African violets are popular houseplants that produce lovely purple flowers. This plant thrives in indoor lighting and adds a splash of color to any home or office. African violets are susceptible to insect infestations that can adversely affect their appearance. Mealybugs, aphids and spider mites are all pests of the African violet.
Mealybugs are small insects that have a white coating of wax on their backs. This is a soft-bodied bug that hatches from an egg, which is placed on the plant by females. Upon hatching, these crawlers feed on host plants until they mature in two months. Mealybugs often infest different areas on host plants. African violets are prone to infestations of mealybugs that primarily attack the roots of the plant. Aphids are tiny bugs that can be white, pink, yellow or green. This pest reproduces rapidly and infestations can reach epidemic proportions in just a few weeks. Spider mites are another common pest of African violets. This bug is a member of the spider family and has eight legs. Spider mites often place fine silk webs on the leaves and flowers of host plants.
Mealybugs, aphids and spider mites all feed on African violets in the same way. These pests use their piercing mouthparts to feed on the leaves of the plant, which causes leaf yellowing, speckled leaves and distorted flowers. These insects also excrete a substance known as honeydew, which causes sooty mold to develop on the plant. Sooty mold is a coating of black, velvety fungus that develops on the leaves and flowers of insect-infested plants. While sooty mold is not dangerous to the health of African violets, it is an unsightly and messy condition.
African violets with light infestations of insects may benefit from cultural control methods. Syringing is the process of spraying your plant with a forceful stream of water to knock insects from the plant. Repeating this process twice each week will help remove damaging pests. Mealybugs, aphids and spider mites can also be removed by rubbing a cotton swab soaked in alcohol on the leaves of the infested plant.
Horticultural oils are available at your garden center for insect control. These products work by covering the air holes of bugs, causing them to suffocate. Horticultural oils also help loosen sooty mold and make it easier to remove. Miticides are available for the removal of spider mites. Be sure to follow the directions on the label for safe use.