Identifying Pests that Feast on Succulent Leaves: A Quick Guide

Pests affect all plants to a greater or lesser degree at some point and we must be forewarned to tackle it in time. Although succulent plants are basically hardy, they can be attacked by a variety of diseases and pests that can cause great damage if effective countermeasures are not taken. In this article we find out what eats succulent leaves.

what eats succulent leaves

This page contains affiliate links, and as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases which means we receive a small commission when you make a purchase, at zero cost to you.

What Eats Succulent Leaves?

  • Mealybugs
  • Caterpillars and worms
  • Long-tailed mealybug
  • Aphids
  • Snails and slugs
  • Red spider mites
  • Thrips
  • White Fly
  • Weevils
  • Grasshoppers
  • Rodents

We will see it through the symptoms that are presented. Plants and pests are always linked, they are two sides of the same coin. New plants will attract new pests to your home and it is almost impossible to get rid of them completely, but do not give up. We will see here, the organisms that attack the aerial part, the visible area of ​​the succulent.


what eats succulent leaves

The symptoms of the presence of mealybugs are bumps, hardening, waxy secretions attached to the leaf or stem and that are seen both in more woody areas and green areas of the plant.

This may be the most widespread and known pest. It coincides that in most cases it is the female of the mealybug, which attacks the plant en masse, since the male with wings is not usually found. However, females do not need males, since they can reproduce by parthenogenesis. They multiply by eggs.

The cottony mealybug creates white and cottony masses, which indicate that they are reproducing and so are their nests. That is, it has a soft and thick body, with cottony protections that offer protection and is waterproof. With this, it is clear that any product with which we treat them must be finely sprayed on them.

These mealybugs strongly attack the infested plant. They suck the sap of the plant and it loses vigor and stops its growth and development, as well as discoloration and the dirt that the waxy matter causes, in it. Over time, they are capable of causing great obvious damage, they leave her very weak, and although not killing her, she may not regain her former splendor.

They are frequent in greenhouses and cottony mass is observed where the female is laying. At that moment they remain immobile on the attacked plant. Before this, they live through it looking for the ideal place.

what eats succulent leaves

They are easily found in cacti, as well as in succulents.

This pest is relatively easy to control. The plant can be sprayed with pressurized water, thus killing the mealybugs. It may damage the dermis of the succulent. Use in moderation.

You can also prepare a cotton swab soaked in isopropyl alcohol and pass it over areas infected with the pest and rinsing with water afterwards.

As a third homemade solution, dilute dish soap in a litre of water and spray. Apply with a toothpick, to loosen them. It is not a permanent elimination, so you must repeat it weekly until they disappear. Clean as above.

The fourth home remedy will be to paint with a small brush or a cotton swab at the tip, impregnated with olive oil or sunflower oil and apply on the mealybugs.

This will suffocate the mealybugs and kill them. The problem is that it is very laborious, because you have to one by one.

Caterpillars and Worms

what eats succulent leaves
Caterpillar discovered inside the leaf of a succulent

Succulents can be seen attacked by caterpillars and can be diurnal or nocturnal.

They cause different damages, depending on the caterpillar. The young leaves and shoots are eaten. Others stay between or inside the stems and leaves of the succulent, where they make tunnels that greatly weaken it, although they do not necessarily kill it.

In the case of the presence of a caterpillar plague, given the great variety of insect larvae, treat this with insecticide.

Long-tailed Mealybug

The long-tailed mealybug, or Pseudococcus longispinus, is native to tropical and subtropical regions, but has now spread throughout the world.

what eats succulent leaves
“Pseudococcus” is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

The range of host plants of the long-tailed mealybug, or Pseudococcus longispinus, is less broad than that of the cottony mealybug, but includes numerous species of ornamental crops, for example, croton, orchid, grape, avocado, apple, citrus.

The species usually lives in hidden places, such as the auxiliary buds and prefers a humid and warm environment.

It is easily recognized thanks to the long posterior filaments, which are at least the same as the body itself. The other filaments are about half the width of the body. The female is 3 to 4 mm long.

Long-tailed mealybugs cause damage to succulents in different ways: Nymphs and females extract the sap from the plant, hindering growth and causing malformations or yellowing of the leaves, sometimes followed by defoliation.


Aphids are difficult to observe in succulents. They usually appear on plants with rosette-shaped leaves. It is a very common pest.

Symptoms are rolled leaves, twisted shoots, stunted growth and blackened necrotic areas. The attack, bite of the aphids, stops the growth and development of the plant.

what eats succulent leaves aphid

They are generally located on the underside of the leaves, on the tender shoots and form very nourished groups. Attacked areas do not fully recover, even treated like plague.

Their size is up to 4 millimeters long, greenish, green, brown, reddish or black in color, they have 6 legs and have long antennae.

They are generally associated with the ants that roam the plants, creating a symbiosis between them, so that the aphids feed the ants, with their sugary secretions in the attacked areas, coming from the digestion of the sap.

A downside added by the bites is, they cause wounds and damages, in the stems first and in the rest later. With this, the door is opened to the entry of microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria, which weaken the succulent.

They can even spread viral diseases.

In this case, drought and ambient heat favor the growth of the parasite.

