African violets are flowering plants that make ideal houseplants. These plants produce lovely flowers in a variety of purple shades and glossy, green foliage. African violets are susceptible to infestation from a variety of insects such as spider mites and mealybugs, which damage African violets by feeding on them.
African violets are often infested with nuisance pests. These insects are not harmful to the health of the plant but can become bothersome to homeowners. Perhaps one of the most common nuisance pests of indoor plants such as the African violet is the fungus gnat. Fungus gnats live in the potting soil of houseplants, feeding on the rich soil matter. These gnats do not bite humans but can swarm if your plant is bumped or moved. Seeing flying insects in windows near your African violets is an indication that you have fungus gnats because these pests are attracted to light.
African violets infested with insects that feed on the plant by piercing it with its mouthparts often have tell-tale injuries on plant leaves. African violets infested with piercing or sucking insects often have stippled leaves, stunting of leaves, leaf distortion, spots of dead tissue in leaves and overall plant wilting. These insects excrete a sticky substance known as honeydew, which causes a foliage disease known as sooty mold to develop. Sooty mold is a black coating of fungus that resembles chimney soot.
Insects that damage African violets by chewing on them often cause immediate symptoms to occur. Homeowners often notice holes in the leaves or flower petals, which is a result of a chewing insect feeding. Flower buds may be completely severed from the plant and the leaves and petals often develop discoloration. Eventually, the root system of the plant is damaged, resulting in the overall wilting of the plant. Heavy infestations of these types of insects can kill African violets if they are not brought under control.
Identifying the type of insects damaging your African violet is the first step in controlling them. Fungus gnat infestations are often controlled by re-potting the plant using sterile potting soil. Severe fungus gnat infestations may require the plant to be discarded if control efforts are not successful. If your African violet has sooty mold as a resulting of sucking or piercing pests, you can keep them under control by spraying your plant down with a hard stream of water twice each week. This knocks insects from the plant and washes away sooty mold. African violets with symptoms of chewing pests may require chemical control methods to avoid severe plant injury. Apply insecticides thoroughly, concentrating on the undersides of leaves where insects congregate. Reapply insecticides on a regular basis for continued control.