This Insecticide Saved My Houseplant Collection

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Captain Jack's Dead Bug Brew

The Spruce / Amy Sheehan / Amazon

Like many people, I love houseplants. My love for them first started when I moved to New York in 2015 and, while it started off relatively slowly with the purchase of an easy-care ZZ plant, it really exploded when I moved into a light-filled apartment in 2020 with more windows to fill with greenery.

But one thing I don't love about houseplants is pests. Houseplant pests are a natural part of plant parenthood, but every time I see a fungus gnat flying around or notice a spider mite or two, I can't help but feel like I am a terrible plant parent. And if you've ever had plant pests, you know how quickly they can spread to your other plants. After some particularly challenging experiences with spider mites and thrips, however, I found Captain Jack's Dead Bug Brew.

I'll admit that half of the reason I bought this insecticide was its name: it didn't just sound great, but it also sounded like it would really work. Dead Bug Brew? I'm sold. It turned out to be incredibly effective, saving a few of my houseplants from certain death.

Bonide Captain Jack's Dead Bug Brew

Captain Jack's Dead Bug Brew


While Captain Jack's Dead Bug Brew is not recommended for indoor use, I have the windows in my apartment open essentially year-round (and no children or pets), and I was desperate to find something that worked.

driew Plant Mister Spray Bottle, 10oz

driew Plant Mister Spray Bottle, 10oz


A Spider Mite-Infested Stromanthe

The fact is that some plants are more prone to pests than others, which is what I learned when I bought my first triostar stromanthe. I was so excited to add this trendy pink houseplant to my collection, and was a little bit naive about the amount of maintenance it would require. Stromanthes, like their close relatives, calathea, seem to be spider mite magnets.

For the first couple of weeks that I had my stromanthe, everything seemed fine and it was pretty healthy. But about a month or two in, I noticed the leaves were turning brown and crispy and dying off. At first, I couldn't figure out if I was watering it too much, or too little, or if it wasn't getting enough sun. And it seemed like nothing I did was improving the situation.

One day, I looked a little closer and turned over one of the leaves—and was horrified to see almost the entire plant was covered in tiny webs and bugs. It was totally infested with spider mites, but they are so small and I didn't think to look closer before this point.

While my original stromanthe was too far gone to bring back, I was determined to get another one and succeed this time around. The first step was to find an effective insecticide. Captain Jack's listed spider mites as one of the pests it was effective at killing, so I ordered some ahead of time so I was prepared.

This time, I monitored my new stromanthe closely and at the first (inevitable) sign of spider mites, I sprayed it with Dead Bug Brew concentrate mixed with water, according to the package instructions. And I kept spraying. While the spider mites didn't go away immediately, it did keep them from doing too much damage to the plant, and spraying my stromanthe just became a regular part of my routine. It's been several weeks since I've seen any signs of spider mites on my stromanthe now.

Stromanthe triostar

Kate McKenna

Philodendron-Attacking Thrips

While I was battling spider mites in one corner of my apartment, I started to notice that my usually-very-happy philodendron Brasil was starting to look sad—so I knew something had to be up. When I looked more closely at the leaves, I saw tiny larvae wiggling around and soon identified them as thrips.

If you've never had thrips on your houseplants, count yourself lucky. These pests are some of the hardest to get rid of, and I panicked after a quick Google search. And then I panicked again when I saw them on my beloved monstera—one of the first trendy houseplants I ever bought.

Monstera deliciosa

Kate McKenna

My philodendron was pretty big, bushy, and had tons of leaves, and it was going to be impossible to save it. The thrips must have been there for weeks before I noticed, and every leaf I looked at had one or two larva on it. After a few days of spraying and wiping down every inch that I could, I gave up and unfortunately had to throw it in the trash before the thrips spread to any of my other plants.

My monstera, however, was a bit easier to treat: the leaves are big and there are much fewer of them, so spraying each leaf and wiping them down wasn't quite as daunting. So I got to work: checking the leaves every day and spraying them any time I saw even a single thrip or larva. In about 2 weeks, I stopped seeing any signs of the bugs, and my monstera was saved.

A Plant Care Essential

I used to get really anxious when one of my houseplants had pests, even if I noticed before the infestation got really bad. But knowing that I have this effective pesticide on hand makes me feel so much more prepared, and I know it will help keep infestations under control and my houseplants healthy.

Dead Bug Brew is meant for outdoor use, so you can use it in your garden where pests can be even more widespread. It can even be used on fruits and vegetables and is an organic insecticide. With this in your plant care arsenal, it's so much easier to keep plants pest-free.