tap water so they stick) to be able to monitor progress.
    • Day 4: Large number of dead spider mites, again. Removed them all again.
    • Day 5: Small amount of dead spider mites. Removed them all again.
    • Days 6 onwards: Only found one or two new dead spider mites each day.

    It was very surprising how many mites I cleaned up the first four days. The majority of eggs were still hatching during this period. After this, there were only a few stragglers left.

    Based on this, I determined the mite life cycle to be slightly less than 1 week in my grow area. Therefore, once I achieve a full week without seeing any mites I will declare this plant pest-free. This is important to know, otherwise I would never know when follow up treatments are required.

    Timeline of observations/actions with Pyrethrin:

    • Day 1: Removed all visible mites with isopropyl alcohol on cotton swab. Sprayed thoroughly with Pyrethrin.
    • Day 2: Kept plant in a dark area with a fan for airflow.
    • Days 3-5: Number of live mites started slowly and kept increasing daily. Removed all mites each day with isopropyl alcohol on cotton swab.
    • Day 6: Moderate amount of mites being found and resprayed with Pyrethrin.
    • Day 7: Kept plant in a dark area with a fan for airflow.
    • Days 8-14: Number of live mites very low, but are still found occasionally. Removed all mites each day with isopropyl alcohol on cotton swab.
    • Day 15: Removed all visible mites with isopropyl alcohol on cotton swab. Resprayed thoroughly with Pyrethrin.
    • Day 16: Kept plant in a dark area with a fan for airflow.
    • Day 17 onwards: Mites no longer present.

    Some plants had just a few red spider mites present and only two treatments were required. Moderately affected plants required three treatments. Damage due to phytotoxicity was observed and depended on species sensitivity and # of treatments.

    Summary: No need to throw your succulents out if you get spider mites! They are treatable if approached strategically. =)

  • breton2
    6 years ago

    Glad to hear the Avid worked so well. I just want to add that I would wait more than one week before declaring your plant pest-free, since you may simply overlook some newly-hatched ones..

    Regarding my red slider mites.......they don't seem to be pests at all! What I was looking at turned out to be what looks like tiny bits of dried reddish sap on the truck of my large Jade. They are all positioned near the edge of a curl of bark. There's a bit o webbing around, but I always have a few resident spiders, so I think they were the real culprit. But I have been growing jades for over 25 years and have never seen these reddish dots. Has anyone?

    ewwmayo thanked breton2
  • rina_Ontario,Canada 5a
    6 years ago


    Thank you for keeping this thread updated, it is great to have summary like this available.

    I have some questions - hopefully you don't mind. I have not used any of the products mentioned (except once - I bought, pre-mixed horticultural spray. I use alcohol when necessary). But I have never had such infestations - with as many plants I have (not only succulents) and all of them crammed in just 2 areas for the winter (in the basement), I am wondering if I am just lucky (I doubt that!) or maybe do not see a problem?

    I have occasionally had to take care of scale (they sometimes appear on plants like ficus Benjamina, or bay) but I just wipe any of them as soon as I see them. I have found scale on one of the A. portulacaria I was rooting - but just couple insects that are gone as soon as are 'touched' with a q-tip dipped in alcohol.

    I do not have fungus gnats problem since started using well draining mixes, do not leave water sitting in saucers and I pick up any fallen leaves/debris.

    Brugmansias attract some aphids indoors, I spray those off with water but I don't see aphids on succulents.

    Now I worry that perhaps I am not seeing some of the pests. Over the years, I have found some white webbing on a succulents, but realized that is most likely just a household spiders as breton mentioned above; they are not clumps of cotton-like white stuff I see in the photos, just a fine web threads spanning leaves or stems - just as a spider would do. And I have seen small spiders around...I don't kill spiders, but remove webs if I see them. I probably had some mealy bugs, still not 100% sure, but I only sprayed plant in question with the alcohol/water mixture.

    I have had plants to die - and I believe all of them because of over watering. I inspected all of them, roots and all - maybe bugs were gone, but I didn't find any. Now I likely under water :)! - and that isn't so good either.

