Monsteras, which are known for their pest resistance, make excellent beginner plants for any aspiring indoor gardener. However, pest resistance and pest-free are not the same things, and it is easy to take Monstera’s hardiness for granted. It can be quite shocking to discover that your otherwise invincible showpiece has been nibbled to death by tiny invaders!
The most common bugs on monstera are aphids, thrips, whiteflies, and fungus gnats. Manually remove bugs from your Monstera and avoid future infestations with a change in care practices. Topical treatments range from over-the-counter remedies to stronger insecticides that should be reserved for severe infestations. Whatever treatment you choose, your Monstera is resilient and will quickly recover.
How to Spot Pests on Monstera
Insect pests enjoy hiding. Pest insects, regardless of size or species, huddle out of sight. As always, your plant’s leaves are the best indicator of its health. Spots, speckles, and silvering are all excellent early warning signs of a problem.
It may be more difficult to see in densely fenestrated Monstera, such as Monstera adansonii, so take your time. More severe infestations result in yellowing, sickly leaves, and deformed weak new growth.
When you’ve identified a problem, it’s time to address it. Continue reading and I’ll walk you through some of the tiny terrors that might want to eat your Monstera.
Common Bugs on Monstera
Mealybugs are a type of sap-sucking insect. They are pale and resemble small balls of fluff. These annoyances set up camp on your plant’s veins, piercing the tough outer layers with a sharp proboscis. One sip at a time, they literally suck the life out of your poor Monstera.
A mealybug attack is imminent if the stems and petioles of your Monstera sprout tiny patches of cottony fluff. The result is frequently a yellowing plant with sickly-looking patched leaves.
Keep an eye out for ants as well. Honeydew, a syrup of concentrated sugars stolen from your plant, is emitted by mealybugs.
Ants adore it and will frequently move mealybugs from plant to plant, much like a human farmer moves his dairy herd from pasture to pasture. I’ve often seen ants marching around my pots before I see mealybugs, so keep your eyes peeled.
The most effective way to combat mealybug infestations is to simply remove them. Apply a bit of diluted alcohol to a cotton tip, then wipe the bug right off the plant.
Keep an eye out for re-infestation every few days. Mealybugs lay a lot of eggs, and those time bombs go off every five to seven days.
Spider Mites (Tetranychidae)
Spider mites are tiny terrors that are often difficult to see with the naked eye. They range in color from black to scarlet to white.
They spin silken threads across their victims, enveloping them as they intake the sap within. This silk is frequently the most obvious indication that you are in trouble.
Spider mites leave a distinctive delicate brown speckling on both sides of your Monstera’s leaves. The damage is often more severe near veins, but it can appear anywhere on the plant.
Spider-mites, like mealybugs, are best removed manually. Monsteras are rainforest species, so they prefer to be sprayed with a shower or hose.
Petioles and the base of aerial roots should be rinsed thoroughly because mites like to hide in these areas. Spider mites prefer a dry, low-humidity environment, so keeping a good tropical humidity around your lush lovelies will help keep them away as well.
Scale bugs are a tricky foe for any indoor gardener. While they are soft-bodied and vulnerable, these sly critters build sturdy outer shells that resemble small brown bumps.
They form clusters on stems and petioles and can be mistaken for emerging aerial roots. You may not realize you have a scale bug infestation until it is well established.
They suck sap and secrete honeydew like mealybugs, so keep an eye out for the ant march. They also transport scale bugs from plant to plant and are often a good indicator that your Monstera is in trouble.
Treating Scale Insects
Despite their armor, scale bugs are extremely vulnerable and can be killed with minimal movement. They have delicate mouth parts that are easily damaged, causing them to die of starvation.
Give your Monstera a good rinsing, or pick the bugs off by hand. They are likely to die if they are disturbed in any way. Check all veins under leaves, as scale like to hide near their food source.
Aphids are a major annoyance for indoor gardeners. The majority of the species are about the size of a sesame seed and range in color from pale translucency to black, green, and brown.
They reproduce rapidly, with a single aphid capable of spawning enough to cover even the toughest houseplant in a matter of weeks. They are not to be taken lightly.
