How to Get Bugs, Pests, and Diseases Off Areca Palms
With their lush, arching fronds, it’s easy to see why areca palms (Dypsis lutescens) are such popular houseplants. But like all types of palms, the Areca palm may be affected by pests and diseases. Fortunately, knowing how to identify and treat these issues can help you keep your palms happy and healthy. Read on to learn about common areca palm pests, bugs, and diseases.
- Common Areca Palm Pests & Diseases – The Essentials
- The Most Common Areca Palm Pests and Diseases and How to Identify Them
- Pesticide and Insecticide Options & Solutions
- Managing Pests & Diseases
- Wrapping Up
Common Areca Palm Pests & Diseases – The Essentials
Caterpillars, root mealybugs, mites, scales, thrips, and fungal problems may affect your areca palm. In most cases, use insecticidal soap or oil to eliminate pests. Fungal diseases may often be relieved by repotting. Prevent issues by providing plants with optimal environmental conditions.
The Most Common Areca Palm Pests and Diseases and How to Identify Them
Here are some of the most common pests and diseases that may affect your areca palm.
If you notice skeletonized, blotchy, brown, and shriveled leaves, your palm may have a caterpillar infestation. These worms eat away at the foliage and can kill plants over time. Often, these pests get into plants when they’re taken outside. Moths and butterflies lay eggs underneath leaves, and then the plants are brought back indoors. Once the larvae hatch, they start feeding on leaves.
The little worms can be hard to see at first glance. Some caterpillars spin “silk” webs, making them easier to see. They also leave excrement on plants known as frass. Look for these droppings if you’re trying to diagnose a palm pest infestation.
Mealybugs are small, oval-shaped insects. Their name comes from the mealy, waxy residue they leave on foliage. The powdery substance mealybugs leave behind may draw ants. Like many other pests, mealybugs suck out plant sap, damaging leaves.
Mealybugs tend to congregate along plant stems. Often, you’ll find them in the junctures between leaf and stem. Infestations can cause yellowing and wilting leaves. Over time, mealybugs can stunt plant growth.
Mites are often found when your plant’s soil gets overly dry. This means underwatered plants are especially susceptible to mites. The mites suck plant juices out of the foliage. Dried up and drooping or dropping leaves is one symptom of a mite infestation.
Unfortunately, one of the most common types — spider mites — are very difficult to see with the naked eye. These arachnids are tiny but can be easily identified by the webs they leave behind. You can also look underneath leaves for stippling or light dots left behind from mite feeding.
Scale may infest areca palms. These tiny insects are often mistaken for spores of spots, as their tiny, armored bodies rarely move. You’ll usually find these gray or tan insects hunkered down on your palm’s foliage, where they settle in and suck moisture out of leaves.
Scale can be easy to miss. Signs of scale infestation include shiny, sticky leaves caused by “honeydew.” Scale insects excrete this sticky goo, which can make foliage appear shiny. Another sign of scale is discolored deformed foliage. Plant growth may also slow or be stunted.
While thrips aren’t as common as other pests, you may still find them on your Araca palm. These yellow and black insects have transparent, lacey wings. They tend to gather on foliage and in flower petals.
Signs of thrips include stippled or silvery foliage, as well as leaf drop. Thrips are so tiny that they can be hard to see with the naked eye. If you suspect a thrip infestation, blowing on the plant can cause thrips to move and become visible.
Araca palms are susceptible to several fungal diseases. These include Helminthosporium leaf spot, which are red and black lesions on fronds, developing into dead portions on leaf tips and margins. It’s usually caused by watering plants from above and exposing palms to full sun conditions.
Other fungal issues include root rot. Roots may turn mushy and black when palms are overwatered or grown in pots with insufficient drainage. Foliage may yellow and wilt, and eventually, plants die.
Finally, areca palms may be affected by Sclerotinia blight. This fungal infection can be identified by gray and white marks surrounded by a wet-looking margin on fronds. Over time, the marks turn dark brown. This blight is usually caused by overcrowding, so be sure your palms have adequate airflow.