    I don't have many of the succulents you grow, so I also wonder if those are more prone to pests? With your growing conditions and knowledge, maybe you have some suggestions how to spot the buggers...if you think I should start a new thread I will.

    ewwmayo thanked rina_Ontario,Canada 5a
  • tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)
    6 years ago

    Rina, you brought up a very good question. I have not also seen mites or scales on cactus and succulents. Occasional plain aphids and woolly aphids at the nodes. I did a quick check again and nothing. May be they prefer the other plants such as ficus, fukien tea, citrus, bougainvillea that I have. But then, most of my C and S are also somewhat separated from the tropicals. I usually alternate between alcohol and hort oil and they seem to be in check - not eliminated.

    That said, Kevin's detailed info here in this is just awesome. I learned a lot.

  • ewwmayo
    Original Author
    6 years ago

    Beth - Thanks for the tip. Every time I water, I've been quickly checking each plant that had mites with my loupe to confirm they are still okay.

    • I feel silly using a loupe so frequently, but it's the only easy way to check for mites.
    • When the mites die, sometimes they look like tiny reddish dots. Their tell-tale white legs no longer stick out. I tried to take a photo just now, but couldn't find any dead mites (not that is a bad thing...)
    • Webbing can be a bit of a red herring, as you say. If I see a web, I always check for spider mites. It pretty much always nothing and I just clean it up.
    • Not sure if those are the dots you speak of, but that's my thoughts.

    Rina - Certain conditions speed up the spread of pests. Plants with new growth are also easier 'targets'.

    • My grow area is very warm, fairly dry, and has lots of plants in active growth. Which is pretty much ideal for quick reproduction of spider mites.
    • Mites were found on 12 of my 100+ plants in a very small area, so I'd say it actually wasn't that bad?
    • Based on my photos, the mites appeared last November. Visible damage didn't start until February. By March one plant was heavily damaged, the others not so much.
    • In much lower temperatures, their life cycle could easily be half the speed (2 weeks instead of 1). Which means that it could be 6-8 months before any major damage happens?

    Some fungus gnats have survived in my grow area throughout the winter, despite my use of gritty mix and fans.

    • Since I water so frequently (4-7 days), they can easily survive the dry period.
    • Typically, I only see just one or two and and I suck them up with my handheld vacuum.
    • Their numbers are so low that they're not affecting my plants.

    Very happily, I haven't had to deal with scale or aphids yet. =)

    • At least with scale, I don't think they spread to adjacent plants quickly, so a watchful eye like yours can quell them before any issues occur.

    If caught quickly, mealybugs are usually limited to the initial infested plant.

    • Only when the numbers of crawlers increase do they spread around.
    • Luckily, they don't move or multiply unusually quickly (at least in the beginning).

    Diligence, observation, and quick action are big advantages to you. If caught early, most pests are easily removed with just isopropyl alcohol and q-tips, as you say.

    • My first plant nearly lost to mealybugs was because I didn't even know they existed!
    • My second plant nearly lost to mealybugs was because I treated for them improperly.
    • My third plant nearly lost to red spider mites was because I didn't know to look for such a tiny pest and couldn't figure out the right treatment quickly enough.
    • Like you, my only casualties are due to improper care/watering. =)

    The biggest sign of pests is unexplained shriveling, die-back of new growth, or strange growth.

    • In every single case, when I looked back at my photos the plant showed a strange response. Something was unusual but I didn't think anything of it.
    • Often it's not that I didn't notice, just that I dismissed it as a minor oddity.

    Here are some additional signs I would watch for:

    • Leaves drying out unusually quickly?
    • Growth bent over strangely?
    • Plant not perking up after watering?
    • New growth turning brown?
    • Strange colours/fuzz/speckles?
    • Unidentified insect/larvae?
    • Unusual spots/bumps?
    • Please add to the list!

    Lots of good questions and experience you've brought up. Feel free to keep adding suggestions or pest-related discussions here, I don't mind at all! Better to keep it all in once place for future reference.

    Tropic - You know, I've seen red spider mites many times outside on the porch/deck and never thought anything of it. They stayed away from my plants and it was never an issue outdoors.

    Definitely some species are more attractive and susceptible to pests than others. Like anything in nature, they are opportunistic. If you check some of the succulent species descriptions on llifle/cactusart/similar online sites, susceptibility to specific pests are often indicated.

