Bird of paradise is a truly showy specimen with its glossy tropical foliage and brightly colored blooms. That is why it is very upsetting when your Strelitzia reginae is attacked by mealybugs, scale, aphids, and other bugs.
To get rid of bugs on bird of paradise use a cotton swab with 70% isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol. Spray your bird of paradise using insecticidal soap, horticultural oils (like neem oil), or insecticides to kill most of these bugs. You can also remove larger bugs by hand or use a strong water jet to dislodge pests from your plant.
So, don’t worry —your plant pro is here to help you identify and eradicate common pests on your bird of paradise.
What are the Most Common Bugs that Attack a Bird of Paradise?
In general, a bird of paradise is a relatively trouble-free plant when it comes to pests — primarily when grown indoors.
That’s not to say your Strelitzia reginae is totally immune to bugs. You should scope out your garden or indoor plants for infestations of the following common birds of paradise bugs.
Scales are the most common bird of paradise bugs. The infestation starts as a cluster of crawlers that often appear as mobile spots on the underside of the leaves. Once scales settle on your plant, they become stationary and form hard oval-shaped shells.
Symptoms: Scales suck the sap out of the foliage, depriving your bird of paradise of vital nutrients and fluids. This results in small and yellowing leaves. Affected flowers and tender growths may also appear stunted and distorted.
A surefire sign of scale infestation is small hard bugs that look like raised white spots. They usually appear on the front and back of the leaves and stems.
If you catch the infestation early when the scale insects are still crawlers, you can easily use insecticidal soap spray to get rid of them.
However, if scale insects have developed their classic hard shells, you’d want to use a quality horticultural oil or neem oil. Coat your bird of paradise thoroughly with the oil spray to suffocate the bugs.
Mealybugs are another popular kinMealybugs are another common pest that prey on birds of paradise. These minuscule, sap-sucking insects typically appear as white patches of cottony white fuzz on leaves. This is particularly noticeable in the garden or outdoors, where they can spread from plant to plant.
- Limited, distorted, or stunted growth because mealybugs suck out essential fluids
- Leaves may turn yellow due to heavy infestation
- Cottony white fuzz on the backs of leaves
- Mealybugs leave ooze honeydew that stimulates the growth of black sooty mold.
- Your bird of paradise may be covered by ants farming the honeydew
How to Deal with Mealybugs
If you have an infestation of mealybugs, you must isolate affected houseplants immediately. Quick action will help stop the bugs from jumping onto other healthy plants.
Treating an invasion of mealybugs will require a combination of control strategies.
The first control method is using rubbing alcohol. Dip several cotton swabs in the alcohol and use them to squish clusters of mealybugs and wipe down your plant.
The rubbing alcohol is a strong solvent that will dissolve and penetrate the waxy coating, destroying the bugs.
You can also use a strong jet of water to knock mealybugs off your bird of paradise. Make sure to spray hot zones like the back of leaves, undersides of flowers, and stems.
For heavy invasions of mealybugs, swabbing with cotton swabs containing rubbing alcohol may not do the trick.
You’ll need full control, be it neem oil, horticultural oil, or insecticidal soap. It’s essential to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully lest you hurt your bird of paradise.
If everything else doesn’t seem to fight the invasion, you can resort to chemical controls. Over the years, I’ve found pyrethrin-containing insecticides to be effective against large infestation of mealybugs.
Coat your bird of paradise generously with the insecticide spray to eliminate the bugs. Consider spraying again at an interval of 7 to 10 days until the invasion is put under control.
If your bird of paradise is part of an outdoor garden, you can also attract natural predators like lacewing larvae, mealybug destroyers, and ladybugs.
I love using small, nectar-producing plants to attract these beneficial insects (consider adding some yarrow, sweet alyssum, etc., to your garden).
Spider Mites (Tetranychidae)
If you find soft, silky webbing on your bird of paradise, chances are you’ve got an invasion of spider mites. Place a plain white sheet of paper under the affected areas and shake them.
You’ll likely see small moving particles the size of dust on the paper. They range in color from brown to red.
- While invisible to the naked eye, spider mites puncture holes into your plant, damaging the foliage of the bird of paradise.
- Stunted or curled leaves and foliage discoloration due to excessive bruising
- Spider webbing on the leaves
- Look for any kind of webbing between leaves
- Severe infestation may give your bird of paradise a brown, gray, or bronze appearance
- With time, the leaves on your bird of paradise will appear scorched, droop, and fall off
As with mealybugs, it’s best to use a combination of strategies to control and get rid of spider mites. Of course, you must isolate an infected bird of paradise to curb the spread of the bugs.
As a first measure, you must use a strong spray of water to blast off some of the spider mites from your bird of paradise.
Ensure to direct the jet of water towards localized invasions, especially on the undersides of flowers and leaves.
For more comprehensive control, you should spray neem oil, insecticidal soap, or a traditional insecticide.
Sulfur-based and pyrethrin insecticides are particularly effective against most types of spider mites. Besides, they’re less harmful to your plant and beneficial bugs.
