Help! My Christmas cactus has bugs! Christmas cactus is a relatively low-maintenance, pest-resistant plant, but it can fall victim to a number of harmful pests. If you notice tiny bugs in Christmas cactus, take heart. Most pests of Christmas cactus are easily eliminated. Water and fertilize as necessary, and keep in mind that healthy plants are more resistant to Christmas cactus insects. Read on to learn more about bugs in Christmas cactus.
Treating Christmas Cactus Insects
Here are some common pests of Christmas cactus and how to deal with them:
Spider Mites – These Christmas cactus pests are so tiny; they are difficult to see with the naked eye. However, is you see fine webbing or fine speckles on the leaves, you can bet your Christmas cactus is infested with spider mites. Spider mites are usually easy to resolve with regular application of insecticidal soap spray. Keep the leaves clean, as mites are attracted by dusty conditions.
Mealybugs – Mealybugs are an annoying pest, common on indoor plants. Although the tiny bugs on Christmas cactus are tiny, they are easy to spot by the protective cottony masses, which are usually seen at the joints of leaves and stems, or on the undersides of leaves. The bugs, which suck the sap from the leaves, grow larger as they mature. If left untreated, they leave a sticky substance that attracts mold.
To remove mealybugs, pick them off with a toothpick or soft toothbrush. You can also use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol but be careful; too much rubbing alcohol may damage the leaves. If all else fails, you may want to try a systemic insecticide formulated for indoor plants.
Scale – These Christmas cactus insects can suck the sweet juices and decimate a plant in a hurry. Scale is recognized by the waxy outer covering, usually on the undersides of leaves and stems. In its early stages, you can simply scrape the waxy substance from the leaves. Insecticidal soap is also effective. In case of large infestations, systemic insecticides may be the best solution.
Fungus gnats – Tiny, flying pests, fungus gnats are usually more annoying than harmful, although large infestations can cause loss of leaves and an overall unhealthy appearance. Try insecticidal soap spray first, as this may be enough to keep fungus gnats in check. You may need to repot the plant in a clean pot filled with fresh, well-drained potting mix, then be careful not to overwater, as gnats are attracted to soggy soil.