5 Common Succulent Pests and How to Get Rid of Them

Common succulent pests

There are several types of succulent pests that you need to keep in mind when growing them. Mealybugs, nematodes, red spider mite, snails and slugs are some of the most common pests.

Although succulents are very resilient plants and don't require much care, they are not immune to being attacked by pests and getting sick like other plants.

Since succulents don't need constant watering, we often don't pay much attention to checking them and identifying if they are being attacked by any pests.

So, it is important to constantly check them, especially at certain times of the year when pests are more frequent. For example, in hot weather, aphids or red spider mites often appear, and in summer other pests like mealybugs appear.

In this article, I will analyze these and other common succulent pests in detail, how to identify them and, most importantly, how to get rid of them.

Table

Aphids

Aphids are one of the most common succulent pests, they are small yellow, black, or green bugs. They usually appear on succulents in a rosette form like echeverias, but they can also appear on others less frequently.

This tiny bug, barely 2 millimeters, sucks the sap of the plants through its beak. The process in which the aphid extracts the sap generates a black fungus, weakens the plant, and deforms its leaves.

Aphids appear during the flowering of the succulent, especially when new shoots begin to grow. They usually consume the younger and smaller leaves.

How to know if my succulent has aphids?

The most common alert sign is when you see ants on your succulent, as ants serve as protection for the aphid and are frequently found together.

The aphid extracts the sap from the plant and the waste they excrete after digestion (honeydew), which the ants use as food and energy source.

Aphids infestation on succulent
Photo by @pasionmovil

Aphids reproduce rapidly and in large quantities, so you can easily identify them, especially by checking the intersection between the birth of leaves or stems, which is where they are most frequently found.

How to get rid of aphids?

Ladybugs are the best natural ally against aphids. So, if you see any on your succulent, don't scare it away and let it do its job. It will eat all the aphids it finds, and the ants will eventually go away because there won't be any more food for them.

Another remedy for the aphid infestation is to use certain chemicals such as potassium soap or ethyl alcohol, spraying them on the plant with a spray bottle.

You should check all the leaves of your plant to make sure there are no aphids left.

Nematodes

Nematodes are tiny worms that live in the substrate and absorb all the nutrients in it, preventing them from being absorbed by the succulent root. This causes the succulent to not develop properly because it doesn't receive enough nutrients.

This worm releases a toxic substance into the roots, causing them to become inflamed and appear as small, potato-shaped bumps.

How to know if my succulent has nematodes?

Nematodes grow in the plant's roots and store their eggs in these potato-shaped bumps, which are a type of hard cyst. This makes them very easy to identify. Simply remove your succulent from the substrate, remove excess soil, and examine the roots closely.

Nematodes succulent pest
Photo by @udplantpath

How to get rid of nematodes?

The way to get rid of nematodes is to cut off all your succulent's roots (decapitation) and apply a rooting hormone for succulents that will stimulate its growth.

Also, take a look at our article on planting succulents without roots to discover other methods that you can use to grow new roots in your decapitated succulent.

No olvides desechar el sustrato de tu suculenta porque una vez que encuentras nematodos en una planta, toda la maceta y el sustrato estarán contaminados. En caso de querer reutilizar la maceta, debes desinfectarla muy bien con alcohol antes de colocar tu suculenta nuevamente.

Don't forget to dispose of the substrate of your succulent, because once you find nematodes in a plant, the entire pot and substrate will be contaminated. If you want to reuse the pot, you must disinfect it very well with alcohol before placing your new succulent in it.

Mealybug

If you find small, cotton-like white dots on your succulent, it's likely that it has mealybug. This is another one of the most common pests on succulents.

This type of pest appears mainly on weak or low-nutrient plants, generally in moist conditions. It usually hides between the leaves and the stem.

An important fact is that a mealybug produces an average of 600 eggs, so when you discover it, you must act quickly to eliminate it before it ends with your succulent.

