Cactus is known for its prickly, sharp thorns. Like most plants, your cactus should thrive with proper care, particularly if you live in a warmer climate.
Despite their beauty, though, cacti are not immune to pests. We have put together several easy ways to keep pests away from your cactus.
For most plant mommies and daddies, their plants are no less than their babies. Among all these plants, succulents are probably the most resilient ones, especially since they aren’t bothered by most common pests, but if a pest can attack a cactus, it is probably quite a resilient bug.
Therefore you want to make sure that you take extra care of your plants to prevent attacks from pests.
Before we look at how to get rid of pests, we need to figure out what kinds of bugs and pests attack succulents:
What Kinds Of Pests Attack Cacti?
Before we move on to preventing and removing pests from succulents, it is important to be aware of the different types of pests that attack cacti and how you should get rid of them.
Mealybug infestations are among the most challenging ones in a cactus. Large numbers of these bugs attack a cactus at one time, and they can quickly make the plant rot if not treated immediately.
They leave behind a wooly webbing so you can tell if your cactus has a mealybug infestation. Mealybugs attack the roots or stems of the cactus, so you often have to uproot the plant and gently get rid of the bugs with a toothbrush.
You can also repeatedly use rubbing alcohol with dish soap on the cactus for a few weeks to get rid of the bugs.
Red Spider Mites
Red spider mites are very small, almost microscopic insects that can easily hide on the cactus leaves.
They can also cause stunted growth of the succulent and scarring on the stem. Sometimes, people catch spider mites when it is too late, and they have already begun damaging the cactus.
To get rid of spider mites, you can use rubbing alcohol mixed with vinegar and dish soap. Even essential oils work for removing spider mites.
Wooly aphids suck nutrients from your succulents, and unless they are treated immediately, they can kill the cactus.
They leave behind a sticky, waxy covering with a wooly texture. It is similar to the webbing left behind by mealybugs, making the bug difficult to identify.
Using dish soap with vinegar, neem oil, and pesticides can help curb the wooly aphid infestation.
Ants are often attracted to succulents, but most don’t cause any damage on their own.
However, ants can attract other pests to the plant, which can then cause destruction. Rubbing alcohol and dish soap, and pesticides can help get rid of ants on the cactus.
Slugs can also feed on the leaves of succulents since they are easy to digest. Slugs mainly attack cacti that are spineless because of their delicate exterior.
Slugs can rapidly reproduce and destroy your cactus, so you will want to remove them immediately. Planting cacti with companion plants that are spiky can help prevent and remove slugs.
If your cactus is an outdoor plant, it might get attacked by rodents. You can see rodent droppings around the plant and maybe bits of the plant missing if a rodent attacks it.
To get rid of them, you can put rat poison and traps around the plant to effectively eliminate your rodent problem.
Fungus Gnats Larvae
Fungus gnats may lay eggs in the soil of your cactus, which can turn into larvae and suck the nutrition from the soil.
Adult fungus gnats are mostly harmless to the plant, though. To get rid of fungus gnats and their larvae, you can dry the cactus soil for a while, use pesticides, or use sticky traps.
Woodlice are common pests but mainly attack sick or aged plants. To get rid of woodlice, you can use pesticides, dish soap, or a hollow potato on the soil of the cactus.
Root lice can feed on the nutrients from the roots, causing stunted growth of the succulent. If root lice are not treated, the plant may die as well.
To get rid of root lice, you should use rubbing alcohol with dish soap or insecticides.
What Is The White Stuff On Cacti And How Do We Get Rid Of It?
If there is white, cotton-like stuff on your cactus, it is likely to be left behind by cochineal scale insects.
These bugs produce this substance as protection from predators. Insecticides do not work effectively on a cochineal scale, so you should use a pressurized hose or spray to remove the substance. If you let the substance grow on the cactus, it can kill the plant in no time.
Mealybugs or wooly aphids can also leave behind white webbing on cacti. A water spray will help get rid of the substance while rubbing alcohol can also kill the insects causing it.
Sometimes, the cactus’s fluff is also naturally produced by the cactus itself and is quite harmless.
How To Remove Cactus Pests?
Once little bugs have invaded your cactus, it can be quite a pain to get rid of them. Therefore, you need to deploy some methods and take out everything you have to kill the pesky little bugs without harming the plant.
Here are some of the most common ways to kill the pests that can attack a cactus:
Vinegar is a very effective natural pesticide and can eliminate nearly any pest on your cactus. However, since vinegar is strong, it can create a pH imbalance on the cactus and kill it if you don’t use it carefully.
Please do not use a vinegar spray on the soil of the cactus to prevent the roots from absorbing it. Instead, limit its use on the pads, stems, leaves, and other plant surfaces.
Also, try to dilute the vinegar spray with water, so it is not as concentrated and becomes harmless to the plant when you do use it.
