Root Worm On Houseplants, How To Get Rid Of It

Scientists have found more than 100 species of rootworms in recent years. They belong to the genus Rhizoecus and to the family Pseudococcidae. Root worms are close relatives of mealybugs. However, their essential difference is their size: the length of an adult does not exceed 1.5-2.

5 millimeters. Therefore, they cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Peculiarities of the rootworm

Root worm on houseplants, how to get rid of it

The rootworm is native to America. In time it migrated to Western Europe and after a while it was found in Eastern Europe as well. It is senpollias, or violets, that suffer the most from this pest.

Blind and American cutworms can kill both succulent plants and senpollias in a short time. More than 30 species of these cutworms have been found in America. These pests pose a serious danger to many plants. The fact is that they are polyphagous, which means that they can settle and feed on various plants.

The rootworms have undergone significant evolutionary changes over their long existence.

They now live exclusively underground and use plant sap, which they extract from the roots, as food. Such worms are particularly dangerous because in the initial stages of infestation it is impossible to realize that they are in the ground. And once the pest is found, the bushes will already suffer greatly. The fact is that it can be detected only during plant transplanting.

The larvae and females of such a pest are constantly in the soil, and they use the roots of various plants as food.

Very rarely pests settle on a plant stem at a height of 0.1-0.5 cm from the soil surface. In this place, a whitish-colored plaque is formed, which looks more like down. Such a plaque is excretions of the pest.

Female body is cylindrical, yellowish-white, covered with a layer of waxy bloom. It leads a relatively sedentary life-style. To breed, the females create special chambers from their secretions, which look like fibers. They make the chambers in the immediate vicinity of the roots, in cavities, and also in the pot on the edge of the substrate. Outwardly, the clutch of the rootworm is similar to a simple mold.

The male has an outward resemblance to the whitefly, but it is much smaller than it. It also differs from the female in its short life span: the adult ceases to take food and dies after a short time. As a result, entire generations have been observed for a year without a single male.

Root worm on houseplants, how to get rid of it

After the larva leaves the egg, it "takes care" of itself on its own. It looks for its own food, while moving rather quickly.

Compared to the female, the larva has a much thicker layer of wax on its body. This is why a trail of whitish waxy secretions remains where the larva crawls.

If you find a small lesion on the root system of a flower caused by root worms, then looking under a microscope it will look more like a huge number of larvae crawling around in the soil. Visually inspect a rootworm-infested plant, you can see a whitish waxy coating on the root neck that rises only a few millimeters above the surface of the substrate. You will be able to tell by this sign that the pest is present in the soil mixture without even taking the plant out of the pot.

You can also detect the pest during replanting. If you do not find the worms at the initial stage of infestation, the plant will start to degenerate after a while. At this time, the worm larvae are the most dangerous because they can quickly and easily move into a nearby flower pot. These pests multiply very quickly so the moment you find out that one of your plants has dried up because of worms, the other house flowers will already be affected by it in the same way.

Today scientists do not stop research on root worms.

The fact is that they are capable of causing tangible damage to valuable ornamental and economic crops. On the territory of the former Soviet Union, such pests were originally found on the roots of cacti, and they were named: common, aloe and cactus. After some time, many new varieties appeared, and the list of crops on which cutworms can settle has also greatly increased.

Plants on which the rootworm can settle

Root worm on houseplants, how to get rid of it

The rootworm prefers to settle on those cultivated plants that are grown in a well-ventilated substrate and that react negatively to abundant watering. For example, these are such cultures as succulent plants and violets (senpolias).

Also this pest may infest:

  • aroid crops: diffenbahia, anthurium, monster, alocasia;
  • ficus;
  • asparagus;
  • citrus;
  • azalia;
  • wortwood, aloe, adenium, cactus, hollyhock, hellebore, milkweed etc.
  • coffee;
  • camellia;
  • hibiscus;
  • senolia, etc.

This is not a complete list. But this pest prefers to settle on these very plants because they create the most favorable conditions for the worms. However, there are many varieties of those plants that are listed above, and among them there are spectacular decorative and flowering specimens.

Most of them are incredibly similar to each other, and only specialists can tell them apart. However, all these plants have one thing in common - similar growing conditions and care. In summer the potting soil must be watered in such a way that it remains free-flowing while in winter the plants do not need to be watered at all.

Signs of Rootworm disease

Root worm on houseplants, how to get rid of it

You can tell if a plant is infested with root worms. The main thing is to be aware of certain signs that make it possible to spot the pest in the soil.

If you detect and fight the worm in good time, you can save the plant. If you want the plant to survive, it is advisable to repot it as quickly as possible, completely replacing the substrate and pot.

The following signs indicate that a pest has taken root:

  1. The plant has stopped growing completely if properly maintained (temperature, watering and potting mix).
  2. It has faded and its leaves have lost their luster and look lifeless.
  3. As the root system begins to die off actively because of the pests, a massive yellowing of the leaves is observed, with the leaves losing their turgor.

  4. The plant infested by the worm weakens and begins to wither not only because the pest feeds on its sap, but also because it promotes the introduction of a particular substance into the bush that depresses the crop.
  5. Some parts of the root system are damaged, causing the plant to weaken and may be affected by fungal and infectious diseases. As a result the plant becomes dull and lifeless.
  6. In the last stage of worm infestation, you can see shriveled and withered leaf plates.

If you examine a violet that is infested with worms, you will find a patina of gray color on its root system surface that looks more like ashes.