  • aztcqn
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    A little off topic -

    I found this creature on my tricho. Was looking at the fuzzy buds, when one of them moved and backed down the cactus! Couldn't get a great picture and it mildly freaked me out. No ID on the net. Looks like a fuzzy wolf or jumping spider with a red head. Weird looking.

    I've never seen anything like it, before. SO glad the pests are much much smaller.

    ewwmayo thanked aztcqn
  • rina_Ontario,Canada 5a
    6 years ago

    Kevin, thanks again for such detailed notes and tips. Keep it going pls.

    I would think that if I had any pests you are mentioning, damage would have shown in over 4yrs I have bean 'hoarding' succulents. I agree with what you say (..."In much lower temperatures, their life cycle could easily be half the
    speed (2 weeks instead of 1). Which means that it could be 6-8 months
    before any major damage happens?"...)
    . My temps are definitely not as high as yours during the winter, but just about identical outdoors (where I keep all the plants in summer). I do not water as often as you do and I do not feed as often (hardly ever) either. I believe that all of these contribute to better conditions for pests. JMO, I do not have any data to support this...

    I spent most of this weekend checking the plants, even dumping some out of the containers (mostly randomly) to see if, by any chance, there are any mites or any other bugs on the plants and even roots. I didn't have any visible reason to do that, just wanted to see.

    Maybe I don't know what to look for, but I didn't find any. I really need a loupe to see!

    Scale is much easier to treat, at least in my opinion and experience. It is very easy to spot and comes off easily with alcohol swab. I don't see it much, but in winter I occasionally find it on leaves of such plants as ficus or bay leaf. I am sure if left on the plant, it would eventually spread around. Doesn't seem to care for succulents - as tropic also pointed out -, I only found couple of them, once, on portulacaria I mentioned.

    Aphids like fresh, new growth but so far I didn't get any on succulents. They prefer plants like celery (Imagine, I have few growing in the pot!!! indoors!!! - even if I wouldn't recommend growing veggies indoors).

    ewwmayo thanked rina_Ontario,Canada 5a
  • ewwmayo
    Original Author
    6 years ago

    Aztcqn - I have no idea what that spider is, but it looks horrifying. It kind of looks like it's wearing a ladybug war-trophy hat...

    Rina - Well, outdoors there are many natural predators too? I think that helps prevent any issues outside. On my rooftop, I never had any issues unless a plant was pre-infested from the nursery.

    • Glad to hear you didn't find any pests on your plants! Sounds like you were very thorough.
    • I agree that watering often and fertilizing does make plants more susceptible to pests. They have fresh tender growth that makes for a perfect pest-buffet.
    • If you're looking for a good loupe, I recommend searching Ebay for a "40x 25mm led loupe". Filter to buy-it-now and sort by lowest price with shipping. They are about $2 and fantastic.

    I was discussing pests today with an experienced grower friend of mine - she said the same thing about scale and aphids.

    • They always went after her veggies and other plants first, so her succulents were totally unaffected.
    • She used to grow a large number of veggies indoors under lights, but has since switched passions to African Violets, tropicals, and some succulents.
    • Her experience is mostly dealing with scale, aphids, and mealybugs. The latter is giving her the most trouble lately, since she crams her plants in together under lights (like we all do).
  • tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)
    6 years ago

    Good discussions. I find aphids to be attracted to young flower buds of my tropical plants. Hibiscus buds will be covered with these in a matter of days if I am not careful. Strange thing is they do not bother the rest of the plant usually. I find aphids in young growing tips too.

    Good point about temperature. I usually try to keep my plant area on the cool side (under 65). I have way too many plants and I do not want them to start growing furiously during winter. So that must be the reason why my succulents do not seem to get affected badly.

    I have a 10x loupe that I use often. Just ordered that 40x loupe. Thanks for the info. I was checking various sellers and opted to pay a bit more ($4.29) to get it fast. Also found that some of the Chinese sellers do not include the batteries - so be careful.

    ewwmayo thanked tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)
  • rina_Ontario,Canada 5a
    6 years ago


    I keep my succulents bit cooler too, about same as you. Cooler temps-less water, and perhaps less fert? I don't want them to grow furiously either, since I believe that they should have still more light than I can provide.