Mealybug pest on succulents
Photo by @diariodeplantas

How to know it's mealybug?

As I mentioned before, the mealybug is a small animal very similar to aphids as they also suck the sap and nutrients from the plant. They are easy to recognize by their appearance of small cotton balls.

Another way to recognize them is by feeling the leaves sticky due to the honeydew they leave, which is also food for ants.

So, if you see ants on your plant, it's likely to have mealybug.

How to remove mealybug?

Remove all the dry leaves from your succulent and for the rest, you can spray potash soap on the stem and leaves to eliminate all the mealybugs.

Another way is using 70% ethanol, spraying it thoroughly with a sprayer. When the mealybug comes into contact with alcohol, you will notice that its color changes from white to brown, identify it and remove it carefully to avoid removing the hoarfrost from its leaves.

Keep checking your succulent for at least a couple of more days to make sure the pest has been completely eliminated, sometimes some eggshells can remain hidden.

Red mite or red spider mite

The red spider mite is a type of red or yellow mite that is difficult to see with the naked eye. You can only detect them using a magnifying glass.

A combination of excessive heat and drought makes the perfect environment for this pest to proliferate. Therefore, it is usually found more in dry and high temperature environments.

Particularly cacti suffer most from this pest, but it is also one of the most common pests in succulents.

How to detect the red mite pest?

The plant begins to change color, its leaves become opaque and small spots that look like fungi appear.

This type of pest starts by damaging the lower part of the succulent and gradually climbs up to also damage the upper part.

Red mite pest on succulent
Photo by @fitopatologia_academica

Another way to detect this pest is when you see that the plant has a very fine spiderweb created by these mites, which they use to protect themselves from predators. Its appearance is quite similar to that generated by spiders, only less resistant.

How to get rid of the red mite?

The main enemy of the red mite is humidity, so increasing watering will help remove the spiderweb layers and gradually eradicate the pest.

Remember that you must keep your succulent away from others, as the red mite is a very easily spread pest, even through the air.

In addition to proper watering, using diatomaceous earth and potassium soap with Neem oil will help eliminate this pest completely. I'll explain how to use these products below.

Snails and slugs

Snails are one of the most destructive pests as they can quickly attack all the leaves of your succulent if not stopped in time.

They usually appear with rain or in high humidity conditions and commonly attack the tenderest shoots of your succulent.

How to detect snails and slugs?

It is easy to detect them in their adult stage due to their similarity to common snails with a shell or small slugs moving slowly among the leaves of your succulent.

To see this pest in action, check the plant at night or very early in the morning as they hide during the day.

You can also detect them by their eggs, which are very similar to tapioca pearls but translucent. They usually place them in the substrate, leaving holes in their wake that are also easy to detect.

Snails and slugs as a type of succulent pest
Photo by @nosvamosalhuerto

How to eliminate the snail and slug pest?

A very effective homemade remedy is to use coffee grounds, sprinkled over the succulent and the substrate. This will discourage snails as they cannot tolerate the acidity and taste of coffee.

Another way is to place beer in a small lid and put it on the substrate so that snails come to drink it. They will be very attracted by the smell of beer but will die shortly after drinking it.

Treatments and remedies to get rid of pests on succulents

As you could see, there are several ways to get rid of succulent pests, both organically and through certain chemicals. We will see in detail each of these options so that you know how to use them correctly to eradicate pests from your succulent.

Potassium soap and Neem oil

Neem oil is a bio-insecticide extracted from the Neem tree, native to India, which is very effective against many pests. When sprayed on your succulent, the oil adheres to the leaves and is absorbed by the sap.

Then, when pests like mealybug or aphids feed on the sap, it contains the Neem oil that kills them as if it were a kind of poison.

To use Neem oil, a mixture with potassium soap must be made. For every liter of water with potassium soap, you should dilute 5 milliliters of Neem oil. Once the mixture is ready, transfer it to a spray bottle to apply it correctly.

