Infestations on your cherished Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera) are a nightmare, and if you suspect you have them, you should act quickly to eliminate the bugs. Even if you’re nervous at first, try to be cool since there’s always a solution! This post will walk you through the many sorts of Christmas cactus bugs and how to get rid of them permanently.
We’ll go through a few different types of typical Christmas cactus pests, as well as their causes and cures. First and foremost, you should be familiar with the names of the four most prevalent varieties of bugs that may be found rooted in your houseplants:
Each pest has its own features, necessitating a unique treatment. We’ll go over chemical and natural therapies, as well as tell-tale indications to help you figure out which of these pesky bugs you have!
Help! I’m infested by Christmas Cactus Bugs.
A Christmas cactus is a lovely variety of cactus, and you’ll want it to bloom well in time for the holidays. You may also discover how to resuscitate a Christmas cactus if you’ve been neglectful with your plant.
The houseplant blooms in lovely colors of pinks and reds and may be cultivated both outdoors (reliable through USDA hardiness zones 9 through 11) and inside (all zones). However, you do not want an infestation of pests to occur as a result of this. What are the most frequent Christmas cactus bug species?
‘What are Mealybugs?’ says the narrator. I understand what you’re asking. They are, after all, one of the most prevalent pests that attack succulents and cacti. Mealybugs are small insects that feed on the sap from the leaves and develop as a result! Mealybugs have a white cotton appearance that is the most frequent and noticeable, although they can also be brown or cream-colored.
The frustrating thing about Mealybugs is that, because of their cottony look, you might not realize they’re a problem at all and mistake them for mildew or fungus. Mealybugs, on the other hand, are like the plague! They spread like wildfire from houseplant to houseplant, so once you detect them, you’ll want to get rid of them as soon as possible. If left untreated, they will ultimately harm the roots’ ability to function, perhaps leading to root rot.
Mealybugs prefer to hide in all the nooks and crannies, especially where the leaves meet the stem and under the leaves, so you might not even notice they’re there for a long. To make sure you don’t have an infestation, you should examine your cactus collection on a regular basis.
Mealybugs are caused by a variety of factors
No one knows for sure what causes Mealybugs on a Christmas cactus, although overwatering and over-fertilizing are known to be factors, and they prefer to appear on indoor plants owing to the lower temperature.
If Mealybugs aren’t handled, they’ll impede your plant’s development, leaving you wondering why your Christmas cactus isn’t flowering. Of course, we don’t want that!
Getting Rid of Mealybugs
There are a variety of insecticides that can help you get rid of your infestation, but a 70% or less solution of isopropyl alcohol is one of the most effective (rubbing alcohol). Follow the directions carefully. However, if you dilute the alcohol in water to avoid leaf burn (Phytotoxicity) and dab/spray your Christmas cactus with a cotton pad or spray bottle, it typically works!
Before you treat your Christmas cactus, make sure it’s away from your other indoor plants, as you don’t want any of the alcohol mix to end up on other perfectly healthy succulents and cactuses. You must also remember to check all of the ‘hard to find locations. When you squirt rubbing alcohol straight over the cottony, web-like material, it will almost instantly vanish.
In general, if you catch your Mealybug infestation early enough, one treatment should be enough. If you don’t, the bugs will return in a day or two. Continue to treat the Mealybugs until they are no longer present.
If you want a natural treatment, mix some dish soap with water and spritz it on your Christmas cactus, but rubbing alcohol is the fastest and most convenient option.
Spider Mites are the next most prevalent Christmas cactus bug. These pesky little pests are ubiquitous in North America and may wreak havoc on your houseplants. They are arachnids, which are related to spiders, ticks, and scorpions.
Spider mites are small reddish/brown bugs with a reddish/brown hue. Spider Mites are similar to Mealybugs in that you may not even realize you have them. They live in colonies, and you can mistake them for dirt or dust at first.
The pesky bugs like to reside behind the leaves, draining the fluids from your Christmas cactus plant. Your cactus’ leaves will develop a yellowish tint as they continue to eat, eventually dropping off and dying. Spider Mites will continue to proliferate and finally destroy your Christmas cactus if you ignore them.
What are the causes of Spider Mites?