  • Crenda 10A SW FL
    6 years ago

    About neonics - I read an interesting article this morning. Of course, now I can't find it to post a link. But the crux of the article is - Ortho said it has already removed neonicotinoids from the majority of its products used to control garden pests and diseases. It plans to remove it from all the rest in two to five years.

    So that's good news. Hopefully others will follow.

    ewwmayo thanked Crenda 10A SW FL
  • rooftopbklyn (zone 7a)
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I use neem (azadirachtin) on jades, portulaca afra, adenium and common tropicals (pachira, ficus, croton) without ill effect. Never got my humidifier going this year. In the past without a humidifier I've had mealy and mite issues over the winter. This year I applied neem monthly as preventative and had no issues with pests or leaf damage. Pure cold pressed neem is very stinky, but the fancier emulsified versions (azatrol and azamax are two brands that use properly extracted azadirachtin) have a subtler odor - though its still unmistakably neem. Just barely tolerated monthly at my house ;)

    I don't water/drench with it, but also don't take great pains to keep it off the media surface, haven't had any issues (knock on wood).

    Have also used 70% isopropyl alcohol diluted 2:1 with plain water on the same plants when signs of mealy or mites have started, but found it less effective at control than neem, unless there's only very few pests.


    ewwmayo thanked rooftopbklyn (zone 7a)
  • ewwmayo
    Original Author
    6 years ago

    Daniel - Thanks for the detailed info on your experience with using neem oil, especially which species you applied to and how.

    It's good that you brought up Azatrol and Azamax, both neem-based. Which means they are also very toxic to Kalanchoe, Echniopsis, and Tricocereus. Just something for others to be aware of. =)

    Recently, I visited a large agricultural supplier/fertilizer manufacturer (Plant Prod) which sells a huge variety of pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, and biological controls.

    They gave me a Product Guide, which contains virtually all commonly used pest treatments with many details including:

    • Recommended treatment frequency
    • Application dose rate/instructions
    • Which application method to use (dipping/spray/etc)
    • Special use instructions
    • Which products are effective on which specific pests/fungi
    • Active ingredients and %
    • Safety information (reentry duration)
    • Known phytotoxicity for products on specific species
    • Pest life cycle information and when to treat

    I wish I could scan and post this here but it is way too many pages!! It's going to take a lot of reading to get through this...

    Does anybody here have a pesticide license? The company also sells a large number of restricted pesticides, but you need a license to purchase them. I'm just curious if anybody has experience in getting/using one.

    Getting a Class 2/3 license in Canada doesn't seem that bad, you just have to take a course+exam and pay $103. It's valid for purchasing and using restricted pesticides for five years, which isn't too bad.

  • Nil13 usda:10a sunset:21 LA,CA (Mount Wash.)
    6 years ago

    Considering how restrictive Canadian laws are regarding pesticides, I'd almost say that it's worth it.

  • Nil13 usda:10a sunset:21 LA,CA (Mount Wash.)
    6 years ago

    I have used light hort oil on Haworthia, Ledebouria, Crassula, Aloe, Gasteria, Graptopetalum, Echeveria, Hoya, and Epiphyllum without damage

    ewwmayo thanked Nil13 usda:10a sunset:21 LA,CA (Mount Wash.)
  • tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)
    6 years ago

    Daniel, neem stinks. The oil is extracted out of the seed/fruit I think and that is the stinkiest part of this tree. In India my parents used make us have cooked neem leaves 1-2 times per week. Apparently it is good rid of intestinal worms. Considering how horribly bitter those leaves are probably it worked. The worst food ever.

    Interestingly we used to also put neem leaves/small branches under mattress to keep off bedbugs. Many other uses besides these.

    ewwmayo thanked tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)
  • Nil13 usda:10a sunset:21 LA,CA (Mount Wash.)
    6 years ago

    Another thing I started using recently, pressure washer. Yup a 2000psi pressure washer. It'll take your skin right off if you're a couple inches from the nozzle but at a couple feet, bugs don't stand a chance and it isn't that forceful on the plants. And I also think I have finally found a way to clean Hindu Rope, lol.

    ewwmayo thanked Nil13 usda:10a sunset:21 LA,CA (Mount Wash.)
  • strawchicago z5
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    ewwmayo(ON-CA 6a): Thank you for fantastic info., much appreciated !!

