Mexican heather can attract butterflies to your garden.

Bugs on Mexican Heather

by Marylee Gowans

Despite its name, Mexican heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia) is not a true heather and often goes by the name false heather. This tropical broad leaf evergreen grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11 and produces delicate, trumpet-shaped flowers in shades of purple. Although this plant has no serious pests or problems, it can attract an array of bugs.

1. Beneficial Insects

Not all bugs that visit Mexican heather are pests, and some may benefit your garden. Butterflies and bees are beneficial insects that you may find on your Mexican heather. These insects as pollinators and help create a balanced ecosystem in your garden. Butterflies act as a food source for other wildlife, such as birds and lizards.

2. Sap-Sucking Pests

Sap-sucking pests consume the phloem sap from plants by piercing the tender parts of the plant and sucking the cell contents out. Mites, aphids, scales, thrips and mealybugs are common sap-sucking pests. Spider mites can be a problem on Mexican heather, notes University of Florida IFAS Extension. Control spider mites -- as well as other sap-sucking pests -- by spraying the plants down with a hose every few days. For more serious infestations, spray the foliage of the Mexican heather with ready-to-use neem oil at seven- to 14-day intervals.

3. Chewing Insects

Flea beetles, Japanese beetles and caterpillars may chew parts of your Mexican heather. Flea beetles are small dark-colored beetles that jump when disturbed. They chew small holes in the leaves of the infested plant. Japanese beetles have a metallic green body and will chew on the leaves and flowers of Mexican heather. Caterpillars range in color and size -- depending on the type -- from pale green to deep brown. When caterpillars munch on plant foliage, the leaves have a ragged, torn appearance. Unless infestation is severe or the life of the Mexican heather is threatened, most plants can withstand the small amount of damage done by chewing insects. If you need to use chemicals, spray the infested Mexican heather with 1/3 fluid ounce of concentrated carbaryl insecticide diluted in 1 gallon of water. Follow the label instructions for exact dilution rates and safety instructions.

4. Other Bugs on Mexican Heather

Nematodes can be a serious problem for Mexican heather, notes University of Florida IFAS Extension, weakening the plant and leading to its decline. Root knot nematodes are microscopic parasites that are most prevalent in sandy soils. They feed on plant roots. Mexican heather infested with root knot nematodes will begin to develop yellowing leaves, a thinning canopy and poor growth. No chemicals kill root knot nematodes, so keep plants healthy by providing them with proper water and fertilizer to support root growth.

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