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What Are These White Tiny Bugs on Plants in my Garden?

Yuck! There are white tiny bugs on plants in my garden. What should I do?

White Tiny Bugs on Plants

Damage to a Brussels Sprout plant from pests.

Gardening is a truly fascinating hobby. It’s biology, nature, outside time, and a little bit of zen all mixed together. And the results end up on your dinner table. Not bad. How cool is it that a handful of tiny little seeds will give you an abundance of vegetables and herbs a few months after you plant them? Except, sometimes gardening is a confusing and frustrating experience. Like when your formerly thriving garden now has white tiny bugs on plants from tomatoes to cucumbers to eggplants. And they’re eating away at what was supposed to be your dinner.

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Gardening is cool. The white tiny bugs on plants in your garden are not.

Insects are an important part of gardening. Ladybugs, or lady beetles as they are sometimes called, eat aphids, mites, thrips, and other harmful pests in your garden. Bees are famously beneficial. But the white tiny bugs on plants trying to grow in your garden are definitely not among those beneficial bugs. What are they? And more importantly, how can you get rid of them?

There are a few possibilities. The white tiny bugs on plants in your garden may be whiteflies, mealybugs, or spider mites.

Whiteflies on leaf

Whiteflies on leaf

 

Mealybugs on leaf

Mealybugs on leaf

 

Spider Mite on leaf.

Spider Mite on leaf.

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All three can live on a wide variety of plants and they feed by spearing the leaves and stems and sucking the sap. Clearly, this is not good. The tricky part, though, is that you might not even notice these bugs until you have a large infestation.

Here are a few things to look for that may indicate the presence of these pests. Mealybugs may just look like a white, cottony film that’s often mistaken for a fungus. Whiteflies are a little more obvious, as they will fly away when you shake the plant. Spider mites may leave small webbing around the plant and are tiny, but visible on the underside of discolored leaves.

No matter which of these you have, there’s no argument that all of them are bad for your garden. So how do you get rid of them? You can use traditional pesticides, but then you’re also impacting beneficial insects and pollinators, not to mention the fact that you are going to eat these herbs and vegetables, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that approach.

Spraying plants with organic pesticide.

Spraying plants with organic pesticide.

Discover 7 top tips for growing, harvesting, and enjoying tomatoes from your home garden—when you access the FREE guide The Best Way to Grow Tomatoes, right now!

How to get rid of those white tiny bugs on plants in your garden

Ideally, it’s best to control the population of these harmful insects so you don’t have to worry about getting rid of a large number of them. One very simple way to accomplish this is to give your garden a good blast with the hose. This physically removes the pests (and your plants get watered as a bonus).

You can also spray your plants with Neem oil.

To make a Neem oil spray, mix one ounce of oil with a gallon of water. Spray this mixture on your plants, making sure to get underneath the leaves as well. You don’t want the oil to magnify the effects of the sun and burn the leaves, so wait until early evening to do this.

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The oil kills the bugs in two ways. It can coat the breathing holes of insects, and when ingested, it disrupts the growth, feeding, and mating cycle. Neem oil has the added benefit of also reducing mildew and fungus on plants, and evidence suggests that it has little if any negative effects on bees.

So next time you see tiny white bugs on your plants, you know what to do.

Have you had experience with these bugs on your plants? I’d love to know how you got rid of them. Please share your ideas in the comments.

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