    My hobby is growing roses (very prone to diseases & pests), and poor-drainage in plastic pots also contribute to pests and fungal diseases. A few studies show that Terracotta pots is more breathable, thus less wet soil in heavy rain, and less diseases & pests. Another study in Texas show that roots grow better in Smart-Pot (breathable fabric).

    Keep the top of soil dry is another key to prevent fungus and pests from germination. Fast-draining potting soil helps ... but the peat-based soil retains wetness on top to breed pests. The type of soil used in pot can attract pests. I read the ingredients in MG-Organic potting soil, it has: Peat-moss (white flies love this), meat (great to attract insects), and chicken manure (grows mold).

    One time I was lucky to get 100% pine-fines potting soil (lime added), very fast draining, and it was bliss: no fungal diseases, no pest. Decomposed pine has tannin, which suppress fungus and root-rot.

    Roots are not healthy with standing or wet soil. I spent 1 hour drilling zillion of holes in my plastic pots (everywhere on the sides), since roots need oxygen to breath. Even for roses (demand lots of water) ... the pots with a deep crack on the side ... where the root is exposed to air .. that rose grew the best.

    I test Smart-Pot this year (breathable fabric) ... awesome for heavy rain climate. I dumped a 5-gallon bucket into a 10-gallon Smart-Pot and it drained instantly. Then I dumped a 2-gallon bucket into a 2-gallon plastic pot, and water was floating on top for a long time ... that's enough to kill roots. This pot was elevated on wooden planks, with tons of holes at the bottom, but that's not enough to handle the heavy influx of rain in my Chicagoland.

    I always mix perlilte with potting soil for my roses .. most potting soil are peat-based, and that's too dense. It's really hard to find pine-based potting soil (drains faster). Still remember how I kept an herb in plastic pot, plus MG-potting soil, with a saucer at the bottom, indoor, and was a disease-fest with white flies, bugs, etc.

    Aztcqn gave this fantastic info., which I re-post here: "Standing water at the foot or waterlogged soil will kill your roots. Water only when dry, but, eventually you'll want to repot into an open well draining mix with a higher ratio of inorganic material like pumice, gravel and or medium to large perlite."

    ewwmayo thanked strawchicago z5
  • tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)
    6 years ago

    Besides having well drained soil Mosquito Bits or crushed Dunks are very effective against fungus gnats. I use them during prolonged rainy periods here. Last year I started using beneficial nematodes in the yard. I have noticed it has considerably reduced the bug pressure. Additional benefit is that when I bring the plants in for the winter, they seem to have less tendency to be infested again.

  • ewwmayo
    Original Author
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Been a long time since this thread has been active, but thought I would add a new section of information. If you have any updates/additional experience with pests or pesticides on your specific succulent species, please contribute!

    Dealing with Mites on Succulents (Practical and Effective Guide)

    Mites are horrible tiny creatures that can do a lot of damage. It starts off slow, but as their numbers grow the damage increases very significantly.

    Note: There is a lot of crazy advice and misinformation about mites on the internet, do NOT believe it all. I have done not only an incredible amount of research but also worked with a PHD in surfactants, PHD in microbiology, and Professor of Entomology to develop my strategy for mite eradication.

    Step 1: Recognize them and their damage.

    • Thin wisps of webs (depending on mite type).
    • Distorted growth (bubbles, lumps, galls, strange shape). Happens at the fastest growing areas of the plant - center of rosettes, leaf buds, flower buds.
    • Extremely tiny crawling creatures (may or may not be visible).
    • Small pin-sized damage to leaves or unusual drying/dying of new growth.

    Step 2: If you suspect mites, you will need some tools to find them.

    • 60x loupe, highly recommended. 40x loupe is the minimum.
    • LED light, preferably as part of the loupe (alternatively a very bright working area).
    • 250x microscope or similar, recommended if you have Eriophyid mites (USB microscope by Pluggable brand works well).
    • Clear tape for slide mounting mites if you have a compound microscope.

    Step 3: Identify the type of mite. This is VERY IMPORTANT because different mites are killed by different pesticides.

