Most Common Bromeliad Pests and How to Fight Them
Author: Celeste Booth10 Comments
The good news is that bromeliads have relatively few problems with pests. Growing bromeliads indoors typically means that your bromeliads are protected from the pests more commonly found in their range. Landscape bromeliads face a few more pest problems, but are still easily managed.
Here are a few tips for pest prevention as well as some of the most common pests that can infest your bromeliads and how to get rid of them.
When adding a new bromeliad or any other purchased plant to your indoor collection, keep it quarantined for at least three weeks before exposing it to other indoor plants. This will allow any pests that may have traveled on your plant as eggs to reach a size that will be visible. Check the plant regularly during those three weeks and look carefully at the leaf axils, undersides of leaves and where the plant meets the soil to be sure there are no pests. At the end of those three weeks your plant is safe to introduce into your collection.
Maintaining a healthy plant with proper humidity will also prevent your plant from being susceptible to a major infestation.
Use insecticides as little as possible on outdoor landscape plants. While the insecticide may help eliminate the pest for a time, it can also harm natural predator populations. This will lead to more devastating infestations in the future.
Aphids are small bugs that can be green, yellow or red. They feed on roots or leaves of plants, sucking the important sugary syrup from the plants. Often aphids won’t cause major damage to a plant, but your plant will struggle if there is a major infestation that goes unchecked.
Aphids are very susceptible to many natural predators such as lady beetles and lacewing larvae. When present, these natural predators will keep any infestations in check.
If you have a plant that is severely infested, while other bromeliads in your collection remain healthy, remove the infested plant and dispose of it to prevent the spread of aphids to other plants. Spraying the plant well with a stream of water will easily knock off aphids, but you will probably have to repeat this method of control regularly.
Rice Root aphids are the most common aphids found on landscape bromeliads in Florida. They are difficult to see because they often feed on the roots of a bromeliad. These aphids can be treated with insecticide. Be sure to get instructions from a professional grower before applying insecticide to your plant.
Thrips are tiny bugs with narrow bodies. Many types of thrips have wings. They can be hard to spot because most adults are no bigger than an eighth of an inch. They are often only detectable by their damage.
Thrips can be seen when a leaf is shaken over a white piece of paper. A heavily infested plant might also produce a small cloud of thrips when disturbed. Thrip damage will include deformed leaves and blotches on flowers. Like aphids, thrips feed on the soft tissues of the plant. They also lay eggs in the leaf tissues of the plant.
Thrips reproduce quickly, so it is important that they are quickly controlled. Thrips have been known to produce 8 generations annually. Thrips can be treated with insecticidal soap. Once the plant has been thoroughly coated rinse the plant well to prevent it from suffocating. Be sure to repeat treatments weekly for at least two weeks to make sure the thrips in all developmental stages are removed.
Mites cause similar damage as aphids and thrips. They are related to spiders and puncture leaf surfaces to suck out the sugary juices of the plant. Spider mites are the most common on bromeliads. Mites can reach maturity in 7-10 days from hatching and multiply rapidly. Mites can be detected by a fine webbing on the undersides of leaves. Applications of insecticidal soap can help eliminate mite populations.
Snails and Slugs
Snails and slugs can feed on outdoor landscape bromeliads.They feed on leaves and flowers and leave behind large holes or chewed edges of plants. They also leave slimy trails on the plants. Slugs are active at night. If you suspect them as a culprit, check your plants after dark.
Slugs like to hide under things in dark places during the day. To cut back on the presence of slugs keep your landscape area free of debris and items such as boards or logs that lay on the ground.
It is best to remove slugs by hand. You can also set a slightly elevated board near the infested plants during the night. Once the sun is up in the morning you can remove the board and all of the slugs that have taken shelter there. Baits and traps are also available, but chemicals should be used as a last resort.
Mealybugs are one of the most common bromeliad pests. They are a soft bodied insect that develop in masses. Their waxy coating and waxy egg sacks give their infestations a cottony appearance. Mealybugs cause damage to leaves and flower parts by sucking out the sugary juices from the plant. Mealybugs can also hide in the roots. If your plant experiences a sudden unexplainable decline in health, lift it up a bit and check for cottony masses in the roots. To avoid root mealybug infestations don’t let water from one pot run into another and always use clean potting medium and containers.
Mealybugs can be removed by swabbing with rubbing alcohol. For more in depth information regarding mealybug life cycles and management see this post.
Scale is also a significant pest found on bromeliads. It can be found both on indoor and outdoor plants. Most often it appears as small brown ovals or dots on the leaves. The ovals are the hard shield around the adult scale. Scale can be managed by removing the adult by hand or with a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol. Wash the plant thoroughly after removing adult scale to ensure that any eggs are also removed. Insecticidal soaps can also be used to manage scale, but it must be applied several times every three to seven days.
Weevils are a common pest of outdoor bromeliads. Adults lay eggs in the leaf tissues. When hatched the larvae mine the tissue deep into the base of the plant. Adults also feed on leaf tissues. Weevils can cause significant damage and can be difficult to control. Sevin dust can work on some bromeliad weevils, but is not proven effective on the Mexican Bromeliad Weevil. To prevent infestations remove the damaged plants from your collection. Read this post for more about the devastating Mexican Bromeliad Weevil.
Maintaining Healthy Plants
In general, healthy plants will withstand minor attacks from common pests. Bromeliad pest problems are rare and careful, regular inspection will turn up any problems before they are out of control. Most often hand removal and quarantining infested plants should prevent any major damage. As a last resort you can use chemical insecticides. However, bromeliads can be very sensitive so always test a small portion first and use only as directed.
Garofalo, J.F. “Snail and Slug Management in South Florida.” University of Florida Extension. <http://miami-dade.ifas.ufl.edu/old/programs/commorn/publications/Snail-Slug-Factsheet.PDF>
Larson, Barbara. “Insect and Related Pests of Bromeliads.” Entomology and Nematology Department University of Florida. <http://www.fcbs.org/articles/BromeliadPests/BromeliadPests.htm>
VanZille, Jon. “Thrips-Managing Thrips on Houseplants and Greenhouses.” About.com Houseplants. <http://houseplants.about.com/od/pests/a/Thrips-Managing-Thrips-On-Houseplants-And-Greenhouses.htm>
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