Fortunately, aphids dislike Monstera and rarely attack it. However, if you have outbreaks on other plants in your collection, you will almost certainly get a marching front of invaders taking their chances.
If you’ve noticed aphids on your Monstera, it’s best to start by manually removing them with a thorough washing, which you need to do once or twice a week if possible. This is a lot of work, especially if you’ve pinned a vining Monstera to a wall or other heavy feature.
Your next option is to spray neem oil or horticultural soap directly onto the plant. Make sure to get into the plant’s nooks and crannies, especially around the petioles.
If your indoor jungle is plagued by aphids, you should consider biological control options. Aphids are a favorite food of ladybugs, and they can be purchased online or at gardening supply stores.
Once released, they will make themselves at home in your collection and do the dirty work of hunting down and devouring the aphids.
Thrips are a difficult pest to identify. They resemble tiny black slivers and are frequently misidentified as stray potting mediums or lint. It’s much easier to see their damage, which appears as silvering of the leaves.
Thrips suck the green pigment chlorophyll from your Monstera leaves, leaving only the empty structure. Adult thrips have wings and can easily move from plant to plant.
Thrips are another pest that cannot withstand a strong jet of water, so a good shower will get rid of the majority of these little nasties. In the absence of that, neem oil or horticultural soap treatment will suffice.
Some people recommend wiping down the silvered part of the plant with a dilute alcohol solution but proceed with caution. If you want to try this technique, first perform a patch test on your Monstera.
Whiteflies are small flying insects about the size of a sesame seed. They resemble mealybugs, so if you give your Monstera a bump and are suddenly swarmed by little white bugs, you’re dealing with whiteflies.
These criminals suck sap from the leaves, weakening them. While whiteflies don’t particularly enjoy eating Monstera, they’re worth protecting for the same reason that aphids are. They prefer plants with softer leaves, but if they’ve infested your indoor garden, they won’t turn down your Monstera.
Yellow sticky cards, such as these ones available on Amazon, are an effective repellent for flying pests. They are a low-impact option for attracting and trapping adult whiteflies, which prevents them from laying eggs. Infestations of whiteflies respond well to neem oil or horticultural soaps as well.
No matter how careful you are, fungus gnats will appear in your indoor plant collection at some point. They’re small flying bugs the size of a fruit fly.
Fungus gnats, on the other hand, are less dangerous than the majority of the other intruders on this list. Their preferred food is fungus, not plants, and they eat mostly whatever is growing in your potting medium alongside your Monstera.
Their larvae nibble fine root fibers and can reduce the vigor of your Monstera. However, the larvae have a very limited impact because they only occupy the very top layers of the soil, away from the majority of the root mass.
Having said that, these flying fellows are an annoyance. They buzz around your plants, polluting the air and invading places where wee little bugs should not be.
I can’t tell you how many times these pests have gotten into my coffee or wafted around my glasses while I’m trying to take care of my plants.
For these pests, prevention is preferable to cure. They require moist conditions to thrive, so let the top layer of your potting medium dry completely between waterings. This will kill the larvae and prevent the gnats from ever gaining a foothold.
You can also use the above-mentioned yellow sticky traps as a control measure, and I’ve had good results applying diatomaceous earth to the surface of my potting mediums between waterings. This powder is a non-toxic mineral that dehydrates both larvae and gnats.
How to Get Rid of Monstera Bugs Naturally
It is critical to consider your growing space when treating your indoor Monstera. Most homes and offices are closed, with little to no airflow and a lot of interaction between your plant and the people around it.
You don’t want to poison the people who live nearby, as well as the pests! Here’s how I deal with pest infestations in a way that’s safe for both you and your Monstera.
Sometimes the simplest solution is the most effective. Simply pull the bugs off your plant! Any insect can be killed with a cotton swab soaked in diluted alcohol. Simply wipe away the bug with a damp cloth.
This is especially effective against mealybugs, but it also works on other pests. Scale bugs can be scraped away with your fingernail, and thrips and aphids can be brushed away with a damp cloth.
