How To Kill Mealybugs: Get Rid Of | Control | Treatment

Most people want to know – How To Get Rid of Mealybugs – after they have seen mealybugs on their indoor plants or on other ornamental plants in the landscape.

If you have noticed that mealybugs look like small pieces of cotton or blotches of powder all over the leaves, those small, fuzzy, tiny white bugs on plants are probably mealybugs.

white bird of paradise with mealybugs feeding on plant
Mealy bug infestation (sometimes called Millie Bugs) on white Bird of Paradise Leaf

If you’ve seen them, naturally, mealybug control will be a priority.

What Do Mealybugs Look Like And Why Control is Necessary?

Mealybugs are white, soft-bodied, cottony-looking insects with a protective waxy coating, and equipped with piercing/sucking mouth parts under order hemiptera.

They are like plant scale insects and aphids in that they suck the fluids from green leaves and stems, robbing plants of essential nutrients and plant vigor.

Mealybugs excrete large amounts of honeydew, this makes an excellent “growing soil” for a black fungus called sooty mold. Some of the known species of mealybugs that are likely to infest your home and garden include:

Sooty mold is unattractive and interferes with photosynthesis, it can also retard the growth of the plant.

This can also make the leaves and floors sticky. Sooty black mold usually whithers away after removing the mealybug.

Related: Organic Natural Pest Control Without Pesticides

Watch For Ants Feeding On Mealybug Honeydew

mealy bug close up
Mealy bug has a life cycle of about 30 days

Where do mealybugs come from?

Ants feed on the honeydew when you find ants crawling around your plants indoors or out or observed making a nice trail from a plant.

Take some time to examine your houseplants closely for these sucking pests.

These annoying white bugs on plants do well indoors – they love and live very well in warm, dry environments. These houseplant pests have a life cycle of about 30 days.

These crawlers normally call home and adult females deposit their eggs in cottony egg sacs where leaves join stems, in branch crotches or along leaf veins. When the eggs hatch, their feeding will cause leaves to turn yellow and leaf drop to occur.

Damaged plants look withered and may have a sticky sap on the leaves or stems.

Mealybugs On Houseplants – What Plants Get Them On The Most?

Some of the houseplants most commonly affected by mealybugs include:


How To Control And Get Rid Of Mealybug Problem On Plants

Here’s how to kill mealy bugs.

As with soft scale insects, an easy method of control is to apply alcohol with cotton swabs directly on the mealybug.

Wiping down the foliage regularly and helping plants clean will help keep these white fuzzy bugs in check.

For a mealy bug insecticide, if a plant becomes severely infested consider using safe natural organic neem oil sprays to control the pest or make your own homemade insecticidal soap or possibly horticultural oils.

Neem oil can be found at your local garden center. Always read the pesticide label and wear appropriate safety equipment when applying any chemical.

For heavy infestations of mealybugs that are hard to reach, try spraying directly on the insects a mixture of 10 percent rubbing alcohol and 90 percent water. Repeat applications weekly until the bugs are gone.

Always test any insecticide, soap spray or alcohol mixtures on a small portion of the plant prior to full application as some plants may be sensitive to dish soap or alcohol. Systemic insecticides are another possibility, although I try to avoid them.

How To Get Rid Of Mealybugs On Orchids?

Here’s how to get rid of mealy bugs.

Mealy bug on buds of moth orchid
Mealybug infestation feeding on the buds of Phalaenopsis moth orchid

Prevention is the best way to get rid of mealybugs on orchids. These pests can come from a number of sources, such as:

  • Plants that have been allowed to spend time outside during the warm months
  • Fresh produce or flowers (either purchased or brought in from outdoors)
  • Put in place by ants seeking to set up a “farm” to harvest honeydew
  • New plants introduced to your collection
  • Use of contaminated potting medium

Whenever you purchase a new plant, bring plants or produce in from outdoors, inspect thoroughly for mealybugs and ants!

Quarantine new plants for a couple of weeks to avoid introducing pests to your orchids and other houseplants.

Related: How To Get Rid Of Mealybugs on Fiddle Leaf Fig

Kill The Mealybugs When You See Them

Luckily, mealybugs are susceptible to many non-toxic home remedies so you do not need to use toxic pesticides in your home to get rid of a mealybug infestation off your orchids.

One of the simplest and most popular mealybug treatment is simply to use a cotton swab dipped in alcohol on these pests when you see them. Killing mealybugs with alcohol kills them on contact.

Don’t just treat the obvious ones, though. Inspect the entire orchid to find any that may be lurking in the leaf joints, under leaves, in the substrate or in crevices in the container.

To eliminate mealybugs check frequently and treat repeatedly to be certain of killing them all.

Mealybugs Control On Orchids With Homemade Insecticidal Soaps

Make an effective mealybug treatment (insecticide soap) using a mild spray mix using a liter of distilled water and a teaspoonful of organic liquid castile soap. Doctor Bronner’s makes a good product.

Check Out our Homemade Recipe For Insecticidal Soap

You can also make a liter of orchid-safe mealy bug spray by combining distilled water and isopropyl alcohol 50/50 along with a teaspoonful of liquid castile soap in a spray bottle.

Spraying alcohol will help kill off mealybug eggs.

Spray on the plant (orchids) lightly, early in the day. Be sure they are in an area that has bright, indirect light and good air circulation so that the water and spray will dry thoroughly.

You don’t want your orchid leaves to stay damp for an extended period of time.

Heavily infected orchids can be rinsed in a castile or dish soap and water solution, rinsed and allowed to dry thoroughly.