Ethyl alcohol

Alcohol helps to eliminate and prevent succulent pests. It is very important that it be denatured or isopropyl 70% alcohol so that it eliminates the pest but does not harm your succulent.

Any concentration greater than 70% can be aggressive to your succulent and damage it.

To apply it you will need a sprayer that will help you to spray all parts of your succulent. Once it dries, you can remove the remains of the pest with a brush or cotton swab, do it carefully so as not to remove the hoarfrost from its leaves.

Preferably, apply this remedy at night or when the sun is not too intense, this will prevent possible burns on the leaves of your succulent due to the combination of intense sun and alcohol.

Try to repeat the process for 1 or 2 more days, if necessary, until you see no trace of the pest. Also, do not expose your succulent to direct sun during these days, wait until the pest has been removed completely and you no longer need to apply alcohol.

Note: Before applying alcohol to your entire succulent, try testing it on 1 or 2 leaves to see how they react. There are some species that do not tolerate alcohol and could be severely damaged or even die.

Diatomaceous earth

They are fossilized white powder microalgae that serve as a natural insecticide. It allows you to control pests and at the same time serves as a nutrient for your succulent. It is not toxic to humans or animals.

Diatomaceous earth is composed of small silica microcrystals that damage the dermis of the pest. It can be used as a preventive method to prevent the arrival of pests or eliminate them when they are already on the plant.

It can be used in liquid form during watering or in powder form by sprinkling on the substrate and the succulent. In the case of watering, you must add a tablespoon of diatomaceous earth per liter of water.

If you use it in powder form, you only need to sprinkle it on the substrate as a form of protection and on the entire plant if the pest is already present. As a fact, you can use a sock to sprinkle the diatomaceous earth without wasting it and apply it evenly.

Most frequent succulent pests (Comparison table)

PestHow to detect it?Why does it appear?Ways to eliminate it
Cottony MealybugSmall yellow, black, or green dots.Ants on the plant.  High humidity in the environment.Ethyl alcohol and potassium soap.
AphidSmall white cotton-like dots.Ants on the plant.  They attack during the flowering stage of the succulent.Ethyl alcohol, potassium soap, and ladybugs.
Red miteRed and yellow spots.Small spider webs hanging.  Due to excessive heat and drought.Diatomaceous soil and potassium soap with neem oil.
NematodesRoots with potato-shaped bumps.The plant has not been growing for some time.Due to excessive watering, high heat in the environment, and sandy substrate.  Remove the plant to cut its root (decapitation).  
Snails and slugsSmall shells with a casing.Bitten leaves.Due to excessive humidity or watering and constant rain.Using organic methods such as beer or coffee.

Tips to prevent succulent pests

Here are some tips that will help you avoid future pests on your succulent:

  • Keep the pots clean by removing dead leaves and debris.
  • Avoid water accumulation on the leaves, use a bulb or blower to spread any accumulated water droplets on the leaves.
  • Check every new succulent for pests before placing it near others.
  • Check both sides of your succulent leaves during each watering.

Pests can appear for several reasons such as lack of nutrients, excess moisture, warm environment, or may come with pests from the nursery where you bought it.

That's why it's very important when buying a new succulent, not to place it near others for at least a week and after checking that it doesn't have any pests.

Remember that you can eliminate and prevent future pests by using household products such as alcohol, coffee, or beer.

You can also use chemical products such as Neem oil, diatomaceous earth, or potassium soap. Just be careful when using them as these products attack both pests and the good insects that help control pests, such as ladybugs.

I hope this article has been useful for you to know the most common succulent pests and in case your succulents are attacked by any, you have several effective methods to get rid of them. If you liked this article, don't forget to share it on your social networks and let us know in the comments how it went with the pests on your succulents.

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Yizet Castañeda

I am passionate about travel, decoration and plants. In this blog I share everything I experience and learn about succulents. I hope it will help especially those who are just starting in this world.

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