Few things are more frustrating than discovering white sticky stuff on the leaves of your plants.
You find this is a sure sign of a mealybug infestation. At the nymph stage, these insect pests are difficult to see. The infestation usually only appears once the plant is already infected and requires immediate attention.
There are plenty of mealybug remedies out there. They often involve chemicals harmful to beneficial insects or create health risks for your family.
Neem oil is a natural remedy popular among indoor and outdoor plant enthusiasts. The question is, will neem oil work on mealybugs?
Does Neem Oil Control Mealybugs?
When properly applied, Neem oil helps control a mealybug infestation with minimal risk to humans, pets, or beneficial garden species.
Related: Do Mealybugs Harm Humans?
There are two key ways to apply neem to an infected plant: foliar spray and a Neem oil soil drench.
When using a commercial neem product, always read and follow the instructions.
How Neem Oil Works
Commercial neem oil is created primarily from the seeds of Indian lilac (Azadirachta indica). It contains a natural insecticide called Azadirachtin. It can affect insects at various stages in their development.
Azadirachtin disrupts an insect’s feeding habits. This, in turn, prevents larvae from reaching the next growth stage.
Neem oil clogs their airways of soft-bodied species of mealybugs or other scale insects, causing adults to suffocate.
Related: Find Out What Bugs Neem Oil Kills?
Choosing a Neem Product For Control Of Mealybugs
There are many neem products on the market. All work well on controlling mealybugs.
But, many contain extra chemicals that can prove harmful.
The best choices are using:
- Cold-pressed raw or crude neem oil
- