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How to Get Rid of Bugs on Your Snake Plant (With Pictures)

There are a number of bugs that will attack your Snake Plant if the conditions are right and if you allow them to become established.

Most of them tend to suck sap from inside the plant. Although this won’t lead to the speedy loss of your Snake Plant.

It will eventually weaken the plant and prevent it from achieving its full potential.

The good news is that this is one of the most robust of house plants, and both prevention and cure are very easy to achieve.

The common snake plant bugs are mealybug, thrips, aphids, and fungus gnats. You may also find flying bugs like whitefly. High humidity, poor ventilation, and improper watering create a favorable environment for bugs. To get rid of bugs in the snake plant you need to identify them and eliminate them with appropriate treatment.

Sap sucking bugs are not common on the Snake Plant providing it is grown in optimal conditions. The leathery leaves are covered in a thick waxy cuticle and provide a formidable obstacle for bugs.

In this article, you will learn how to keep your plant in peak condition, and how to deal with any bugs that do become established.

Different bugs on snake plant leaves

Common Snake Plant Bugs

Here are the common bugs that attack your snake plant.

Mealybugs (pseudococcidae)

Symptoms

These little bugs bear a similarity to small white pieces of fluff. They often thrive in the joints between the leaves where they can hide from sight and suck the juices from deep in the leaves of your plant.

Treatment

These bugs are only a nuisance if they manage to become established. In small numbers, they can easily be wiped away using one of the many natural recipes listed later in this article. Close observation will prevent heavy infestations.

Spider Mites (tetranychidae)

Symptoms

These tiny creatures are so small that it can be hard to see them with the naked eye.

Often, the first signs of their presence will be the fine webs that they create at the base of the leaves.

Heavy infestations will weaken the plant and the tiny wounds they make will leave it vulnerable to disease.

Treatment

These guys thrive in dry conditions and can often be removed with a good spray of water, if you catch their presence early enough. Keeping the humidity levels up will prevent their return.

Scale Insects

Symptoms

These bugs look so unlike what we commonly regard as an insect, that they often slip under the radar simply because we don’t recognize them as bugs.

They are small brown lumps that look more like scabs than bugs. Beneath their brown outer skin, they are quietly sucking the goodness from your plant.

Treatment

Once you have identified them, they can be wiped away with a soft cloth using one of the insecticidal solutions mentioned below, or simply scraped away with a fingernail.

White Fly

Symptoms

Tiny little white insects that look more like miniature moths than flies. Often, they will be most noticeable when you move or water the plant and disturb them.

At this stage, a small cloud of flying insects will alert you to the fact that you have a problem. They also excrete a dark sticky liquid which can cause mold or attract other pests.

Treatment

Taking your plant outside and giving it a sharp squirt of water is often all that is needed to deal with these pests. Be sure to wash the leaves down well to get rid of any eggs or larva.

To prevent further infestation, you can hang a sticky trap in the vicinity of your plant when you bring it back indoors.

Aphids

Symptoms

There don’t seem to be many plants that are fully immune to these pesky little creatures. They can breed really fast but are easy to spot.

If you examine your plant you will see them or the sticky honey dew that they excrete.

They normally thrive on the new tips of the plant as these are softer and easier for them to suck sap from.

Treatment

These creatures survive because they are able to breed really fast rather than because of any defense system.

As long as you examine your plant often, and pick up an attack early, these guys are easy to deal with.

A spray with one of the biological products below will soon put you back in control.

Caterpillars

Symptoms

Unlike most of the pests we have considered so far, caterpillars will eat the leaves rather than simply suck their sap.

In doing this, they leave very obvious telltale signs in the form of holes chewed from the edges of the leaf.

If you spot this trademark of their presence, examine your plant closely and you will discover the heavily disguised culprits.

Treatment

The best way to deal with these caterpillars is to simply pick them off by hand and destroy them.

After having done so, check the leaves carefully for any eggs that may be yet to hatch.

A wipe down with insecticidal soap or neem oil should get rid of eggs and prevent further infestations.