You must spray your plant multiple times for a month or more until you eradicate the invasion. Wait about five to ten days before spraying again.
Caterpillars are usually invasive to outdoor or garden birds of paradise. These woolly worms are larvae of a variety of butterflies and moths.
At this stage, they’re pretty hungry and will cause extensive damage to your plant’s foliage. Some even feed on the stem, leaving unsightly bruises.
Caterpillars are easy to spot on your bird of paradise. They like to munch on the tender growths, such as new leaves and stems. Their presence is obvious when you see bite marks on the foliage.
Other telling signs of caterpillar infestation may include:
- Skeletonized foliage due to heavy feeding
- Small holes on the foliage
- Scalloping on the edges and tips of the leaves
- Heavily-affected leaves may fall off
You must remove most caterpillars by hand when you spot them on your bird of paradise. They’ll soon turn into adult butterflies and moths and won’t bother your plant anymore.
However, if they’re devastating your bird of paradise, you want to use a biological insecticide to do away with caterpillars for good.
I usually use an expertly-formulated B.t. (Bacillus thuringiensis) insecticide from amazon to protect my bird of paradise from caterpillars. This type of control is safe for adult moths/butterflies, pets, and people.
Another natural control is to use caterpillar’s natural predators. Lacewing larvae, ladybird beetles, predatory shield bugs, assassin bugs, and damsel bugs will certainly get the job done.
Both adults and nymphs of aphids will attack your bird of paradise. These small, pear-shaped, soft-bodied insects can be black, red, green, gray, pink, white, or yellow. They reproduce rapidly but rarely do a lot of damage to your plant even in large numbers.
- A colony on your bird of paradise will look like a white fuzzy or cottony cluster, particularly on the undersides of leaves and around tender new growths.
- They suck out nutrient-rich sap, causing distorted, stunted, or deformed flowers & foliage
- The leaves, stems, and flowers of your bird of paradise will be covered with honeydew. It’s a sticky, sugary substance excreted by aphids as undigested sap.
- Honeydew may facilitate the growth of sooty mold. Thus leaves and stems may appear sooty, black, or spotted.
You can use a range of methods to get rid of aphids from your bird of paradise
- Water blast: You must use a forceful spray of water to dislodge aphids from your bird of paradise. A cool stream of water from a hosepipe is usually incredibly effective.
- Chemical controls: Spray your bird of paradise thoroughly using an oil spray. I’ve used horticultural oils, insecticidal soaps, and neem oil to eradicate aphids. And they work like a charm! Be sure to follow the instructors on the label.
- Soapy water: You can prepare a soapy spray to kill a small invasion of aphids. Apply every two to three days for 2-4 weeks.
- Herb mix spray: You can also add some cayenne pepper, garlic, or other aromatic herbs to your soap spray. Mix a quart of water, a pinch of pepper, one tablespoon of mild dish soap, and shake vigorously before application.
- Diatomaceous earth: Another great organic control that I normally use to destroy aphids is Diatomaceous earth. You should avoid using it when your bird of paradise is blooming, though.
Leaf borers typically attack the flowers of your bird of paradise. You’ll probably see them in August or September (late summer) when your plant has bloomed fully. Tiny insects inject their eggs into the leaves and hatch into the leaf borers.
Leaf borers blemish the leaves and flowers on your bird of paradise. In their trail of invasion, they leave either large blotches or long winding, squiggly lines or tunnels on the foliage. These wavy lines can be whitish or yellowish.
The damage caused by leaf miners on a bird of paradise may also manifest as spots.
There are numerous non-chemical and chemical controls that you can use to nip the leaf miners in the bud. Place floating row-covers in your garden as this will prevent egg-laying insects from getting to your bird of paradise.
When you see a line of leaf borers on your bird of paradise, just squish them by pressing your fingers between the affected areas. You can also use gardener’s shears to trim off heavily affected leaves or flowers and toss them in a covered trash bin.
You can also treat egg-laying adults using spinosad treatment. I use ready-to-formulate spinosad concentrates to kill adult insects and curb the leaf borers’ population.
Apply the spinosad spray evenly to cover your bird of paradise. Make sure to focus on affected areas, including the backs and tops of the leaves. Respray after every 4-7 days until the bugs are gone.
Permethrin sprays are another effective control for leaf borers. It’s a systemic, broad-spectrum type of insecticide that will eradicate leafminers for an extended period. Best of all, it doesn’t affect beneficial bugs like ladybug beetles.
You must apply permethrin spray in early spring when a new growth spurt is noticeable. Apply a thorough coating until the rush runs off your bird of paradise, ensuring to cover the backs of the leaves. Repeat the spraying every 4-8 days until they’re gone.
Grasshoppers love eating the foliage on your bird of paradise. Many scattered bite marks or ragged holes in the foliage can be seen when grasshoppers have invaded your plant. They usually attack outdoor/garden birds of paradise in summer and spring.
Grasshoppers can strip your bird of paradise naked if the infestation is left unabated. Keep an eye out for chewed flowers and leaves.
- Be very vigilant for grasshoppers on your outdoor bird of paradise during summer.
