What Eats Succulents? 6 Likely Culprits

For some animals, succulents are not only a feast for the eyes. The tender and plump foliage is a gastronomic treat as well. This begs the question: What eats succulents?

Animals that eat succulents include aphids, caterpillars, mealybugs, rodents, slugs and snails, and spider mites.

In this article, learn about these succulent-eating animals in more detail. You’ll also find out how to fend off the hungry critters from attacking your precious succulents.

1.  Aphids

If you find ants swarming your succulents, odds are there’s an entire farm of aphids hiding in plain sight. Ants are harmless to plants and rather friendly to aphids.

Aphids suck the juices from succulents and leave behind a syrupy residue called honeydew, which ants love to feed on. Honeydew encourages the growth of sooty mold or dark splotches on the plants.

Aphids don’t need males to reproduce, and they can give birth to pregnant babies. They’re also stealthy, thanks to their tiny size. Because of these, they can multiply at warp speed unnoticed. Before you know it, there are colonies of aphids right under your nose.

Sometimes, aphid feeding can be so severe that it can disfigure your succulents. Here’s how to tell a serious aphid invasion:

  • Yellowed leaves
  • Curled or twisted leaves
  • Stunted growth

How to Get Rid of Aphids

Aphids are super-spreaders of viruses and diseases. You’ll want to get rid of them before they can cause irreparable damage to your succulents.

Here are some ways to control the aphid population in your houseplants and garden:

  • Introduce natural predators like ladybugs and lacewings. 
  • Blast the aphids with water if the plant can handle a strong stream. Or you can dip the succulent in water to dislodge the pesky critters.
  • Dust the aphids with diatomaceous earth. It’s a high-silica powder that dehydrates common insects, including ants.
  • Wipe honeydew off the leaves with a damp cloth dipped in mild dish soap.
  • Cut infested leaves from the base.

2.  Caterpillars

Caterpillar eating succulents

Generalist caterpillars aren’t picky eaters, unlike the specialist ones. Some species won’t pass up on a luscious pot of succulents. If they’re on a binge, whole leaves can vanish out of thin air.

Caterpillars have two mandibles that they use like a pair of scissors to chop and chew leaves. They burrow inside the leaves and eat their way out. Aside from a few missing leaves, they won’t cause permanent damage, though.

Some common species that won’t have qualms about devouring succulents include:

  • Cactus moth
  • Emerald ash borer
  • Hornworm caterpillar
  • Mediterranean fruit moth

How to Get Rid of Caterpillars

Some caterpillars lack distinct markings, which makes them harder to find. The fat green ones camouflage well with their environment, so you’ll need a keen eye to locate them.

Check the undersides of leaves, which are caterpillars’ favorite hiding spots. Remove the caterpillars by hand and drop them in a bucket of water. If you’re queasy about handling squishy insects, put on a glove or use a stick.

For a hands-free solution, spray bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) insecticide onto your succulents. It’s non-toxic, except for worms and caterpillars. It works by tearing down their stomach lining. 

3.  Mealybugs

Mealy bugs

Mealybugs are sap-sucking insects that look like tiny white bumps on a plant. They have a waxy covering that gives them a fuzzy appearance. Their coat leaves behind some powdery residue that appears like cotton wool on a plant’s surface.

Like aphids, mealybugs deposit sticky honeydew on plants. You can find them hiding under and in the tight spaces between the rosette leaves.

These are the signs that mealybugs are snacking on your succulents:

  • Presence of black sooty mold
  • Yellowed leaves
  • Wilted and falling leaves
  • Stunted growth

How to Get Rid of Mealybugs

Follow these steps for effective mealybug removal:

  • Isolate your mealybug-infested succulents.
  • Rinse your plant under running water to dislodge the pesky bugs.
  • Dip a cotton swab in isopropyl alcohol and wipe down the insects’ cottony exterior.
  • Spritz the mealybugs with a soapy solution (1 teaspoon of dish soap : 1 quart of lukewarm water).

Related: What Does Root Rot Look Like in Succulents?

4.  Rodents

Rats are nocturnal, which means they scavenge for food at night. They’ll gnaw at just about anything that crosses their path.

Rats nibble on plastic and furniture, so there’s no reason they won’t munch on succulents too. They are carriers of different diseases, so you don’t want to take any prisoners with them.

If there are no better food options, squirrels will eat succulents in a heartbeat as well.

How to Keep Rodents Off Your Succulents

Here are some ways to prevent rodents from pestering your succulents:

  • Get a cat or dog to chase down the plant-chomping bandits.
  • Set sticky traps or snap traps in areas where there have been rat sightings.
  • Surround your succulents with plants that squirrels hate. A few examples are:
    • Alliums
    • Geraniums
    • Peppermints
    • Snowdrops
  • Install an imitation hawk in your yard to scare away the squirrels.

5.  Slugs and Snails

A snail eating a succulent

Mollusks like slugs and snails are soft-bodied animals that love to chill in ponds and damp places. Don’t let their leisurely pace deceive you. These creatures look like they can do no harm, but they’re a ravenous bunch.

They’ll never miss an opportunity for a meal, especially for something tender like succulents. You won’t probably catch them in the act of polishing off your healthy aloe vera. Slugs and snails are nocturnal animals that do their dirty work in the dark.

Ragged holes on the leaves are obvious signs they’ve had a midnight buffet in your yard. Another dead giveaway is a slimy trail on plant structures.

How to Prevent a Slug/Snail Attack

The good thing about a snail or slug attack is that the damage is purely cosmetic and easy to spot. However, in large numbers, slugs and snails can demolish your succulents overnight.

Crushed Eggshells

Crushed eggshells are a snail’s kryptonite, or a slug’s, for that matter. The jagged edges are like shards of glass to their soft flesh. A generous sprinkling around your plants will put these critters in their place—away from your jades and snake plants.

Beer Bait

If you can sacrifice a few cans of beer, then pour the contents into a shallow bowl to make an effective bait. Bury the bowl partially in the dirt, so they can easily access it.

The yeast in the beer will attract them, and they won’t hesitate to climb in, even if it means there’s no way out. You can then take them off and discard them.

Also Check: What Color Light Is Best for Succulents?

6.  Spider Mites

Spider mites are minuscule arachnids, almost invisible to the naked eye. They have a short life span, at 3–4 weeks. However, that’s not short enough to grow their population. They can lay hundreds of eggs within that short period, especially during spring and summer.

Spider mites guzzle the sap of succulents using their razor-sharp mouth. They’re both chewers and suckers. Hence, they can deprive plants of essential supplies and kill them altogether.

The most common types you’ll find in indoor and outdoor plants are red spider mites and two-spotted mites.

The telltale signs of a spider mite infestation include:

  • Tiny holes in the leaves
  • Clusters of tiny white or yellow speckles give the leaves a bronze cast
  • Fine silk threads or cobwebs that collect dust and look dirty

How to Get Rid of Spider Mites

Follow these tips to eliminate spider mites from your succulents:

  • Use soft insecticides like horticultural oils. Neem and rosemary oils can kill spider mites on contact.
  • Introduce beneficial predators like ladybugs and lacewings.

Wrapping Up

Here’s a list of what eats succulents: aphids, caterpillars, mealybugs, and rodents. Spider mites, slugs, and snails are likely culprits as well.

Luckily, you have this guide at your disposal to treat an infestation of any kind.