It is not a good idea to spray or rinse blossoms or buds. If mealybugs infest an orchid in bloom, it’s best to sacrifice the blossoms by pruning them to save the plant.

Neither alcohol or mild insecticide soaps have residual effects, so you will need to treat repeatedly over several days to eradicate all the pests.

Check back daily to be sure the job is complete.

Mealybug Spray: Neem Oil Has A Residual Effect

A mild solution of organic neem oil is also safe to use on orchids.

Neem oil is a natural pest control product and very versatile. You are sure to find lots of uses for Neem oil on all your house plants and in your garden.

Be sure to follow packaging directions carefully when using the concentrate to make foliar sprays and soil drench solutions.

Even with its residual effects, neem oil should be applied several times for best results.

Organic Neem OIl 100% Pure Cold Pressed - (16 oz) - OMRI Listed for Organic Use
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8 Step Process For Orchid Mealybug Control And Eradication

Follow these eight steps to get rid of mealybugs and keep them away:

#1 – Be vigilant! Examine all plants and their containers thoroughly for mealybugs on a regular basis.

#2 – Inspect all of your plants and treat as needed.

#3 – When you see mealybugs, act immediately.

  • Wash heavily infested orchids with a mild insecticidal soap solution or neem oil.
  • Use a cotton swab with alcohol to treat mild infestations.
  • Change container and substrate if necessary.
  • Prune blossoms if necessary.

#4 – Wash down your plant area using a strong solution of soapy water. Finish up by spraying the area with alcohol and wiping it down again.

You can add a little neem oil to the alcohol spray for added residual effect.

#5 – Quarantine affected plants – make sure they are not touching any other plants and treat with neem oil spray.

#6 – Carefully observe the affected orchid. Check it every day and use a cotton swab dipped in alcohol to kill off any mealybugs that may reappear.

#7 – If you still see mealybugs after a week, treat with neem oil spray again.

#8 – Keep the orchid in quarantine for several weeks. When you no longer see any sign of mealybugs, you can put it back in your collection.

Keep A Clean Plant Area

Mealybugs are able to hide in crevices and remain alive in a dormant state even when plants are not present.

Be sure to move your plant collection and wipe down all surfaces with soap and water and alcohol on a regular basis.

Check and wipe down the bottoms of containers and saucers and all equipment used to care for your orchids and other houseplants.

Mealybugs can hide out in orchid potting medium and regular potting soil.

If they are a recurring problem, you may need to repot orchids and other plants with fresh, new substrate.

When you repot orchids, be sure to clean and treat the roots with a mild insect soap mix. Rinse thoroughly before placing the plant in its new substrate. [source]

How to Get Rid Of Mealybugs On Succulents?

Mealybugs are susceptible to all sorts of pesticides and homemade pest control solutions, but one of the simplest and most affordable for use with succulents is 70% alcohol.

These pests can be killed on contact with a little rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball or you can simply spray your succulents with straight alcohol to kill off both the pests and their eggs.

In cases of heavy infestation, you can even use straight alcohol as a soil drench to kill the bugs and their eggs in the soil surrounding the plant.

For more details read our article: Mealybugs on Succulents

Quarantine Affected Plants

When you see a mealybug infestation on one of your succulents, be sure to remove or separate it from your collection. It is helpful to give plants a good drenching and keep it apart for a couple of weeks.

Check every day and treat for mealybugs as needed by spraying. Check all parts of the plant and its pot for any bugs that may be hiding in crevices.

Take special care to inspect the base of the stem as these bugs like to hide in the soil surrounding the plant. Spray or drench this area liberally.

It’s also a good idea to clean up your plant area with a strong solution of detergent and water and treat other members of your succulent collection with rubbing alcohol.

It won’t hurt them, and it may help prevent a major infestation. Many enthusiasts simply keep a spray bottle of rubbing alcohol close at hand for regular treatments.

Is Straight Rubbing Alcohol Really Safe For Succulents?

For succulents, regular use of rubbing alcohol does not seem to be harmful. It kills the pests on contact and then it evaporates quickly, so it doesn’t have a chance to damage plants or roots.

Most succulent enthusiasts agree that alcohol is the most affordable and simplest solution for getting rid of mealy bugs on succulents.

However, if you don’t want to use alcohol or don’t have it on hand, try adding a teaspoonful of dish soap to a quart of water to make a spray.

If you have an outdoor succulent garden, be sure to keep a healthy population of natural predators, such as Lady Bugs.

Vigilance Is Key To Defeat and Kill Mealybugs

If you can catch mealybugs before they have a chance to reproduce much, you should be able to control mealybugs or even eradicate them with the rubbing alcohol method.

Just be sure to treat infestations repeatedly until you see no more mealybugs. Continue to spray and perform preventative measures on a regular basis.

Contact insecticides will kill Mealybugs feeding on the new growth of Hibiscus plant

All Natural Mealy Bug Control With Beneficial Insects

Using beneficial insects or natural enemies for biological control of mealybugs is another option.

For example, one mealy bug killer is the beneficial insect also known as the “Mealybug Destroyer” or Cryptolaemus montrouzieri technically and as “Crypts” for short.

They, like the excellent garden friend the ladybug, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri are lady beetles. Unlike lady bugs, these beneficial insects hang around after release and do not disappear.

Leptomastix dactylopii makes another natural enemy of mealybugs. They are parasitic wasps that attack the citrus mealybugs.

You can also go for other mealybug destroyers that also go after nymphs, aphids, spider mites, fungus gnats, and more.Image: Forest and Kim Starr | puuikibeach

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