Keeping Ficus plants thriving can be challenge indoors or outdoors.
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
- Pests – Mealybugs, Plant Scale, Spider Mites, Aphids
A mealybug infestation can crop up on Ficus plants. Tackling mealybugs pest outdoors is problematic. Battling mealy bugs on indoor Ficus is much more troublesome.
Here are some tips and tricks to kill mealybugs on Ficus plants.
NOTE: The vine mealybug (Planococcus ficus) is the type often found on Ficus trees.
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 most common on indoor plants and is a common greenhouse pest. You generally find a mealybug colony as cottony masses on the leaves and stems.
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 up to 600 eggs.
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.
A significant infestation of mealybugs can weaken your Ficus. The leaves yellow and curl, and over time kill off your plant.
Mealybugs produce a sticky substance called honeydew. This sugary substance attracts other houseplant pests into your home, including ants. It also feeds the sooty mold fungus.
How To Control Mealybug on Ficus
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.
Standard 70% rubbing alcohol is a useful tool to remove a mealybug infestation. Rubbing alcohol strips the mealybug of its protective waxy coating, causing them to lose fluids and die.
For a smaller infestation, take a cotton ball or Q-tip and dip it in rubbing alcohol. Then, dab it over the unwanted pests.
For a large of mealybugs mix:
- 1 part rubbing alcohol
- Seven parts of water
Place 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 the oldest techniques many gardeners use to keep pests at bay. There are many insecticidal soaps on the market targeting mealybugs and other common 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
Controlling mealybugs outdoors the use of beneficial insects like Cryptolaemus montrouzieri beetles aka (Mealybug Destroyer) can be introduced. Natural predators like leptomastix dactylopii a parasitic wasp are also an option.
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.
Following the above methods will help you quickly and safely remove mealybugs on Ficus.