Pests and insects are a fact of life in nature, but that doesn\'t mean you have to stand by helplessly while they demolish a favorite plant. In fact, take just a few preventive measures and, hopefully, you may never encounter any of these lttle bugs.

Begin by inspecting new plants carefully before you purchase them. Reject any that show evidence of infestation, and quarantine the ones you do choose by isolating them from your other houseplants for a week or two.

Next, keep foliage clean. Wiping leaves with a damp cloth or tissue not only removes residues that encourage pests, but it also provides you with an opportunity to check for early signs that insects have attacked.

If something does begin to bug your plants, don't panic. First step is to temporarily isolate the plant so the pests won\'t spread to other plants. In most cases, the non-chemical controls listed opposite will eliminate the problem. If they don't, try spraying with an insecticide such as resmethrin, a synthetic pyrethroid. (Be sure the pesticide is labeled for use on your particular type of plant).

Any insecticide is a poison, of course, so be sure to carefully follow instructions on the label, and spray outdoors if the weather permits. For best results, follow label instructions for repeat applications necessary to eradicate any pests that may have hatched in the interim.

Aphids: Small, round. soft-bodied lice that feed on leaves and stems. Some are green, as shown on the opposite page: others are white, pink or black. Besides reduced

vigor. damage often appears as wilting or curling of foliage, or stunting and deformation of buds and flowers. Aphids secrete honeydew which may result in the growth of sooty mold on the plant. Aphids reproduce rapidly. so it's important to detect and do something about them early. By the time damage has become noticeable. you should already have seen the aphids themselves (highly visible in size).  Aluminum foil stretched under the plants may repel aphids. Or carefully wash the plant in mildly soapy lukewarm water and rinse well. Repeat once a week until insects are under control.

Mealybugs: Multi-legged blobs that look like they've been rolled in flour, mealy-bugs creep along stems and the undersides of leaves. They also bunch up in leaf and/or branch a xils and will move when disturbed. As they feed, they excrete a sticky goo, upon which a sooty mold will often develop, and that makes it difficult for the plant to breathe as well as the damage resulting from lost plant sap. Usually you can see the bugs themselves. as well as their cotton-like egg sacks.Remove them from the plant by dabbing mealybugs with a cotton swab that's been dipped in rubbing alcohol, then rinse plant with lukewarm water. Repeat every week until the insects are under control.

Red spider mites: Tiny spiders. like the one shown on the opposite page. Most are too small to be seen with the naked eye. Check the undersides of leaves. especially along veins or edges; bronze or reddish coloration means a colony of them is at work where webs from large colonies can be seen. Eventually, the tops of leaves may turn white or yellow. Place the plant in a shower and spray it thoroughly with lukewarm water, paying special attention to the undersides of foliage. Repeat every three days until mites are under control.

Scale: Sap feeders that live under a stationary shell-like covering on stems and leaves. Scale may be hard and shellac-like. soft and waxy. or cottony. Usually congregate along the stems or the main veins on the underside of leaves. Scrape off with a soft toothbrush. Wash plant with lukewarm soapy water, rinse, and repeat once or twice more at one-week intervals. Remove badly infested leaves and quarantine the plant.