    • Red Spider Mites: Little red specks (400 microns) that move at a moderate speed. Can be seen with a sharp eye. With a loupe, look for a reddish fat round body with tiny legs on the sides. If you shine a bright light on them or blow on them gently they will usually scurry off.
    • Tarsonid (Cyclamen / Broad) Mites: Very tiny white blobs (250-300 microns) that move a little slower than red spider mites. They look like little translucent eggs that move. With high magnification you may see their front appendages and legs while moving. Without a 40x loupe, seeing these is fairly hopeless.
    • Eriophyid (Aloe) Mites: Extremely tiny worm-looking creatures (150-200 microns). Their 'tails' can move around when feeding or disturbed. Without a good loupe, you will not see them. At 60x you can see them but only the overall shape. Microscope is required to see the details. You should only find these living on Aloes and Haworthia as they are very host specific.

    Step 4: Quarantine affected plants and treat immediately.

    • Luckily, most mites like to stick to their host plant. But if you go splashing around water, spraying them near other plants, or let them touch other plants they will spread.
    • You should treat immediately because the longer you wait the worse it gets. If you wait too long, the damage is irreversible.
    • If the plant is cheap and/or only a few are affected you may opt to pitch it in the garbage/burn it.
    • If you are lazy, I would definitely throw the plant away because to eradicate mites it takes quite a bit of effort. Possibly more than any pest listed above except maybe thrips and whiteflies (I never had those but heard nasty things about them).
    • You MAY opt to treat your entire collection. In fact, this is probably a very good idea because if you miss some, you will end up spot-treating your plants in a game of cat-and-mouse for weeks or months.

    Step 5: Decide what miticides you will use. You WILL need more than one.

    • Consult this list and choose two with different Modes of Actions (MOA): OHP Chemical Class Chart
    • You NEED at least two miticides because if you use the same one, the mites will become resistant and your miticide will become useless.
    • Make SURE the miticides are different MOA. If not, then you are wasting your time and money.

    Step 5a: Here are some of my recommended miticides. Not all miticides kill all mites!! You need to check the label to know what they work against. MOA Group are included below with the active ingredient.

    • Avid (Abamectin Group 6): Translaminar action (absorbed into the leaves) which lasts for 3 weeks! Highly recommended and extremely effective. Also extremely expensive.
    • Bayer 3-in-1 (Tau-fluvalinate Group 3): Contact action. Can also use Schultz Houseplant and Garden Insecticide 709 which also has Pyrethrin and is cheaper. Note that Imidacloprid does NOT kill mites so Bayer Tree and Shrub is useless.
    • Insecticidal Soap (Potassium Salts of Fatty Acids Group M): Believe it or not... soap can kill mites but really it's not very good. The real use here is to COMBINE the soap with your other miticides to provide better coverage. Any soap works, but the long chains of insecticidal soaps (or something like Lutensol XL-90 or Triton X-100) will minimize leaf tissue damage. You just need 5-10% in solution to help.
    • Floramite (Bifenazate Group UN): Unknown action but kills on contact and lasts for 3 weeks! Highly recommended and also extremely expensive. Does NOT work on Eriophyid mites.
    • ?Sevin? (Carbaryl Group 1A): Have not tested this on succulents, but works against all types of mites. Should kill on contact. Unsure if it causes leaf damage.
    • Ultrasonic cleaner (Group M): Damages eggs and can kill mites. Recommended to use indirect cleaning method (to keep your cleaner safe for other uses) and duration close to 10 minutes with surfactant/soap. This combination is proven to kill 98% of two-spotted mites (study by J. D. Hansen). Adding miticide will improve effectiveness even further.

    Step 6: Remove ALL affected plant tissue.

    • If simple damage from red spider mites, just remove any dead/badly infested leaves carefully.
    • If there is distorted growth you must cut it ALL out. Use an exacto, scalpel, or razor blade. The distorted growth gives nooks and crannies for the mites to hide in so it has to all go. Your plant will become ugly.

    Step 7: Wear the proper protective gear and apply.

    • Recommend nitrile gloves, respirator, safety glasses, long clothing.
    • Mix pesticide with 5-10% soap/surfactant. Shake well.
    • Outside, spray thoroughly on all parts of plant, especially nooks and crannies and under leaves.
    • Leave plant in well ventilated or air exhausted area. Do NOT re-enter for at least 16 hours or the recommended re-entry time (check label).
    • Take your gloves off properly and wash your clothes/take a shower.