More drastic measures are required for more severe infections. Monsteras benefit from aggressive pruning, and infested leaves should be chopped off and discarded entirely.
Using a hose or a showerhead to wash thrips and spider mites from your Monstera says it all. This is especially beneficial to Big Monstera because it allows you to clean the leaves thoroughly of dust, debris, and pests.
This method involves squirting pests clear with a water jet using a syringe or an air bulb. It is equally safe for you and your plant, and it is an excellent choice for the early stages of infestation. It’s a scaled-down version of showering your plant and an excellent choice for specimens that can’t be moved.
Thrips, whiteflies, and adult aphids are attracted to the bright yellow color of commercial sticky traps. (check out the prices on Amazon here).
They land on the trap and are unable to escape. They’re a great preventative measure for your collection, and they can be inspected on a regular basis to see what’s buzzing around.
Consider making your own garlic spray if you want to save money. Garlic aromatics are an effective insecticide when prepared properly.
Crush three or four garlic cloves and steep them overnight in a half-gallon of water to make garlic spray. It can then be poured into a spray bottle and applied directly to leaves after being filtered.
Some people add a few drops of dishwashing liquid to the mixture to help it adhere to the leaves. Reapply on a regular basis until your infestation is gone.
Similar to garlic spray, you can harness the power of chillis to make a homemade foliage spray that will deter future invaders.
To make this spray, combine three tablespoons of powdered chili with a half-gallon of water. Again, some people like to add a little dishwashing liquid to the mix to help it stay on the leaves longer.
It should be noted that this mixture is quite irritating. It is critical to perform a “test patch” on your Monstera. Apply a small amount to a leaf patch that is out of the way.
Leave for the night. If the leaf exhibits signs of irritation, such as yellowing, curling, or splitting, your Monstera is sensitive to the mixture and should not be sprayed.
In this area, diatomaceous earth is a popular choice for a variety of reasons. The fossils of tiny ancient sea creatures are ground into a fine powder to create this fine powder.
When the dust settles, it lacerates insects by making its way into their bodies, destroying organs and dehydrating them as it does so.
This substance is completely harmless to plants, animals, and children, to the point where it is sometimes used as a dietary supplement in some cases. (Check out the prices on Amazon here)
I like to dust it at the base of leaves and petioles and sprinkle it on the surface of potting mediums after watering. It gathers in nooks and crannies on your Monstera, allowing it to locate pests where they prefer to hide.
Some people are big believers in the use of essential oils to treat insects. To deter infestations, spray peppermint and spearmint oils on the leaves and stems at a rate of about two drops per ounce of water. Clove, thyme, and cedarwood all work well.
Horticultural oils work by coating the insects’ bodies and suffocating them to death. They’re an effective way to get rid of a moderate infestation by spraying them on the foliage of your Monstera.
They come in a variety of blends and are an effective tool in the never-ending battle between the gardener and the pest. Because they primarily attack adults, they must be reapplied on a regular basis in order to catch emerging grubs as they hatch.
While technically another horticultural oil, neem oil has something unique in addition to the physical properties that kill insects.
Neem oil contains naturally insecticidal compounds that are safe to use in dilution to kill and deter those pesky bugs that like to feast on your Monstera. (Check out the prices on Amazon here)
Insecticidal soaps are another topical spray in the indoor gardener’s arsenal. As the name suggests, this soapy spray kills adult insects and aids in the removal of debris, including any eggs that may have been left behind.
If you have recurring pest problems, biological controls may be a good way to keep the nasties away from your Monstera. This entails introducing predators into your growing environment.
This may appear to be a dire situation, but the predators are as small as their prey! Ladybirds are an excellent choice because they have large appetites and broad palates and will attack almost any pest that may find its way into your growing environment.
Pyrethrin and Pyrethroid Insecticides
Of course, there are times when you need to bring out the big guns. Pyrethrin is a chemical found naturally in daisy flowers that works well as an insecticide. Pyrethroids, its synthetic cousin, are just as effective, and both are safe to use on your indoor Monstera.
As with all insecticides, they should only be used as a last resort and then only sparingly. Overuse can result in resistant pests, so think about other options before using these insecticides.