- Minor invasions of grasshoppers are easy to keep under control. Pick them from your bird of paradise. Try hand-picking early in the morning as they’re not very active when it’s cold.
- Blast adult grasshoppers off your bird of paradise using a strong jet of water from a garden hose
- You can use predatory controls like parasitic wasps or robber flies
Why Does My Bird of Paradise Have Bugs
The majority of bugs that invade birds of paradise do thrive in wet conditions. They need it to keep their tiny bodies moist and avoid drying out. As such, you should avoid overwatering your bird of paradise or letting it sit on “wet feet.”
High humidity generates a damp environment around your bird of paradise. These wet or humid conditions are perfect environments for the explosive reproduction of bugs like aphids.
Because humidity is vital for your bird of paradise, it’s best to improve aeration around your plant. Of course, you must avoid wetting your plant. Spacing out your houseplants and reducing localized humidity can help keep most bugs at bay.
Most bugs that attack birds of paradise do best in poorly ventilated rooms and corners. What’s worse, the bird of paradise doesn’t do well in poorly aerated and crammed-up areas. They become weak, unhealthy, and therefore prone to disease and bugs.
Don’t forget that soil needs good aeration to stay healthy and dry out uniformly. If the soil stays wet or becomes soggy, this will attack pests. Make sure there’s plenty of spacing between your plants and use oscillating fans in areas that lack good ventilation.
It would be best if you feed your bird of paradise a water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks during spring and summer. In fact, you should cut the concentration by half before application. If you give your plant too much fertilizer, it will cause root damage and make your bird of paradise susceptible to pests.
Bird of paradise needs potassium, manganese, nitrogen, and other nutrients to stay healthy and fight off diseases & pests. It may become sulky, weak, stunted, and vulnerable when it lacks essential minerals or nutrients like calcium, boron, silicon, or zinc.
How to Get Rid of Bird of Paradise Bugs Naturally
You use sticky traps to catch and identify most flying bugs that invade your bird of paradise. Place several sticky traps near your plant and check them every so often.
You can rinse, spray, or wash your bird of paradise using insecticidal soap. If you don’t want to buy a ready-to-use insecticidal soap spray, you can prepare your own at home using mild liquid dish soap. Either way, insecticidal soaps kill birds of paradise pests on contact.
An insecticidal oil spray is quite effective against the vast majority of bird of paradise bugs. These include mealybugs, scale insects, aphids, and spider mites. Repeat the treatment every 5-7 days until you rid your bird of paradise of the bugs.
Neem oil is a marvelous natural control in the world of houseplants. It kills bugs by blocking the breathing pores and thus suffocating them.
As if that isn’t fantastic enough, neem oil has what’s called residual effect, meaning its killing power stays on the plant for several months, if not seasons.
Make sure to cover your bird of paradise with the neem oil spray, paying great attention to the undersides of the leaves, tender growths, and nooks of the flowers.
Biological controls like natural predators and parasitic microorganisms can destroy the pests without harming beneficial insects or your plant.
For instance, Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t.) insecticides are well-known for getting rid of caterpillar invasions.
On the other hand, natural predators like Lacewing larvae, ladybird beetles, wasps, predatory shield bugs, assassin bugs, and damsel bugs are effective against aphids, mealybugs, caterpillars, and even scale insects.
If there’s one natural insecticide that has remained popular among forward-thinking gardeners, it’s pyrethrin.
Derived from plant pyrethrum, this naturally occurring insecticide is safe, effective, and environmentally friendly when used both indoors and outdoors.
Diatomaceous earth is a mineral insecticide that has a residual effect, killing many types of bugs, their larvae, and eggs.
This organic control compromises insect outer coating and therefore kills them by extreme dehydration. It’s non-toxic to people and most animals.
Tips to Prevent Bugs on Bird of Paradise
An ounce of prevention, as they say, is worth a pound of cure. This couldn’t be truer when it comes to protecting your bird of paradise from pests and diseases.
- Monitor your bird of paradise regularly – Inspect the undersides of leaves, inside the flowers, and on the new tender growths.
- Maintain good ventilation around your plant – Space your plants out, prune your bird of paradise if it has too many leaves, and use an oscillating fan in areas of low airflow.
- Isolate sick or infected plants – When you spot any bugs, be sure to remove the affected plant from the rest to prevent the pests from spreading to healthy ones.
- Always use a fresh batch of the potting mix when repotting, propagating, or replanting your bird of paradise.
- Adopt proper watering techniques – Irrigate your plant early in the morning; avoid overhead irrigation; don’t wet the leaves, and of course, avoid overwatering your bird of paradise.
- Don’t over-fertilize your plant – You should fertilize your bird of paradise once or twice every month from early spring through summer. Stop fertilizing during winter.
- Give your bird of paradise proper light – It loves getting bright, indirect light. It would help if you avoided scorching direct sunlight or dark areas.
- Maintain ideal temperatures – Bird of paradise does well when kept in day temperatures of between 65-70 °F (18-21°C) and night temperatures in the 50-55 °F (10-12°C) range. (Source: Clemson University).