    Step 7a: Highly recommended to use ultrasonic cleaner if practical.

    • Applying miticide with surfactant/soap and ultrasonic action is extremely effective. This is THE best method I've tried yet.
    • Ultrasonic cleaners are pretty cheap on Amazon or found locally. Plus you can keep your jewelry sparkling clean!
    • Hopefully your succulent is small and in gritty mix.
    • Remove all soil.
    • Small because you want to put in a glass (jar or beaker) which will sit in the ultrasonic cleaner. Fill the glass with well mixed miticide + surfactant (so you use less) and outside the glass with water to the fill line.
    • If your miticide solution is warm, that is better because you will get better cavitation (should not be hot though).
    • Cleaning time close to 10 minutes is recommended.
    • Simply repot in gritty with minimal disruption to the roots and follow re-entry protocol for that area.
    • If you are tidy, it will be easier to re-inspect plants because any debris, dust, egg casings, etc. will be removed due to ultrasonic cavitation.
    • I did not observe any tissue damage after multiple ultrasonic treatments.

    Step 8: Post-spray care.

    • Keep your plants out of light to prevent phytotoxicity.
    • Do not water your plants. Mites feed easier on fresh growth so slowing plant growth down will slow the mites down.
    • Week 1: Examine very carefully to verify your treatment was effective.
    • Week 3: Re-apply the SAME miticide as the first.
    • Week 4: Re-inspect. Hopefully you found nothing.
    • Week 5: Apply your SECOND miticide.
    • Week 6: Re-inspect. Hopefully you found nothing or else you may need to improve your treatment method.
    • Week 7: Re-apply your SECOND miticide.
    • Week 8: Re-inspect. No mites!

    Step 8a: If you found mites after 8 weeks.

    • Check if you removed all distorted growth. If not, more surgery is required.
    • Check you used the right miticide.
    • Reapply your first miticide IF you have not exceeded the # of allowable treatments per year for that miticide.
    • If you have exceeded the # of treatments, you will need a THIRD miticide with a different MOA to add to your rotation.

    Overall summary notes:

    1. You CAN eradicate red spider, Tarsonemid, and Eriophyid mites.
    2. It WILL require a lot of diligent work, you cannot be lazy.
    3. Good miticides are very expensive. You can use cheaper ones too.
    4. If you have an expensive or extensive collection, I do not recommend trying weird/dangerous homebrew or DIY methods for dealing with mites. As you can see above, you need a well planned and structured method to eradicate them fully.
    5. It is very helpful to understand mite biology and life cycle to get in the mindset when treating for them. This applies to any pest, but mites can be particularly challenging to deal with.

    I really don't know if anybody will read or use this guide or information, but at least I thought I'd try to share my findings and experience! Took far too many words to explain it, but when you do it in person the process is actually very quick.

  • Gabby C (FL 9A)
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    Is avid the only insecticide option that isn't contact functioning, and gets into the tissues of the plant to kill mites?

    I have some very fuzzy new cacti that have brought mites into my realm. I usually do contact treatments with alcohol and have been successful at controlling full-blown outbreaks but I can't with these plants...

    PS eww, very helpful information :) your effort to share your knowledge is always much appreciated.

  • ewwmayo
    Original Author
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    Gabby - Avid, Pylon, and Judo are all translaminar and work against crawlers (adults/immatures). Tetrasan is translaminar against immatures and kills eggs too. I never tried those though and am not sure how expensive they may be.

  • Gabby C (FL 9A)
    4 years ago

    ah I see I had to look up what translaminar meant. I think I found the culprit plant... this doesn't look like spider mite. The few I saw weren't red and then I find this growth which I've never seen the spider mites do. Lots of work for me to do.

    ewwmayo thanked Gabby C (FL 9A)
  • ewwmayo
    Original Author
    3 years ago

    It's been a long time! Just wanted to add in some information on eradicating two spotted red spider mites, tarsonemid mites, and oribatid mites. This was discussed in another thread which I am copying my response from: "Spider Mites. I hate them."

    I was able to complete eradicate all the mites above with the following miticide rotation, executed over 5 weeks. They were 'gifted' to me from a seller that is now selling constantly infested plants.

