The Q&A Archives: Little Teeny Weenie Black Speck Bugs

Question: I have several house plants. One of them, a philodendron, I bought already growing, the rest I started from seeds(which I bought from!). The other plants are basil, thyme, rosemary(which hasn't taken hold very well) and a cherry tomato plant. A few weeks after a brought the phil home, I noticed bugs like the ones I descibed in the title on the leaves. The are very small, they look like specs of dirt almost, and they hardly move at all. Since then there have been no holes in the leaves but they have taken on an unhealthy spotty looking appearence, and the bugs have spread to the basil seedlings next door, which are also starting to look sickly. What are these critters? Where do they come from? And what is the best way to get rid of them? I don't mind using chemicals, as long as they will wash off because I plan to eat the basil when it matures. I am very proud of my plants, I want them to be happy and healthy.

Answer: In answer to where they came from, it is quite possible they came in with your plants but the population was so low you didn't notice it at first or perhaps they came in through a window screen or who knows how -- pests have an amazing ability to travel. Unfortunately, based on your description I am not quite sure which pest you are facing here, so I will make an overall suggestion and hope it works for you. Try washing the plants under a strong stream of water (a kitchen sink sprayer works well) about twice a week for several weeks. If the pests are aphids or spider mites this should do the trick. If the problem does not disappear with that treatment, try insecticidal soap according to the label instructions. (It can be used on edible plants, but do read the label and of course wash the leaves before you eat them as you normally should).

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