Getting rid of orchid bugs in the soil can be challenging, even for an experienced gardener like myself.
Once you’ve determined which species of insect is the culprit, you can choose between natural and chemical solutions to the problem.
Getting Rid of Orchid Bugs in Soil
Insecticidal soap is the most effective way to get rid of mealybugs and scale insects. However, avoid overusing the soap, as this could harm your orchid. Aphid infestations can be effectively treated with natural solutions like organic chili sprays.
Types of Orchid Bugs
Mealybugs are one of the most common and destructive types of bugs that regularly infest orchids. They are very difficult to get rid of, probably more so than any pest except for scale bugs.
Mealybugs are most often found below-ground on the roots of the orchid, though they may also be found on the pseudobulbs or the leaves of the plant.
There are several common solutions to a mealybug infestation.
Perhaps the most well-known is spraying the bugs with rubbing alcohol. This will kill them almost instantly, and the bugs may even spread the rubbing alcohol to other bugs that did not get sprayed.
However, I don’t like to use rubbing alcohol because using too much can damage the orchid.
Instead, I prefer to use insecticidal soap to get rid of mealybugs that are infesting one of my orchids.
There are many insecticidal soaps available in stores, though I prefer to make my own by putting one and one-half teaspoons of dish soap in a quart of water.
Make sure that the dish soap you use does not contain bleach. When you have mixed together the soap and the water, you can simply spray it on the mealybug-infested parts of your orchid.
Scale bugs are trickier to get rid of than their mealybug counterparts. Even experienced orchid growers will occasionally lose a plant to a scale bug infestation if they aren’t careful.
You can spot a scale bug infestation by inspecting your orchid for small oval bugs with yellow or brown shells.
Scale bugs are often found on the leaves and petals of orchids, but they can sometimes be found on the plant’s roots.
Scale bugs can be effectively treated with the same insecticidal soap that is used for mealybugs. You should use the exact same solution and spray it on the bugs in the same way.
It may not be quite as effective at getting rid of scale bugs, but repeated applications should get rid of the infestation.
There are commercial insecticides designed to kill scale bugs. However, I don’t recommend using these because they are often toxic to the plant, humans, and pets.
Even insecticides that claim to be safe for use on orchids can be harmful.
Aphids are a very common problem for orchid growers. Thankfully, they are much easier to get rid of than mealybugs or scale.
You can often find aphids on the leaves’ underside and on flower bulbs.
Some gardeners like to wash aphids off their orchids. However, this can drown the plant. Also, a powerful stream of water could damage the plant.
I prefer to use a homemade organic spray made from a half-cup of ground-up red chili peppers, two cups of water, and one tablespoon of dish soap. This spray may also be effective against mealybugs.
Preventing an Orchid Bug Infestation
It’s certainly easier said than done, but prevention is the best treatment for orchid bugs. One of the best ways to prevent a recurrence of an infestation is to change up your treatment methods.
You may want to try a preventative spray with a chemical insecticide if your orchids continue to get re-infested. However, make sure to only use an insecticide that is safe for ornamentals.
The fragility of orchids may lead you to attempt to use less than the minimum recommended amount of insecticide. However, this is likely to be ineffective, especially against scale bugs.
Frequently Asked Questions about Getting Rid of Orchid Bugs in Soil
Will insecticides endanger my orchid?
As previously mentioned, chemical and even natural insecticides can endanger your orchid if you use too large of an amount or if you use the insecticides too often. Don’t go over the recommended maximum amount, and try not to treat your orchid more than once a week.
Can orchid bugs spread across plants?
Unfortunately, it certainly is possible for all of the types of orchid bugs covered in this article to spread to multiple plants. You should isolate an orchid as soon as you know it is infested. A minor aphid infestation is the only exception, as it is only a mild concern if you deal with it promptly.
Is re-potting an effective treatment for an infested orchid?
Many gardeners, even orchid experts, will recommend re-potting infested orchids. This can be effective if you have experience growing orchids. However, I don’t recommend that gardeners who are new to orchids do this because they may damage their plants.
Orchid Bugs are a Constant Foil for Gardeners
Orchid bugs are a constant thorn in the side of gardeners who love these beautiful plants. There’s still a chance that your orchid may become infested no matter what precautionary measures you place.
However, if you catch the infestation early enough and treat it with the methods listed in this article, your orchid will probably be fine.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.