Thrips

Symptoms

If the leaves of your Snake Plant start to curl and distort it is likely that you have an infestation of thrips.

These tiny black bugs are some of the most likely pests that you will experience, but they are also among the easiest to deal with.

Treatment

If leaves are seriously damaged then you may have to cut them away with a sharp knife and wait for healthy new growth.

Generally, this will only need to take place in cases where a severe infection has occurred.

In most instances, you will notice the damage early and can take the plant outside and spray away the pests.

After that, wiping down regularly with Neem oil or vegetable soap should prevent their reappearance.

Fungus Gnats

Symptoms

These little creatures always remind me of miniature mosquitoes. They don’t actually do any harm to the plant.

Particularly one as tough as the Snake Plant, but they are unsightly and act as an indicator of other problems.

Namely overwatering. Only in really large numbers is the possibility that the larva might damage the root system.

Treatment

These plants are attracted to the overly damp conditions created if the potting soil is too wet and not draining properly.

As this condition can prove lethal, it is one that you will want to address quickly, and which will get rid of the gnats at the same time.

By allowing the top two inches of soil to dry out between waterings, you will deny a base for the bugs to inhabit and provide a much healthier growing medium for your plant.

Why do my Snake Plants have bugs?

There are a few reasons why bugs might try to attack your Snake Plant. One thing to remember in every case is that bugs will look for a point of weakness.

As it is easier for them to attack a plant that is in poor condition than it is to attack a healthy one.

In no plant is this more true than the Snake Plant because its leaves, when healthy, are so tough that they are generally able to fend off most bug attacks.

Here are some other possible reasons that you are being invaded by unwanted pests.

Humidity

When the humidity level becomes too high, the leaves of your plant tend to become flaccid and this makes them easier for sap-sucking insects to penetrate with their tiny piercing mouthparts.

At the same time, if the humidity levels are too low it opens the door for attack from spider mites who thrive in very dry indoor conditions.

Wet conditions

An overly watered house plant is an unhappy houseplant, and this is certainly true in the case of the Snake Plant. We have already seen how fungus gnats like to breed in wet soil.

It also opens the door for a host of other health issues and some of these will quickly see your plant start to become weak.

As it does so, the leaves lose their leathery texture and they are vulnerable to insect invasion.

Always let the top two inches of soil dry out before rewatering, and make sure that the container the plant is in has sufficient drainage capacity.

Poor ventilation

Good airflow is essential to plant health and, as we have already discussed, a healthy plant is more resistant to insect infestation.

What is more, is that many of the flying insects that we have looked at are so small that simple air movement will make it difficult for them to establish themselves.

If you open a window for a few hours each day, this will normally allow enough air circulation to keep your plant in peak condition.

Lighting

All plants have certain light requirements to remain healthy. The Snake Plant may be more accepting of incorrect lighting than many house plants.

But at the same time, it will not appreciate prolonged exposure to direct sunlight.

This can cause sunburn in extreme cases, and wilting in minor ones. Both of these lead to weaker leaves and thus a vulnerability to bugs.

How to get rid of Snake Plant Bugs Naturally

There are dozens of toxic industrial bug sprays available that will undoubtedly kill most of the pests that you are likely to encounter attacking your Snake Plant.

The question you need to ask yourself is, do you really want to expose your family, pets, and self to chemicals that you have little knowledge about and which weren’t designed with your health in mind?

In this chapter, we will be looking at some of the many natural pest remedies which you can make yourself with far less risk and for considerably less expense. 

The beauty is that many of them are just as effective as their commercial counterparts.

Neem Oil

This is one that you will hear about again and again when you start to get into serious house plant cultivation.

Made from the seeds of Azadirachta indica, a tree from southeast Asia, the oil is effective against pests and fungal disease, whilst posing no danger to either your family or pets.

It can be wiped onto your Snake Plant with a soft cloth, and if used once a week, will have a preventative effect as well as getting rid of bugs that are already in place.

