If you’re here, then you’ve probably come across or even have an infestation of mealybugs. Those tiny, cloud-like creatures on your plants that refuse to budge.
You also probably wondered: Are mealybugs harmful to humans?
The short answer. Unless you have allergies or you lose your plants and money, then no, they aren’t dangerous. Don’t let the name of these innocent creatures scare you. The “mealy” part is because of the fuzz on their bodies, not because they see you as a meal!
Are you interested to know more? Read about to what extent this white, fuzzy bug can be harmful.
How Can Mealybugs Be Harmful to Humans?
Indeed, an infestation of mealybugs isn’t dangerous to humans, but they cause some harm.
Mealybug (Honeydew) Allergy
In some cases, people experience an allergic reaction to honeydew, the waste product of mealybugs. This allergen induces symptoms like skin rashes or sinusitis when patients come in contact with the substance.
What Is Honeydew?
The sticky residue Mealybugs secrete is a substance called honeydew. Honeydew is the sugary residue that attracts feeding insects, like honeybees, and enhances mold development on plants. This secretion contains sugar because mealybugs can only digest some of the liquid sap they ingest, then they excrete the rest as the honeydew.
Honeydew allergy is common and not only caused by mealybugs on houseplants. Honeydew triggers an inhalant allergy in some people, while it causes skin allergies to others.
If you’re allergic, you may experience symptoms like eye redness and sneezing or skin redness and itchiness when you inhale or touch honeydew.
Leftover honeydew forms a grey-black type of fungus that looks like soot covering the plant. This mold can arouse or further provoke mold allergy in some people. One of the main symptoms of this allergy is nasal irritation.
To Protect Yourself from Mealybugs:
If you have to come in close contact with mealybugs and fear an allergic reaction, wear a protective mask and gloves.
Be sure to wash your body parts and all tools that come in contact with mealybugs and their waste products immediately after checking your plant.
Not all harm caused by mealybugs is bodily. There’s also economic harm. The insects keep on feeding on the plant that’s under attack until it dies. If you get a mealybug infestation in your plants, they die in clusters.
The bad news is that these insect pests don’t have a preference when it comes to their food. They feed on all kinds of host plants. Pothos, Ponytail, and Hibiscus. They also attack plants at any place. You can find them on infected plants in outdoor crops and office plants.
The hibiscus even has a pests name after it – the Pink Hibiscus mealybug.
Here’s How Mealybugs Work On Killing Your Plant:
Mealybugs are plant sap-suckers. They feed on the plant juices from stems, leaves, and even fruits until they weaken the entire plant. You end up with a wilted and yellowed plant that eventually falls apart.
The leftover honeydew turns moldy, and its sweetness attracts insects to infest the plant as well. This is how you end up with a disaster of an insect infestation on your plant!
What Can I Do to Avoid a Mealybug Infestation?
Keeping your plants in a warmer or more humid environment increases the chances of it attracting mealybugs. This is not possible with outdoor plants.
Overwatering plants attract mealybugs.
Watch out for overdoing it with the fertilizer. This makes for a fertile environment for mealybugs.
- Mealybugs on succulents are the worst. They’re at their job hidden behind the fleshy leaf clusters sucking the plant to death.
- Mealybugs don’t tend to stay in the open. Look for them hidden on the underside of plant leaves and in the nooks of your plant’s stem.
- These are even root mealybugs that live under the soil line.
- Frequently check for mealybugs on your plants. They’re sadly only noticeable when they increase in population, making it harder to control their growth.
- Your best bet is to isolate a plant when you find mealybugs on it completely. That way, you protect your vegetation from infestation.
- Try saving a plant from mealybug infestations in its early stages by applying insecticidal soaps, or dabbing the mealybugs with cotton swabs soaked in alcohol. When spraying make sure to spray the underside of leaves.
- If you find a plant with a heavy mealybug infestation, consider getting rid of it altogether.
In The End – Do Mealybugs Harm Humans?
Mealybugs are tame creatures when it comes to humans, except for occasional allergic reactions to people. The major loss mealybugs are responsible for is killing plants, sometimes in batches.
Next time you see a mealybug lurking on your plant, take your precautions and don’t be bugged about it! They don’t bite. Puns intended.