It’s sometimes best to admit defeat and remove an infected plant from your collection entirely. Pests are kept at bay by separating the bugs from the Monstera. It’s difficult to say goodbye to a treasured possession, but the sacrifice is well worth it.
Never compost a Monstera that has been infested. Simply toss everything, pot and all, into the garbage can. Recycling the soil or the pot may allow the infestation to spread to new victims.
This includes smaller amounts of clippings, soil, pots, and care implements. Infected prunings should be disposed of by double bagging and tossing them into household garbage, and tools like shears should be sterilized between uses.
You can kill creepy crawlies and prevent them from returning by changing how you care for your Monstera. Increasing humidity will kill spider mites, and allowing your soil to dry between waterings will kill fungus gnats, for example. Good care goes a long way toward allowing your delicious darling to repel pests on their own.
Why Does My Monstera Have Bugs
So, what causes insect infestations? Different pests prefer different environments, so let’s take a look at what brings these horrors into your home in the first place.
The most direct explanation for most infestations is a transmission from other infected plants. Monstera rarely attracts pests on their own, which is one of the reasons these charismatic climbers are frequently recommended for first-time plant owners.
If you bring home an infested plant from a nursery or florist, the invaders will spread to whatever plant is nearby. These bugs aren’t picky, and they’ll eat anything in their path.
When you bring home a new plant, keep it separate from the rest of your collection for a week or so to ensure that it is pest-free. To be safe, many collectors pre-treat new purchases with a vigorous washing and neem oil.
Your Monstera is a diva of the tropics. They all thrive in high humidity, regardless of variety. Most varieties require at least 40% humidity, and the higher the better!
Indoors, it’s difficult to create a steamy, jungle atmosphere. Climate control in our buildings removes moisture from the air, particularly during the summer months when the air is cooled.
Spider mites, in particular, prefer dry conditions, and other pests will benefit from a dehydrated plant as well. Keeping your humidity high will keep them at bay and help your monstera repel and recover from any attacks.
Soggy conditions, on the other hand, are ideal breeding grounds for other pests such as whiteflies, fungus gnats, and mealybugs. They thrive in wet, sloppy conditions.
Furthermore, all pests prefer to prey on weak plants. Your plant’s leaves will be more vulnerable to attack if it is already sickly. Plants that have been weakened by root rot or edema are prime targets!
Pests do not appear out of anywhere. They are living things that must move from one plant to the next. To thrive, your Monstera requires clean water and new soil. Watering your Monstera with drippings collected from other plants, or repotting with used soil, are both excellent ways of spreading all sorts of nasties.
Furthermore, if you choose to remove gnawed-up leaves from infected plants, it is possible to transfer eggs and bugs from the sick plant to your Monstera if the damaged matter is not properly removed. Eggs can adhere to hands, shears, and anything else that has come into contact with an infested plant.
Finally, your plant may go to the pests rather than the pests coming to you.
If you enjoy taking your Monstera outside for some fresh air, you may notice that your tourist brings souvenirs back inside. All of the pests on this list can be found in a typical garden, particularly aphids, mealybugs, and scale.
The simplest way to avoid this is to never take your indoor plant outside. However, in cooler areas, it may be worth the risk, and in some cases, it is unavoidable.
Monstera deliciosa can grow to be massive – even monstrous! I know I have a difficult time getting a large plant under a showerhead for a wash and prefer to hose them off outside instead.
Tips to Prevent Bugs on Monstera
Once you’ve cleared the invaders from your Monstera’s lush foliage, it’s time to think about how to keep those little terrors from returning.
Maintaining a good growing environment for your plant is essential for preventing infestations. Maintaining a high humidity level will help to keep spider mites at bay.
Fungus gnats can be avoided by allowing your potting medium to dry between waterings. Other pests can be kept at bay by showering on a regular basis, which Monstera enjoys.
To prevent new critters from entering your growing environment, quarantine new purchases and limit contact with the outside world.
With a little effort and tender care, your Monstera will be flourishing, its flashy glamorous leaves healthy and radiant, ready to brighten your home once more.