Vinegar is also highly effective as a spot treatment. So if you see a particularly disturbing spot on the cactus, you should rub a bit of diluted vinegar on it for a few days.
For bugs that do not attack the cactus in large numbers and are easily visible, you can use a pair of tweezers. Use these tweezers to pick the bugs off one by one.
You can also uproot the plant if it is a root infestation and pick the pests out. This is a great way to prevent worsening infestations and prevent a fully formed attack on the cactus.
Sticky traps can be used to catch insects that can fly. These include gnats and other flies which hover above the plant.
A sticky trap is a piece of paper that glues the insect to it once it lands on it. These traps are great to prevent pests from getting out of hand, and you can also deploy other methods to kill the insects.
The pressure from a garden hose can remove the bugs from the cactus and also kill them in many conditions. Do not use a lot of water pressure since it can damage the cactus.
Pruning is important for the healthy growth of plants, and it can help get rid of bug infestations. Pruning a pad or part of the stem from a cactus that is either covered by white substances from insects or visibly has bugs attached to it can prevent that cactus from rotting.
The plant can focus its energy on keeping itself healthy instead of fighting off the bugs.
You have to be careful not to over-prune your cactus, but it is one of the most effective ways to get rid of destructive pests.
Diluted rubbing alcohol can also work wonders for pest infestations on the plant. You can use rubbing alcohol as a spot treatment by simply applying it through a cotton swab over an area where you can see a lot of pests.
You can continue this practice over a few days before the bugs begin to die off.
Rubbing alcohol is also effective for clearing away the waxy substance on cactus leaves and white webbing left behind by mealy bugs.
Using rubbing alcohol to clear these spots can also kill any small insects hiding beneath these areas.
Soap water is one of the mildest insecticides for your cactus. To kill the bugs, you must add a few drops of dish soap to water and spray it on the cactus.
To make it more effective, you can add some rubbing alcohol or a few drops of vinegar to the spray as well.
Soap has natural insecticidal properties, making it a very effective agent for killing pests without harming the plant itself.
Many pests attack plants that are living in suboptimal conditions. Once you start taking better care of your plant, you will notice that most of the pests will begin to die off on their own.
How To Keep The Pests off The Cactus?
All good cactus parents must know how to keep pests and bugs away from their plants. Succulents are very resilient plants, and if you take good care of them, there is a very minimal chance that they will be attacked by anything significant. Here are some of the ways you can keep the pests off a cactus:
Quarantine The Plant
When you first bring a new plant to your house, you should take care not to expose it to the other plants in your greenhouse or yard.
This is because new plants can often harbor bugs that will spread to other plants as well. If, after a few weeks, the plant doesn’t show any signs of infestation, you can keep it with the others without hesitation.
Do Not Overwater The Plant
As we all know, succulents don’t need a lot of water to grow and survive. So it is easy to overwater them. When a cactus is overwatered, it can decay and lose its integrity, making it susceptible to attacks by pests.
Don’t Under Water The Plant
Even though succulents don’t need a lot of water, they might dry up in hot weather and need more water than usual.
If they don’t receive water in very hot conditions, the plants may begin to rot soon. So keep checking your plant’s health consistently to see if they need to be watered.
Maintain The Garden
It is easy for pests to go from one plant to another, so you should take good care of all the plants in your yard and prevent infestations.
If you have a well-maintained garden, you can easily pick out when bugs have attacked a plant.
Fertilize Only As Necessary
Succulents have different fertilization needs than other plants as well. Don’t use a fertilizer with high organic content and only fertilize the soil of the cactus when it seems necessary.
High organic content in manure will leave the soil of the cactus moist for a long time, which can endanger its integrity.
Use Companion Plants
Companion plants help keep bugs away from one plant by attracting them to another or pairing them up with a plant the pest hates.
For example, smooth and spineless cacti are attractive to slugs, but pairing them with spiky succulents can keep them away.
But keep in mind to space out all the plants in your garden to prevent infestations of one plant seeping into another.
To care for a cactus, you need to keep an eye out for any unusual changes on the plant. If you take care of the cactus and give it a weekly check to see that everything is fine, you can pick up on any discrepancies as soon as they occur.
Other than that, you can also make it a point to quickly get rid of any pests that you take note of immediately.
Collecting succulents is a wonderful hobby and since they are more resilient than other plants, taking care of them is less precarious.
If you practice enough care methods and give the plant the attention they deserve, you will notice that it will thrive soon enough.
In summary, How to Keep Pests Away from Cactus is a very useful guide for homeowners who want to keep pests away.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What does fungus look like on cactus?
Do succulents attract bugs?
Insects rarely visit succulents. This is because succulents are part of the plant kingdom, which is toxic to most creatures. The only insects that visit succulents are ones that feed on the sap and stems.