Violet Beetles are large insects which measure up to 4 inches in length. They are blue and white in color, and some have either thin, green stripes or tiny red stars on the wing casings. While they are called "Violet Beetles," they are, in fact, known to attack only one species of African Violet. Specifically, Violet Beetles only feed on the Saintpaulia diplotricha, hence their name. Violet Beetles feed on the foliage of S. diplotricha, chewing large, rectangular-shaped holes in the leaves. Their presence is easily recognized by an unusual substance which these beetles excrete. When dry, this substance turns into a bright, red powder which covers the leaves and flowers. If left untreated, Violet Beetles can cause a substantial amount of damage.
If your African Violet has these symptoms, it probably has Violet Beetles.
If possible, remove Violet Beetles by hand. For heavier infestations, you may need to spray with Malathion (1 teaspoon of Malathion 50 per 4 liters of water). Please note that Malathion may discolor the flowers of S. diplotricha. If this happens, do not be overly concerned. The discoloration is only temporary and will cease as new flowers open.
As an alternative to traditional chemical treatments, try spraying with Neem (Azadirachtin). Neem is a substance which has natural insecticidal properties, and according to currently available research, it is biodegradable and non-toxic. When sprayed on African Violets, it discourages insects by making the plant unpalatable. Though Neem does have some systemic effect in plants, spray it as you would other contact insecticides, being sure to cover those areas where Violet Beetles tend to attack.
When working outside, always change clothes before working with indoor plants. Violet Beetles may get trapped in clothing where they can go undetected until they find their way to your plants.
Important Note on the Use of Pesticides
Please note that almost all pesticides are formulated for specific uses and conditions. When applied incorrectly, pesticides can cause ill health or damage to plants. Therefore, when using any kind of pesticide or chemical treatment, always apply as indicated on the product label.
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