Most gardeners or plant caretakers have seen them before – little white spots all over otherwise green stems and leaves. Commonly found on plants bearing new growth, flowers or fruit, these small bugs are easy to get rid of once you know what you're dealing with, what to look for and how to handle their removal without damaging your poor plants.
What are Those Little Things?
More often than not, those little white things you see collected on stems and leaves are insects known as aphids. The standard variety can vary in color, including white, black, brown, green, yellow and even pink, and look similar in shape to sesame seeds, with a pear-shaped frame. They're often found hiding on the undersides of leaves and tend to gather in big groups. Woolly aphids have fuzzier features and almost look like thick cobwebs smeared across leaves or collected in the corners where those leaves meet the stalk. If you find them all over your potted indoor plants, they were most likely carried in from the outside – either on your clothes or through an infested addition to your existing foliage – or blew in through an open window.
The good thing about these little nutrient-sucking bugs is that they aren't harmful to people, so you don't have to worry about them spreading all over your home. On the flip side, because they live off the sticky sweetness of plant juices, they can spread quickly, infecting other plants inside your home or garden, so you'll want to act fast if you spot them.
A Few Easy Ways to Eliminate Aphids
If you've noticed these tiny pests on your plants, you'll have to take measures to remove them, but luckily, treatment is relatively simple. If your plant is particularly full and bushy, snipping away leaves ridden with insects is going to be your best bet at eliminating an infestation. A squirt with the strong spray of a hose often works to remove them in large numbers as well, just be sure your stems and leaves will be able to handle the stream.
Do you have plants with delicate flowers or leaves that can't stand an intense spraying? Just dip your plant in a bucket of water, or treat them to a dose of insecticidal soap or horticultural oil. Soaps will kill insects without damaging your plant and nontoxic oils suffocate bugs, working to control the population from exploding in the future. Neem oil can be an effective and affordable way to keep aphid populations from expanding all over neighboring plants.
As with most things in life, the best way to treat a problem like an aphid infestation is by being proactive about plant care. Taking preventative measures by examining your leaves and stalks on a regular basis can go a long way in keeping plants healthy and happy, in and outside of your home.