Spider mites, like succulents and Christmas cactus, thrive in hot, dry environments. Spider Mites are a frequent Christmas cactus pest and are not an uncommon concern because the two kinds flourish in comparable environments.
To be sure you don’t have an outbreak of colonies on your hand, keep an eye out for Spider Mites and their brown webs. Your plant will ultimately die due to a lack of nutrients if left untreated.
Spider Mite Treatment
Unfortunately, if you have a Spider Mite infestation, you’re in for the long haul. The bugs are tenacious, and getting rid of them for good will require a lot of effort. The most frequent remedy for Spider Mites on a Christmas cactus is neem oil, however, the method can be inconvenient and unpleasant. Because the pests like to live in hard-to-reach areas (such as behind the leaves), you must apply the oil thoroughly.
In an ideal world, you’ll place a plastic covering around the dirt and turn the plant upside down. You may spray neem oil directly under the leaves and on the Spider Mites in this manner. This should be reapplied every 2-3 days until the infestation has vanished.
If you’re having trouble with neem oil, pesticide soap is another option. It’s gentle enough not to hurt the plant yet powerful enough to eliminate Spider Mites and their eggs. Make sure you purchase genuine soap since a lot of hand and dish soap contains detergent, which is bad for the plant. This is done in the same way as neem oil – simply mix a few drops with water and spray over your plant. This is a weaker alternative that will not perform as well as neem oil.
Another Christmas cactus bug that can quickly drain the juices is scale. Scale is a large category that includes Mealybugs, but we’ll focus on the hard and armored scale that comes to mind when you hear the name.
Hard Scales are oval-shaped organisms that are rather tiny. They are primarily brown and dark in color. If your Christmas cactus has scale, it will appear to be submerged. This is due to the Scale’s straw-like mouth, which is inserted into the plant to suck out the plant’s nutritious liquids.
When you have Scale, the waxy exterior covering is the first thing you’ll notice. This is often seen beneath the leaves and around the stems.
What are the causes of Scale?
Because there are over 25 different species of Scale, pinpointing the specific cause might be difficult. Overwatering and fertilization, as well as temperature, are typical causes. However, keep an eye out for honeydew, which is excreted by some Scale species.
You should also keep an eye out for white waxy fibers on your plant, as these are their eggs, which are normally laid in the early summer.
Scale Insect Treatment
Unfortunately, because the thick waxy shell Scale must protect itself from predators, they are difficult to eradicate. These pesky Christmas cactus bugs will require more than one treatment; in fact, they will require treatment every few days for a few weeks!
You may always remove Scale insects by hand if you want a natural cure. Although it seems laborious, and we wouldn’t recommend it for any other insect, Scale doesn’t move, is rather easy to observe, and is straightforward to remove from your Christmas cactus. Scale bugs seldom infest huge colonies, so you won’t have to physically remove hundreds of them. You may scrape the bugs away with your fingernail or a knife.
If physical removal isn’t your thing, isopropyl (rubbing alcohol) and neem oil can do the trick. You can learn how to treat pests with neem oil by scrolling up to Spider Mites, and you can learn how to treat pests with isopropyl by scrolling down to Mealybugs.
Fungus gnats are the last frequent Christmas cactus bug to be discussed. When your Christmas cactus becomes too moist, these little organisms feed on fungus. This is an uncommon occurrence in its natural environment, but overwatering will cause it.
Fungus gnats, on the other hand, prefer moist soil! It’s what they live on, so if you don’t have well-draining soil or don’t let the soil completely dry between waterings, you’ll be providing a perfect breeding environment for bugs. More information on the ideal soil for Christmas cactus may be found here.
If you have fungus gnats on your Christmas cactus, make sure to let the soil dry up before watering, as this will destroy any larvae in the soil. Set up a trap to get rid of the gnats that are buzzing about your plant. Simply combine some apple cider vinegar and dish soap in a cup, cover it with plastic, and poke holes in the top. The vinegar’s delicious scent will entice them in, while the dish soap will prevent them from fleeing.
We’ve gone over the four most frequent varieties of Christmas cactus bugs you’ll encounter on your houseplant in this article. We hope you’ve learnt something new and are now ready to finally get rid of those bugs!