    1. Avid + Insecticidal Soap
    2. Avid + Floramite at pH 5.5
    3. Forbid
    4. Akari
    5. Pylon + Floramite at pH 5.5

    My strategy was the following:

    • Collect mite samples and put them under high-power microscope for positive identification to determine which treatment to use.
    • Kill the immatures and adults in the first treatment to halt reproduction and egg laying.
    • Next target the eggs and immatures after that to wipe out subsequent generations.
    • Five of the miticides had residual action of ~28 days.
    • Three of the miticides had translaminar action (absorbed into leaves somewhat like a systemic)
    • All six miticides had different modes of action for killing to prevent resistance.

    Some additional helpful notes:

    • Few miticides can kill eggs.
    • Not all miticides can kill adults.
    • Miticides do not kill all types of mites, they target specific kinds.
    • Residual and especially translaminar action is very helpful.
    • Different modes of action (how they work) is essential to prevent miticide resistance.
    • Do not use too much insecticidal soap because it can damage leaves.
    • 40x illuminated loupe is very helpful for fairly high magnification plant inspections.
    • Having a good plan is essential if you want to eradicate rather than control.

    The linked thread also has some other good discussion on safety, photo/video identification, and other tips. Otherwise, I hope you are all happily growing pest-free these days!

    As always, if you have any other experiences you'd like to share and add that would be great. =)

  • Jennifer Liebo
    2 years ago

    Wow ! Love the ultrasonic cleaner idea ! Most of my plants are way too big tho . Marvelous idea tho ! And it removes eggs too ? Nice ! Sounds perfect! Maybe I cousins one that’s 12”x12” . That way I could fit every plant I own in there one at a time . 😊

  • ewwmayo
    Original Author
    2 years ago

    The ultrasonic cleaner worked very well, but unpotting everything and re-potting was a huge endeavor since I had so many plants. Warm water with a little soap improves cavitation. Perhaps this is a decent solution for a couple heavily infested plants if someone already owns or has access to an ultrasonic cleaner.

  • Jennifer Liebo
    2 years ago

    @eewmayo ,

    That would indeed be a pain . It sure would be perfect for a couple heavily infested ones tho . And a great way to clean new plants ! Most ship bare root . And if they come with soil , I wash it off anyway. That could actually be a very marvelous process before quarantine. I could rinse the worst off with a hose , pop it in the ultrasonic bath , then inspect with a microscope. That would almost guarantee not bringing pears in on new plants . I’m thinking you’re a genius! I’m serious ! Even if it wasn’t originally your idea , you researched til ya found the idea . That’s what I like to do as well. I’m always brainstorming ways to do things like that and I’ll go on a research to try to see if anyone else has tried it . Haha ! For instance, I’d been thinking about how succs like acidity . So I kept researching til I found an article where someone wrote about using vinegar or citric acid in their water to improve the health of their plants . Something told me that adding citric acid to water and getting the perfect ph to water succulents would likely make them healthy. I want to try that . As a matter of fact , it seems it would help them fight the pests to have an optimum ph . I think the writer of the article suggests a ph between 5-6 . Said his plants thrived and so did is friends’ plants who tried it . A Korean woman on YouTube called Sonakbi Succulents also uses Pyroligneous liquor ( wood vinegar I’m guessing) in water to spray her succulents nightly to color them up and fight pests . Been meaning to try that . There are so many cool and interesting things we can do if we research and try them . My friend said he got rid of his spider mites with vinegar and water . But it was on MJ plants . It was harvest time and he only had to use it once . He said the mites left the plants when he harvested . Makes me think there’s something to that as well . My Korean imports that were rooting don’t have signs of mites . So maybe they don’t go for non established plants . My dormant Aeoniums were all spared too as far as I can tell. Had one Korean Aeonium that looks spider mite damaged . But can’t find a single mite on the plant . They just looked dusty and gross under the microscope. I’m glad I found you on here . You’re just so smart 😊

    ewwmayo thanked Jennifer Liebo
  • milton_zone6a_ontario
    7 months ago

    Hi ewwmayo, I love this post. Do you think an ultrasonic cleaner would kill eggs or larvae without miticide?

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