Keeping Ficus plants thriving can be a challenge indoors or outdoors. The recommended lighting and watering schedules are a few essentials in caring for a Ficus tree. This includes Ficus benjamina, Rubber tree Ficus varieties, Fiddle leaf Ficus, and other ficus types.
The Ficus is a sturdy plant, but there are a few common threats, including:
- Under or overwatering
- Dry air
- Exposure to too little light
- Extreme temperature changes
- Ficus Pests – Mealybugs, Plant Scale, Spider Mites, Aphids
Ficus pests are a common problem, with mealybugs being one of the most challenging to get rid of.
If you find have bugs such as white bugs on a Ficus tree, you may be dealing with a mealybug infestation.
A mealybug infestation can crop up on Ficus plants. Tackling mealybug pests outdoors is problematic. Battling mealy bugs on indoor Ficus is much more troublesome.
NOTE: The vine mealybug (Planococcus ficus) is the type often found on Ficus trees.
In this article, we will focus on controlling mealybugs on Ficus and preventing mealybug damage. Here are some tips and tricks to kill mealybugs on Ficus plants.
What Is A Mealybug?
Mealybugs are small, pink-bodied insects covered in a white cotton, waxy material. They are soft-bodied, wingless bugs.
This little menace is common on indoor plants and a common greenhouse pest. You generally find a mealybug colony as cottony masses on the leaves and stem crevices.
They commonly feed on trees, aroids, citrus trees, fruit crops, cacti, and succulents.
Early detection of this tiny insect can prevent the loss of your plant. A female mealybug is only 1/16″ inches long but can lay egg masses of about 600 covered with wax that looks like puffs of cotton.
After hatching, the young mealybugs called nymphs will search for a place to settle in the plant. These appear similar to the adult female mealybugs.
Mealybugs will only take almost six weeks or eight months to complete their life cycle. This makes them a menacing pest.
What Damage Does Mealybug on Ficus Cause?
Mealybugs feed on the sap of your Ficus plant. Depending on the number of mealybugs, your plant may:
- Leaves that become distorted
- Plant experiences leaf drop
- The plant dies
Light infestations aren’t usually something to get upset about. But you want to get rid of the mealybugs as soon as possible.
Mealybug damage can be severe, causing a significant infestation of mealybugs to weaken your Ficus.
A significant infestation of mealybugs can weaken your Ficus. The leaves are yellow and curl, and over time, kill off your plant.
Additionally, mealybugs produce a sticky substance called honeydew, which also attracts bugs on Ficus tree, such as ants while feeding a sooty mold fungus.
How To Control Mealybug on Ficus
Fortunately, there are several methods to control and get rid of ficus mealybugs.
Here are some natural and chemical methods to kill a mealybug on ficus plants.
Wash Them Away
For small infestations, fill a spray bottle with water and soak the infected area. Mealybugs are small, soft insects that can be dislodged from the plant with a steady stream of water.
This method is not recommended for larger infestations. You want to avoid extra water on your plant.
Rubbing Alcohol is an excellent option for removing a ficus bugs infestation.
Standard 70% rubbing alcohol is a useful tool to remove a mealybug infestation. Rubbing alcohol strips the mealybug of its protective waxy coating, causing it to lose fluids and die.
For smaller infestations, take a cotton ball or Q-tip and dip it in rubbing alcohol. Then, dab the cotton swab over the unwanted pests.
For a large mealybugs mix:
- 1 part rubbing alcohol
- Seven parts of water
Place the mixture into a spray bottle and coat any mealybug colonies.
Be sure to cover the stems and leaves to get those mealy bugs hiding under leaves or in hard-to-reach places.
This method will kill off the mealybugs. But the alcohol evaporates quickly. The mixture will not stay on your plant long enough to kill missed mealybugs.
Insecticidal soap sprays are one of gardeners’ oldest techniques to keep pests at bay. There are many insecticidal soaps on the market targeting mealybugs and other ficus pests.
If you do not want to buy an insecticidal soap, you can make your own.
Simple Insecticidal Soap Recipe for a Ficus
- 1 gallon of water
- One teaspoon of dish soap (unscented)
Mix the water and soap and fill a hand sprayer or spray bottle. Spray the mixture and coat the mealybugs colony. Be sure to cover the undersides of leaves.
Neem oil is a common natural insecticide. This bitter oil comes from the neem tree and is usually yellow to brown.
It has a distinctive garlic or sulfuric smell. Neem oil is effective against mealybug populations. The plant absorbs the neem, killing off insects it doesn’t come in direct contact with.
Follow the label directions for mixing and applying Neem oil.
Biological Control with Natural Enemies
Introducing natural predators like Cryptolaemus montrouzieri beetles aka (Mealybug Destroyer) can help in controlling mealybugs on rubber plant.
Natural predators like leptomastix dactylopii, a parasitic wasp, are also an option. Other natural enemies of mealybugs include adult ladybirds or green lacewings.
Regardless of your preferred treatment, getting a mealybug population under control may require several applications.
Move the plant so the bugs cannot move to other plants in your house. Treat with broad-spectrum insecticides, or consider getting rid of the plant.
Houseplants should bring us joy. They add color and texture to our living spaces.
Having an unwanted pest on plants may seem daunting. But mealybugs are easy to get rid of without harmful chemicals.
Moreover, mealybugs are common ficus tree pests, and early detection can prevent the loss of your plant.
Following the above methods will help you quickly and safely remove mealybugs on Ficus.