What Bugs Do Orchids Attract? (Tips to Keep Pests Away)

If you have an orchid plant (or multiple plants), you are probably wondering about the pests you need to watch out for, and what sorts of insects feed on orchids. Knowing what to look out for is half the battle in keeping your plants pest free, so we’re going to look at what bugs do orchids attract? (tips to keep pests away)

Orchids are unfortunately susceptible to quite a few pest species, such as mealybugs, aphids, scale insects, mites, and thrips, so you should be constantly vigilant. If you find an infected plant, remove it from any nearby plants and check them for signs of an infestation too. It’s easier to get on top of pests if you don’t let them spread to multiple plants at once. 

5 Bugs That Orchids Inevitably Attract

Here are a few bugs that orchids are known to attract, as well as tips on how to prevent that:

One: Scale Insects

Gilles San Martin from Namur, Belgium, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There are a few kinds of scale insects that might attack your plant, with two distinct groups – the hard scale insects and the soft scale insects. Soft scale insects produce honeydew, so you may notice their presence by little sticky puddles around your plant.

Both kinds feed on the underside of leaves and leaf sheaths, particularly along the central stems. Orchids are vulnerable to scale insects, and because their leaves are heavy, you may not immediately notice the insects sheltering there.

So, what should you do? Well, firstly, it’s a good idea to do regular pest checks on your plants. The undersides of the leaves are commonly used as a shelter, so you should always check there as well as the stems, flowers, and tops of the leaves.

If you find honeydew, you know your plant is infected by something. If you don’t, but you suspect a scale infestation, look for tiny brown circles or ovals on the leaves. Scale insects are usually between one and five millimeters long, so they aren’t super easy to spot, especially as they can just look like a brown spot on the leaf.

What To Do

Scale infestations are one of the trickier pest species to remove, because their scaly armor gives them protection from some common treatment methods. You may find that washing the plant with water and detergent does not get rid of these insects, for example.

One of the best ways to remove them is with rubbing alcohol or vodka. You can dab a cotton bud in the alcohol and run it over the insect. You can also mist the plant with alcohol. This should not harm the orchid (although be careful of orchids with delicate leaves and only mist lightly), but will kill the scale.

You may need to do this several times, as scale insects are good at hiding in cracks and crevices on the plant, and you may find the infestation returns.

Two: Thrips

I, Toony, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There are a lot of kinds of thrips that eat orchids, usually feeding on the flowers and their buds. If you notice deformities in the flowers or buds that never open, your plant may be infected with thrips.

These tiny insects are less than a millimeter long, so you are unlikely to be able to spot them. However, if you take a magnifying glass to your orchid, you might be able to see a few. Gently blow on a flower and use the magnifying glass to look for thrips crawling around in response to the air movement.

Since most people grow orchids for their beautiful blooms, you should take action quickly to get rid of them before they spoil your enjoyment of the flowers. So, how do you treat an orchid for thrips?

What To Do

Thrips aren’t easy to get rid of. The best thing to do is to run your orchid under a stream of water and try to gently wash and rub at the flowers without damaging them. The water should blast the thrips off the flowers and leave them insect-free.

Try not to get the plant’s soil too wet while doing this, as orchids don’t enjoy being over-watered. You should avoid using very cold water, as this could shock the orchid, especially in the warmth of summer.

Some people say that neem oil will deter thrips and get them to leave the orchid alone. You can try this, as it is an effective pest deterrent, but you may find that you need a mild insecticide soap to really combat the invasion.

Alcohol should also remove thrips, so this is another option you can try. Dab the flowers with an alcohol-soaked cotton ball. Keep your plant isolated from others while treating it for thrips so they can’t spread.

Three: Aphids

Alvesgaspar, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Aphids are a pest any plant owner will be familiar with. They are visible to the naked eye, although they are tiny, and they will also leave splashes of honeydew around the place, alerting you to their presence.

Aphids drink your plant’s sap and will make it less healthy by stealing its resources. They can be found anywhere on the plant, but will commonly be on flower buds, beneath leaves, or on new growth.

What To Do

Fortunately, aphids are relatively easy to remove from a plant. You can blast them off with water (be careful not to make it so strong that you damage the orchid) or you can wash them away with soap, which should eliminate them.

If that doesn’t work for you, it’s possible to erase them using a garlic or chili spray, or to spray your plant with mild detergent and water; this should also serve to get rid of the pests.

Four: Mealybugs

Crisco 1492, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

These are a difficult pest that is common on orchids, and is very hard to handle. They can appear on any part of the plant, including the roots – meaning you may have to re-pot your orchid in order to actually get rid of them.

Mealybugs will eat the sheaths of new leaves, old leaves, roots, and any new growth they find. Although their bodies are pink, they look like little white puffs, because they are covered in fuzzy white hairs. 

They also breed extremely fast, as the females give birth to live young and can spawn around six hundred individuals. It does not take long for an infestation to get out of hand, so speedy detection and treatment are crucial.

What To Do

There are a few treatment methods for mealybugs. Again, rubbing alcohol is a great option. Dab a cotton swab in the alcohol and then remove the mealybugs from the plant one by one, working slowly and methodically across the leaves and into crevices.

You will probably have to do this multiple times for several days running in order to get rid of an infestation. You are unlikely to get every single bug at once, even if you try to be very thorough. Keep your plant isolated while you complete these treatments.

As a secondary option, try mild soap and water. Mist the orchid lightly, and then rinse it about twenty minutes later. Again, this will need repeat applications to be effective, but it may prove less work than the alcohol method.

Neem oil is another good alternative, and can also be used to mist the plant. This does not kill the mealybugs, but it prevents them from reproducing and messes with their hormones. You will need to spray it on in several successive sessions, or developing young may have a chance to breed – but the adults shouldn’t.

Neem oil works well with other pests, too.

Five: Mites

Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Mites are another minuscule insect that can infect your orchid, and they are very difficult to see. They feed on the undersides of leaves and can leave yellow dots on the leaves. The leaves will then turn fully yellow and may drop off.

Mites thrive when the conditions are warm and a bit dry, so if your orchids are kept humid, they should be less of an issue.

If you suspect your plant has mites, hold a sheet of white paper under a leaf and tap or gently shake the leaf. You should see tiny specks drop off and start crawling around – these are mites. You need to take action to get rid of them before they spread.

What To Do

Fortunately, these aren’t too tricky to get rid of; multiple kinds of treatments work on them. It is a good idea to first spray your plant lightly with water and then remove any webs you can see, as these may protect the mites.

Next, get some mild soap and water and spray the plant all over, including on the undersides of the leaves. Rinse it off after about half an hour, and repeat the treatment for a few days.

You can also mist the plant with rubbing alcohol, again for several days, and this should be equally effective in removing the mites.


There are quite a few pest species that like to feed on orchids, but if you’re vigilant and check your plants frequently, you should catch these bugs before they get out of hand. Quickly isolate an infected plant and check the others, and then treat the plant to get rid of the insects.