They are easily eliminated with commercial insecticides suitable for this purpose.

Snails and Slugs

The symptoms that they present are, eaten areas on the stem and leaves and the presence of the characteristic slime. They can completely devour the attacked plant.

what eats succulent leaves snail

These usually appear with high humidity, rain or irrigation. They are preferably in the most tender and juicy areas of the plant and are easily located.

They can be the most harmful, due to their voracity. Slugs and snails attack fleshy surfaces, creating serious and irrecoverable damage.

They are nocturnal, which makes them more difficult to observe, since during the day they hide on the underside of leaves, under stones, etc. They can be a very cumbersome pest.

They lay their eggs deep in the ground, in small egg piles, and they do so from spring to fall. They are favored by ambient humidity, which could lead to a real invasion of snails and slugs.

To eradicate them, apply suitable commercial insecticides, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Control the irrigation between applications, so as not to eliminate them with the irrigation water.

An ecological solution, but slower, is to place containers with beer on the substrate. Beer attracts them and there they will drown, which will allow us to eliminate them.

Red Spider Mites

what eats succulent leaves

As with mealybugs, mites are difficult to see with the naked eye. The symptoms that cause spider mite attacks are yellowish or grayish spots on the upper side of the leaves, all over the leaf.

On the underside of the leaves, a fine spider web is observed, where reddish or even yellow or greenish mites live and visible not without effort or with a magnifying glass. If you look closely and with a magnifying glass, you will see little spiders / mites on the plant.

On the plant it is noticeable because with its bites, the plant has a leaden, dull appearance, brown or yellowish spots and they begin to contract with malformations. They weaken the plant a lot. The small cobwebs that they leave on the plant can be observed.

The main factors that attract mites are heat and dryness, facilitating rapid reproduction. For this reason, succulents are an ideal plant to be attacked. It can be prevented with water sprays.

what eats succulent leaves

In addition, they are difficult to control, but can be treated successfully, although they can ruin the plant a lot. They multiply by eggs, deposited on the underside of the leaves.

The larvae have 3 pairs of legs, while the adults have 4 pairs of legs.

It will be easily observed, since brown spots will appear in the case of cacti and succulents, in general.

For its eradication, we will use commercial products specially prepared for this purpose.


what eats succulent leaves thrip

The symptoms of the presence of thrips in succulents are bright bites on the leaves, yellowish or silver, together with the presence of excrement.

They are very small insects 1 mm in length, yellow or brown in color.

The attack of thrips yellows the leaves and flowers can also be prey to these insects, preventing them from opening.

They have 6 legs and suction cups on them, so that they are well attached. They have two pairs of wings, reproduce by eggs and feed on the sap of the attacked plant.


what eats succulent leaves whitefly

The whitefly is a pest of small whitish flies, which generally occurs on plants with leaves. The attack of the white fly produces yellowish leaves that end up dying.

This 1.5 mm long, whitish winged fly produces yellowish-green larvae similar to mealybugs. They are observed to flutter around the infested leaves, if we shake the plant.

This fly is related to mealybugs and sucks the sap from the attacked plant. It multiplies by eggs, placed on the underside of the leaves.

They are very prolific and can reproduce up to 10 times a year.

This pest is more common with Euphorbias, particularly those with soft leaves.

To eradicate, use commercial insecticides suitable for this pest.

Vine Weevils

The wine weevil is a type of beetle in the Curculionidae family or family of snout beetles. There are more than 60,000 species in total. They are usually very small in size, and the body size ranges from just 3mm to 10mm in total.

what eats succulent leaves vine weevil
“Vine Weevil” by Derek.P. is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

They are exhibited by a wide range of body shapes and colors. Their body shapes are oval or thin, and their body colors are usually dark, such as gray, reddish-brown, or black. However, some species of weevils also have bright, intense colors. Its body may also contain scales or shiny hairs.

The most notable feature of adult weevils is the shape of their head that is elongated enough to form a snout. This is the reason why they are also sometimes referred to as “snout beetles”. The mouth of the weevils is present at the tip of the snout. The curved antennae of weevils are located in the center of the snout.

They are herbivores by nature and feed entirely on plants from the larval stage until they reach adulthood.

Adults prefer to eat leaves from different plants. They have the habit of consuming a great variety of plants and grains, rice, wheat, flour, beans, vine, etc. Their snout helps them not only to eat plants and penetrate different eating materials, but also to drill holes.

You can always resort to chemical treatments to eliminate this very harmful pest.

Other Pests: Grasshoppers, Rodents

Grasshoppers eat the leaves of the succulent and can ruin it. Treat with insecticides.

Rodents eat the juicy and soft parts, completely destroying the plant. They can be devastating pests.

Treat like a plague if it gets so bad, with specific poisons, traps, etc. Attention to poisons, if there are children who could handle them.


Do deer eat succulent plants?

Deer sometimes feed on the perennial sedum. The University of Vermont Extension lists succulent among the favored foods eaten by deer.

Sedum species are occasionally damaged by deer, according to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension. The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service lists Autumn Joy sedum as a plant deer love to eat and advises homeowners to protect plants to prevent deer damage.

The term “deer resistant” does not equal deer proof. The North Carolina Cooperative Extension warns that deer will eat any plant if they have no other food source.