And on the sides of the root ball you will be able to see a dense grayish-white patina. If you look at the senpilla under a microscope, you can see that its root system is covered with many larvae. At the same time at the very edge of the ground coma you can see a huge number of ovipositions. And on the surface of the walls of the container in which the flower was, you can see with the naked eye waxy secretions of rootworms, which look very similar to absorbent cotton. Such a bush is unlikely to be saved.

Preventing plant infestation

Root worm on houseplants, how to get rid of it

There are several preventative measures to avoid root worms in the soil of indoor plants:

  1. Make sure to thoroughly steam both the earth mixture prepared with your own hands and the earth mixture you buy.
  2. See all plants regularly and monitor their development.
  3. Water your house crop in time. Specialists advise against drying out the soil because this creates favorable conditions for the pest to live and grow. However, not all indoor crops are suitable for such a watering regime.

  4. Carefully monitor the state of the soil mixture in the pot. If signs of worms have been noticed, then you need to start combating them as soon as possible.
  5. Systematically inspect the entire bush, paying attention to its condition, the color and turgor of the leaves, and don't forget to check the root neck.
  6. In fall and spring, 3 or 4 abundant waterings with complete soaking of the root ball are recommended. A solution of an insecticide preparation such as Allaunda or Actara is used for this purpose.

    Pour the solution until it pours from the drainage holes.

  7. When transplanting, be sure to inspect both the bush itself and its root ball and roots.

Control measures

Root worm on houseplants, how to get rid of it

If a house plant is infested with mealy worm, it can be noticed with the naked eye and timely action taken to control it, since it lives and feeds on the substrate and plant surface. Root worm lives on the roots and in the soil mixture, so it is not easy to detect. As a rule, you will only realize that the pest has settled on the bush during transplanting.

In most cases, the plant is already severely damaged and it is very difficult to fight the pest. However, it is still possible to save the bush.

Native means

Root worm on houseplants, how to get rid of it

Since rootworms are extremely dangerous for many crops, it is recommended to immediately use chemicals to combat them, because folk remedies do not give a hundred percent result. However, experts still recommend, resorting to a hot root bath, the technology of its implementation is quite simple:

  1. Dip the root system of the plant in a container of hot water (not higher than 55 degrees) and wait 15 to 20 minutes. Then pull the bush out and wait for it to dry well, this usually takes 15 to 20 hrs.

    After the root bath it is advisable to transfer the plant into a new pot and fresh potting soil.

  2. Gently take the plant out of the pot with its root ball.
  3. Rinse the root system well so that you remove the substrate completely.
  4. Rinse the pot well with a solution of detergent and put it into boiling water. If you wish, you can simply throw it away and buy a new pot.

  5. Cut out any damaged areas on the roots with a sharp tool.
  6. Rinfect the root system thoroughly with Acaricide solution.
  7. Place the bush in the new container and substrate.
  8. Place the transplanted plant away from other flowers. The fact is that the larvae move extremely quickly and can easily get into a flower pot nearby.


Root worm on houseplants, how to get rid of it

It is not possible to get rid of a pest as dangerous as rootworms with folk remedies. Chemical means are much more effective, only with their help it is possible to completely eliminate such a sucking pest.

Flowers and gardeners, far from science, it is quite difficult to distinguish the types of root worms, and even more so to remember the periods of their development. For this reason it is recommended to treat the infested plant in three stages:

  • the first treatment;
  • the second treatment on the fourteenth day;
  • the last treatment is made on the twenty-first day.

The point is that the pest eggs are located in linen chambers that are covered with a layer of wax from above.

Because of this, chemical agents are not capable of destroying them. Therefore the first treatment eliminates the adults, the second and third are necessary to kill the offspring.

Scientists have, however, discovered that the chambers where larvae develop do not disintegrate over a long period of time (a few months or years). These chambers may hide the larvae during the treatment of the plant with chemicals. This is why it is extremely rare to completely eliminate all pests.

For each of the three treatments are suitable products that belong to the neonicotinoids, for example, Apache, Dantop, Aktara, Confidor-Maxi and Mospilan. If these preparations were not effective enough, then you can treat the bush with a new systemic insecticide - Spirotetramat. The solution of these preparations is recommended to sprinkle the substrate in the pot for three months with the frequency of once in a week and a half. To prepare the solution, dissolve 1 g of Regent, Mospilant, Confidor-Maxi, Dantop in 1 liter of water.

These chemicals are capable of destroying worms of all species.

The fact is that for some species, exposure to the chemical for 1-2 days will be sufficient, while others will need 5 to 7 days to achieve maximum results. Also the final result depends on the degree of infestation of the bush. If the pests have occupied the entire root system, then at least two treatments will be necessary.

The more powerful the chemical, the stricter the safety precautions must be observed. However, a stronger product is able to cope with worms at one time, when a weaker drug will have to treat the bush several times.

For example, Fytoverm (third class of hazard) will have to treat the plant twice, while Aktelik (second class of hazard) is able to cope with the pest the first time.

Contact insecticides, unlike systemic ones, are used to control mealybugs on leaves. Such chemicals only kill the pest when they are ingested with food. Systemic insecticides are able to cope with rootworms, because their surface is protected by a layer of wax impermeable to water. Such an insecticide ends up in the worm's body together with the plant juice.

As a result, the product, once inside the pest's body, destroys it. A systemic insecticide in liquid form is used to spray the affected bush and to water it.

On rootworms. Plant protection, pesticides. Rules for successfully destroying the pest.


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