Use it sparingly as it can burn the leaves and it is best applied in the evening. Only use in indirect light.

Garlic

The more we learn about garlic, the more uses it seems to have. As a pest deterrent, this is no exception.

One of the easiest ways to use this plant is to crush it, mix it with water and use it as a spay.

You have two choices here. You can use a mild mixture for its deterrent properties, or you can strengthen it for use on pests that are already in place.

Crush six cloves and add a gallon of water for a weaker version but use two cloves with a cup of water for something much stronger. 

In both instances, allow the garlic to seep in the water overnight and then filter it before using it as a spray.

Due to the noxious odor, I would highly recommend using this remedy outdoors.

Herbal Water

Herbal water is one of those terms that can cover quite a broad spectrum of products.

Many of the comestible herbs you probably already have growing in your garden have quite powerful properties when used against houseplant pests.

Rosemary, sage, lavender, thyme, basil, and mint can all be mixed with water and then filtered to create a natural pest repellant spray.

To get the most out of the leaves, you can boil the mixture before leaving it to steep for twelve hours.

Don’t get too strung out on quantities here. A couple of handfuls of whatever herbs you have available in a saucepan of water will give you the desired result.

The beauty about these options is that they are not as noxious as garlic and so they can be used indoors, though don’t expect them to be as powerful.

If you don’t have access to herbs, try mixing a few drops of essential oil with some water and use that instead.

Chili Peppers

Chili peppers can be really hot so it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that they are nor favored by sap sucking and leaf munching bugs.

Crushed chili or chili powder can be soaked overnight, filtered, and then sprayed onto your plant.

If you add a few drops of liquid soap or cooking oil to the solution, it will adhere to the leaves more easily.

Beware of getting this mix in your eyes, and wash your hands well after use.

Pyrethrin

If making your own pesticide seems like too much hard work, then you could consider a pyrethrin based commercial spray.

It is a contact insecticide that is toxic to all of the pests we have looked at.

It is made from the extracts of the Chrysanthemum daisy, but just because it is made from a natural product, that doesn’t mean that it is not toxic, though in this case, only mildly. 

Don’t use it around pets or near your fish tank, and don’t get it on your skin.

Diatomaceous Earth

This is one product that seems to be riding the wave of popularity at the moment.

It is made from fossilized phytoplankton that is mined and crushed into a fine powder.

Unlike other pest products, it acts as a physical barrier rather than a toxin or deterrent. ¼ of a cup of the powder is mixed with a gallon of water. You can now spray onto the leaves of your Snake Plant.

There, it will leave a fine layer of barely visible dust that pests hate. Personally, I find that this is a product that doesn’t really live up to the hype.

Vegetable Soap

This is my go-to pest treatment. I use soap made largely from olive oil, but there are many alternatives. I mix it with water and spray my house plants or wipe them down weekly.

It keeps the leaves looking good and pests hate the taste. At the same time, any that are on the leaves are wiped off during the weekly treatment.

Tips to Prevent Bugs on Snake Plant

Although you have now seen that there are many ways that bugs can be controlled on your Snake Plant.

The ultimate solution is to avoid having any bugs move in in the first place. Here is a quick list of things that you can do to deter them.

  • Examine your plant closely and frequently so that you can remove pests before they become established.
  • Find the ideal position for your plant so that it is happy and able to thrive most effectively.
  • Ensure that there is sufficient humidity but that air around the plant is circulating freely.
  • Isolate your plant from the rest of the collection if you even suspect there is a bug problem.
  • Above all, establish a good watering regime so that your plant does not become stressed.
  • Remember that a plant in prime condition is a bug’s worst obstacle.

Final Words

I hope that this list of pests has not discouraged you or left you feeling that there are simply so many bugs that you are going to avoid this plant altogether.

The reality is, the Snake Plant is extremely tough and is almost always able to overcome all but the most extreme of invasions.

If your plant is in good health, those naturally leathery leaves are too much for bugs to take on, so keep your plant happy and it will certainly reward you by remaining bug-free.