Have you ever seen mealybugs on houseplants or on other ornamental plants in the landscape?
If you have noticed what looks like small pieces of cotton or blotches of powder all over the leaves, those small, fuzzy, tiny white bugs on plants are probably mealybugs. If you’ve seen them, naturally, mealybug control will be a priority.
What Do Mealy Bugs Look Like And Why Control is Necessary
Mealybugs are white, soft-bodied, cottony-looking insects equipped with piercing/sucking mouth parts under order hemiptera.
They are like plant scale insects and aphids in that they suck the fluids from leaves and stems, robbing plants of essential nutrients.
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:
- Pink hibiscus mealybug (Maconellicoccus hirsutus)
- Hibiscus mealybug (Maconellicoccus hirsutus green)
- Vine mealybug
- Citrus mealybug (Planococcus citri)
- Grape mealybug
- Longtailed mealybug (Pseudococcus longispinus)
- Pineapple mealybug
- Obscure mealybug (Pseudococcus viburni)
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 mold usually whithers away after removing the mealybug.
Watch For Ants Feeding On Mealybug Honeydew
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.
Mealybugs do well indoors – they love and live very well in warm, dry environments. These pests have a life cycle of about 30 days.
These crawlers normally call home and adult females deposit their eggs where leaves join stems or along leaf veins. When the eggs hatch, their feeding will cause leaves to turn yellow and drop.
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 indoor plants most commonly affected by mealybugs include:
- The African violets pests include root and foliar mealybug
- Cactus and Succulent pests
- Dracaena plants
- Pothos plants – Green Jade, Golden & Marble Queen
- Norfolk Island Pine – Araucaria Plant
- Jade plant with leaves falling off
- Spineless Yucca Elephantipes
How To Get Rid Of And Kill Mealybugs On Plants
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 mealy 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.
For heavy infestations of mealy bugs, 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 insecticidal soap and alcohol mixtures on a small portion of the plant prior to full application as some plants may be sensitive to soap or alcohol. Systemic insecticides are another possibility, although I try to avoid them.
How To Get Rid Of Mealybugs On Orchids?
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.
Kill Mealybugs When You See Them
Luckily, mealybugs are susceptible to many non-toxic home remedies so you do not have to use toxic pesticides in your home to get mealybugs off your orchids.
One of the simplest and most popular treatments is simply to use a cotton swab to dab a bit of rubbing alcohol on these pests when you see them. Rubbing alcohol will kill 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.
Check for mealybugs frequently and treat repeatedly to be certain of killing them all.
Treat Mealybugs On Orchids With Homemade Insecticidal Soap
Make a mild spray using a liter of distilled water and a teaspoonful of organic liquid castile soap. Doctor Bronner’s makes a good product.
You can also make a liter of orchid-safe mealybug spray by combining distilled water and isopropyl alcohol 50/50 along with a teaspoonful of liquid castile soap.
Spraying alcohol will help kill off mealybug eggs.
Spray affected 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 spray will dry thoroughly.
You don’t want your orchid leaves to stay damp for an extended period of time.
Heavily infested orchids can be rinsed in a castile 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 rubbing alcohol or mild insecticidal soap 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.
Neem Oil Has A Residual Effect
A mild solution of organic neem oil is also safe to use on orchids.
This natural pest control product is very versatile, and you are sure to find lots of uses for it on all your houseplants 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.
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.
- 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 rubbing 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 and treat with neem oil spray.
#6 – Carefully observe the affected orchid. Check it every day and use a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl 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 rubbing 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 insecticidal soap solution. 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% isopropyl alcohol.
These pests can be killed on contact with a little rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab, or you can simply spray your succulents with straight rubbing alcohol to kill off both the pests and their eggs.
In cases of heavy infestation, you can even use straight rubbing alcohol as a soil drench to kill the bugs and their eggs in the soil surrounding the plant.
Quarantine Affected Plants
When you see mealybugs on one of your succulents, be sure to separate it from your collection. Give it 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 isopropyl 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 isopropyl alcohol is the most affordable and simplest solution for getting rid of mealybugs on succulents.
However, if you don’t want to use rubbing 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 Defeating Mealybugs
If you can catch mealybugs before they have a chance to reproduce much, you should be able to keep them under control or even eradicate them with the rubbing alcohol method.
Just be sure to treat infestations repeatedly until you see no more mealybugs. Perform preventative spraying on a regular basis.
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 the ladybug, they 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.