What Plant Pests Or Bugs Attack Bougainvillea?

Pinterest Hidden Image

Bougainvillea is lush, attractive, and relatively easy to care for. Most American enthusiasts will need to grow their bougainvillea in pots, although those in warmer climates may include them in their gardens.

blooming bougainvilleaPin

Of course, these are bougainvillea plants, and no plant is totally immune to infestations, including bougainvillea.

What Pests Attack Bougainvillea?

While not considered particularly vulnerable, bougainvillea may be attacked by a variety of pests.

They can usually be seen on flowers, foliage, stems, tender shoots, and leaves.

Here are the most common pests and what remedies work best.


One of the most common plant pests, aphids, actually creates three different threats to bougainvillea. They are commonly pale green and grow in clusters in bougainvillea leaves and new growth.

  • These piercing insects drink your plant’s sap, essentially the plant’s blood.
  • This can weaken the plant, slowly kill leaves, and hinder photosynthesis.
  • Secondly, aphid excrement is half-digested sap called honeydew.
  • This sticky substance can lead to powdery mildew and sooty mold fungus.
  • And finally, honeydew is a food source for ants.
  • The ants will actively protect aphids, which they treat as livestock, from natural predators.
  • This not only allows a population explosion but can also reduce the beneficial insect population.

The easiest way to eliminate aphids is by using neem (a neem oil foliar spray, neem soil soak, and/or neem cakes).

Washing the leaves with insecticidal soap is also highly effective.

You can only use natural predators on outdoor plants if you first take steps to prevent ants from accessing the plant.

Bougainvillea Looper Caterpillar

Often referred to as an “inchworm” due to the way it bunches up when moving on the leaf surfaces, the bougainvillea looper is a small brown, green, or yellow worm-like caterpillar.

These pests chew along the edges of bougainvillea leaves and will also attack tender young shoots.

While they won’t kill a healthy adult, younger plants can be decimated by these loopers.

There’s also a risk of infection and defoliation.

Bougainvillea loopers (hatched from moths) are resistant to many pesticides, but a couple of natural remedies remain highly effective.

Small birds and carnivorous animals can help reduce the looper caterpillars population on your outdoor plants.

Neem oil in the form of foliar sprays, horticultural oils, or soil drenches is an excellent means of combatting these pests.

Finally, Bacillus thuringiensis (or Bt for short) is a natural bacterium that causes loopers and other caterpillars to starve when ingested.

Leaf Miners

One of the more unusual and easy-to-spot pests is the leaf miner.

Leaf miners are actually the larvae of DipteraHymenoptera, and Lepidoptera. They have four l

These maggots eat the tender insides of leaves, creating tunnels. The leaf edges may then become ragged and turn papery and dry.

The resulting pale, mazelike lines, paired with abundant adult flies, are the two easiest ways to spot a leaf miner infestation.

As the adult fly pierces the leaf to deposit her eggs and the maggots live feeding on the insides, a neem soil soak is by far the best remedy.

The neem oil becomes a systemic insecticide, killing the leaf miners and preventing them from achieving adulthood.

Indoors, fly strips, carnivorous plants, and other common fly killers will help prevent heavy infestations.

Outdoors, parasitic wasps and trap crops (plants such as columbine or velvetleaf that draw the flies’ attention) are both excellent options.


Mealybugs are actually a type of scale, and they tend to look like little tufts of cotton.

These piercing insects feed on the plant juices, creating honeydew in the process.

It’s sometimes difficult to spot them since they live on the undersides of leaves. At maturity, adult females lay hundreds of eggs.

Neem oil is once again one of the most effective indoor and outdoor treatment methods.

Natural predators, such as lacewings or parasitic wasps, are also quite deadly to the mealybug population.

Plant Scale

Plant scales are an entire group of piercing insects that feed on plant sap. 

These insects can reproduce without mating. It means females can reproduce without males.

Many, such as the armored scales, become stationary as adults, creating a protective waxy shell that keeps them safe from most insecticides.

Scale can devastate plants if left unchecked and can also attract other problems due to the honeydew they produce.

Neem soil soaks are one of the most effective treatment methods, as this mixture gets past the barrier and attacks the scales from the inside.

You can also attack them directly with a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol.

Natural predators, such as lady beetles and parasitic wasps, can also be an effective solution for an outdoor bougainvillea.

Snails and Slugs

These pests are a valuable part of the ecosystem but can also devastate your flower garden.

Their diet of decaying matter is often supplemented with tasty live plants, such as your Bougainvilleas.

Used coffee grounds are an excellent way to destroy these pests while also enriching the soil.

Just be aware that the used grounds contain plenty of nitrates and can make the soil more acidic.

Shells (such as eggs or seashells) and diatomaceous earth (or DE) can be sprinkled on the soil, and all work the same way by shredding a slug as it passes over them.

Beneficial nematodes are yet another great remedy and act as deadly parasites.

Finally, you can create small barriers of wheat or corn bran.

When ingested, these will kill slugs and snails and won’t harm any wildlife that cleans up the corpses.

However, bran, much like DE, must be reapplied after each rain.

Spider Mite

These tiny arachnids feed on plant sap and are often identified by their compact web bridges.

They can be killed easily with neem oil methods and insecticidal soap.

Natural predators, such as lady beetles, are also effective spider mite killers.


Another common pest you rarely hear about is thrips breed quickly and live on plant sap.

As with most pests, you can kill off a colony using neem oil treatments, neem-based biological insecticide products, or insecticidal soap.

Lacewing, ladybugs, and parasitic wasps all love these little monsters and can be a great outdoor control method.

JOIN Our FREE Plant Care Newsletter 

By entering your email address you agree to receive a daily email newsletter from Plant Care Today. We'll respect your privacy and unsubscribe at any time.