Mealybugs are tiny, soft-bodied, wingless insects covered in a soft grayish or white waxy protective layer.
These piercing, sucking, wax-covered insects are only about a fifth of an inch long, but they tend to congregate in massive colonies and suck the life out of plants.
What can you do about a mealybug infestation? In this article, we share smart home remedies to help you meet this threat to your plants.
What Damage Do Mealybugs Cause?
During the spring and summertime, mealybugs on plants can wreak havoc on outdoor plants. In the winter, they tend to move indoors to attack houseplants.
Related: Details on How to get rid of mealybugs outside.
You’ll know you have a mealybug problem if:
- You see fluffy white clusters of the pests on your plants
- You notice a sticky substance on or around your plants
- You see an unsightly black coating on your plants
- You find that ants are visiting your plants
A mealybug problem may start with a few individual bugs hiding in the crevices and under your plants’ leaves. They can even be found in foliage, fruits, flowers, and roots.
If you fail to notice them, they will reproduce rapidly as the adult females lay eggs, and you will soon see them gathering en masse.
Their sticky secretions (honeydew) will collect on plants’ leaves, stems, and surrounding surfaces if this lasts long.
Honeydew encourages the growth of black, sooty mold. It interferes with the plant’s ability to access the light needed for photosynthesis.
Additionally, sweet, sticky honeydew attracts ants who come to gather it and carry it back to their burrows.
Ants also like to “farm” mealybugs by moving them around to the tips of plants’ leaves so that they’ll have greater access to plant sap. Ants may even “milk” mealybugs by squeezing them to cause them to excrete honeydew on demand.
If you pay close attention to your ornamental plants, you’ll notice mealybugs in the early stages. This is when it is easiest to get rid of them and prevent damage.
6 Remedies On How To Get Rid Of Mealybugs Naturally
Keep Your Plants Healthy
Keeping plants healthy does not seem like much of a “remedy.” But mealybugs and other pests are much more likely to infest weak, sickly host plants.
Whenever you plant anything, take the time to research the needs and proper care of the plant.
Provide the right amount of sun, water, fertilizer, and air circulation to support your plant so that it can fight off pests.
Make Your Garden Attractive Solution To Beneficial Insects
Many good bugs like to make a meal of mealybugs, aphids, and other pests. Among the natural predators are ladybugs, Mealybug Destroyer (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri), lacewings, parasitic wasps, praying mantes, and more.
Also, mix a few of these plants into your garden to create a suitable habitat:
- White Clover
Hose Your Plants Down Periodically
A strong spray of water can knock mealybugs to the ground. If you make a heavy shower a regular practice, you can knock out mealybugs before you notice their presence.
A stream of water discourages ants from bringing in mealybugs or enabling those that might already be in your garden.
Use Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
Dust your plants’ leaves and stems lightly to kill mealybugs and ants.
Dust Diatomaceous Earth onto the soil surrounding your plants to discourage ants further. Remember to replenish your DE after watering or after it rains.
If you see only a few mealybugs on individual indoor plants, isolate the plant and wipe them off with a paper towel or cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol.
The rubbing alcohol will help kill any insects, including the larvae and eggs.
Keep an eye on that plant and repeat this treatment if new mealybugs appear.
Insecticides: Make A Homemade Mealybug Spray
Make a homemade mealybug spray (aka insecticidal soaps) by combining these ingredients:
- 4 tsp liquid dish soap (not detergent)
- 1 quart of water
Decant the mixture into a spray bottle and spray the soapy water on your affected plants generously. Spray the soil’s surface as well. After two hours, rinse your plants well to dislodge any stragglers that may not have come in contact with the spray.
This spray is effective against all soft-bodied plant pests (e.g., whiteflies and aphids) and the hibiscus mealybug.
TIP: Always do a patch test before applying any treatment to your plant. Spray one leaf and wait at least an hour to be sure the plant is not sensitive to the treatment.
Another mealybug control is neem oil solution.
Neem oil is a natural insecticide made from the seeds of the neem tree. You can use this for spraying the infested plants to control the mealybug.
Just combine 4 tablespoons of neem oil, 2 teaspoons of liquid soap, and a gallon of water.
The great thing about this solution is that it doesn’t harm beneficial insects, and you don’t have to resort to chemical pesticides.