Pesticide and Insecticide Options & Solutions
Horticultural Oil & Canola Oil
Oils kill pests by suffocating them. Insects with soft bodies, like mites and mealybugs, breathe through little holes in their bodies. The oil coats the pests so they can’t breathe. Some oils also stop the breeding cycle.
Horticultural oils may be petroleum or plant-based. Neem oil and canola oil are examples of plant-based oils. Neem oil also contains a naturally occurring pesticide and can be effective in tough infestations.
Insecticidal soaps can help control pests such as scale, mites, and mealybugs. The soaps contain potassium salts that suffocate soft-bodied insects in much the same way as horticultural oils. Insecticidal soaps are an excellent way to clean mealybug residue and other contaminants off your palm’s foliage.
Sticky traps are a non-invasive way to kill pests. They work by attracting insects with a bright color, such as yellow. Then when the pest steps onto or fly into the trap, it’s stuck on the sticky surface. Sticky traps are a great way to control tiny pests such as fungus gnats or aphids.
When all other options fail, you may turn to pesticides.
If non-synthetic methods aren’t working, you can turn to pesticides to kill pests. Choose between several classes of pesticides, which may include ingredients such as carbamates, organophosphate, and pyrethroids.
Each type of pesticide has its own application method and target species. Just be sure to follow the directions on the packaging strictly. Misusing pesticides can damage other species, pets, and humans while increasing pest resistance.
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If you want to do the do-it-yourself route, there are a few options to try. You may mix a few drops of dishwashing liquid with water, spray on foliage, or use it to clear pests away.
Canola oil is an everyday pantry staple and can effectively treat soft-bodied pests. Finally, you can use rubbing alcohol to both remove pests and clean honeydew or waxy residue from mealybugs.
How to Use Pesticides & Insecticides for Areca Palms
In most cases, you should first try the least invasive treatment — such as sticky traps, oils, or insecticide soaps. But if these treatments don’t work, you may want to try pesticides.
Choose the product that targets the specific pest that’s infesting your palm. Be aware of other animals the pesticide may affect. Follow the product instructions carefully. This may involve applying the pesticide within a temperature range, at a particular time of day, or using a specific technique.
Be prepared to give the treatment a bit of time to work. Immediate results may sound good, but most products don’t work instantly. Only reapply when the product instructions indicate.
Managing Pests & Diseases
The best way to manage pests and diseases is by providing your areca palm with optimal growing conditions. This includes:
- Position your areca palm in a location with bright, indirect light, such as that found in an east-facing window, near a south- or west-facing window, or in a south- or west-facing window that’s covered with a sheer curtain.
- A moist, well-draining soil
- A slightly acidic pH of 6.1 to 6.5
- Adequate space between plants for airflow
- Watering with filtered or rainwater when the top two to three inches of soil feels dry
- A container with suitable drainage holes
- Keeping plants away from drafts or heat registers
- Fertilizing about once or twice per month in the spring and summer only
- Temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees F
- Medium to high humidity
Areca palms are lovely plants that instantly add lush, symbolic plants that add a tropical feel to any room. While they’re not particularly susceptible to pests, they can be affected by mites, mealybugs, thrips, scale, or caterpillars. They may also experience some fungal issues. Choose the appropriate treatment method, such as horticultural oils or soaps. The best way to keep your plant healthy and prevent infestation is by providing it with optimal environmental conditions. For more, see our in-depth guide to the meaning and symbolism of palm trees.
If you’re looking for your next areca palm to add to your collection, see our in-depth guide to the best plant shops delivering areca palms nationwide.
Linsay is an American copywriter based in the Pacific Northwest with a background in academic writing and research. Linsay holds Master's degree in both Anthropology and Library and Information Sciences and has written for numerous national and international publications including USA Today, SFGATE, Hunker, and The Bump across an array of topics in the gardening, green living, and travel sectors. When she's not writing, you'll usually find Linsay reading, kayaking, sailing, snowboarding, or working in her garden.