As I was battling Aphids in my garden, I got a sudden feeling of panic, thinking about my soon coming delivery of my first Air Plants. I hadn’t even thought about it, knowing that Air Plants differ so greatly from soil-dependant plants. But I needed to quickly answer the question, “Can Air Plants Get Bugs or Ants?” I knew I had some research to do!
That was some time ago, and I did do that research, as well as acquired some “first-hand” knowledge since then. Today I want to share all I have learned with you so that you are armed with knowledge. No one wants to lose their precious and delicate Air Plants to a chewing, chomping wiggly little critter. That’s what wild plants are for, little bugs!
Can Air Plants get bugs or ants? YES! Air Plants can indeed get bugs, but they are HIGHLY resistant to them. So much so that I couldn’t even find an image showing garden pests on an Air Plant! In this article, you’ll discover:
- What Kinds of Bugs are Threats to Your Air Plants
- Whether Indoor AND Outdoor Air Plants Can Get Bugs
- Things You Can Do to Prevent Bugs from Bugging Your Air Plant
- The SOLUTION to Bugs on Air Plants
We’re going to go through all of those things (and more!) but we’re going to jump right to the solution first, in the event you’re reading this because your Air Plant(s) already has bugs. First, we’ll get them gone. Second, we’ll make sure they don’t come back! So let’s get to it!
How to Treat Your Air Plants if They Get Bugs
If you see bugs on your Air Plant or the tell-tale signs that bugs have been nibbling at your plant’s leaves, here are the 3 Steps to Eliminating Them:
- Separate the infested Air Plant from any uninfested plants.
- Submerge the Air Plant in water or rinse plant well under running water. Most often, these two steps alone are enough to dislodge and eliminate unwanted pests. If by chance they do not solve the problem, proceed to step three.
- Apply an All-Natural Insecticide like this Diatomaceous Earth on Amazon according to package directions and carefully inspect your Air Plant often for signs of success or reinfestation.
What Kinds of Bugs Might Be On Your Air Plants?
A little research will go a long way here! Mine will help you know about the bugs to watch out for, and your own research will reveal if these bugs are common to where you live, and if there are others that are unique to your area that might threaten your Air Plants.
Your local County Extention Office should prove to be a treasure trove of knowledge regarding the garden pests unique to your area! Take caution though. Many people are not familiar with the unique requirements of Air Plants. I even ran across a Garden Shop employee who couldn’t recommend a safe insecticide for me to use on my Tillandsia.
3 Most Common Bugs That Can Eat Air Plants:
- Chiggers- These pests are most common on wild or outdoor Air Plants. Discover all you never wanted to know (but should) about chiggers below in the “Wild Air Plants” section of this article.
- Mealybugs- If you notice something that looks like cotton on the leaves of your Air Plant, you may have a Mealybug colony! They are common to warm, moist climates, and feed off the juices inside a plant’s leaves.
- Aphids-These little buggers (Ha, get it? Little buggers, LOL!) are barely visible to the naked eye, but can slowly eat a plant to the point of death! Aphids can be a light shade of green, yellow, or even brown! They are, perhaps, the most common garden pest!
Do Air Plants Attract Ants?
Should you ever come across an Air plant in its natural environment, it won’t be uncommon to also find ants nesting on or around it. This isn’t because Air Plants attract ants, though. It’s because ants are always scurrying about looking for safe shelter.
Your outdoor Air Plants may have occasional ants crawling on them or nestling under them, but rinsing those pesky ants off the plant or changing the location of the plant should quickly redirect the ants elsewhere. The chances of indoor Air Plants attracting ants into your home are slim to nil.
Can Indoor Air Plants Get Bugs?
If you discover any bugs on your indoor Air Plants, they likely came from an outside source. Either you brought the plant in from outdoors, or the nursery you bought it from has a pest problem. Air Plants that have always been indoors run a very, very low risk of a pest infestation. This is one of the advantages of Air Plants not requiring soil because that soil can draw garden pests inside. If you do notice bugs on your indoor plants, or evidence of bugs eating your plant’s leaves, treat it immediately!
Do Wild Air Plants Have Bugs?
Air Plant Central is going to feature an article about whether or not you should harvest wild Air Plants in the near future, you’ll want to watch for it! But for now, we realize that if you live in an area where Air Plants grow wild, you may have brought one into your own yard (or home).
If you are exposing your skin to wild Air Plants, you just may be exposing yourself to microscopic bugs called chiggers. These chiggers are the larvae from a type of mite. They inject digestive enzymes into the skin, killing the healthy tissue. Then they feed on the dead tissue.
The main symptom of having chiggers on your skin is redness and itching. Although not life-threatening, chiggers will make you VERY uncomfortable! Clean the skin well with soap and water, and treat with an anti-itching remedy.
If you do want to handle a wild Air Plant, wear gardening gloves and long sleeves to do so until you can fully assess whether the plant has pests on it or not. You’ll find out how to treat an Air Plant with chiggers on it in the “How to Treat” section above.
Protect Air Plants from Bugs the Natural Way
I like to stick as close to all-natural as possible for all things, this just makes sense to me! Here are 3 All-Natural Ways to Deter Bugs From Your Air Plants:
- Grow a Culinary Herb Garden! Since culinary herbs have strong aromas and flavors, garden pests aren’t drawn to them. Most herbs thrive in the same kind of light as Air Plants do (bright and indirect). You may want to consider growing a small herb garden outdoors or indoors and displaying your Air Plants near-by.
- Cultivate an Environment that is Friendly to Lady Bugs (Please note: this is advice for your outdoor Air Plants only) Lady Bugs enjoy a tasty meal comprised of common garden pests. You can attract them by providing water in shallow dishes around your yard and having pollinating plants around like Marigolds, Sweet Alyssum, or Geraniums. Lady Bugs will also be drawn to edible plants like Dill, Cilantro or Chives.
- Use Diatomaceous Earth This organic powder-like substance is effective at deterring (and killing!) lawn and garden pests without being harmful to humans, animals OR plants. To use DE as a preventative measure, simply apply a light dusting to the ground below where your Air Plants live. DE will need to be reapplied after every rain.
If you’ve read to this point, I hope that you have gleaned everything you wanted to know about keeping your Air plants pest free and treating them safely if an infestation does occur. I live in an area prime for garden pests but have had zero problems with bugs being attracted to my Air Plants, inside OR out!
Samantha Taylor is the Senior Editor of airplantcentral.com. Her love for plants goes back to her childhood when she spent hours in the garden with her dear grandfather. As an aspiring botanist, she started her own business specializing in air plants.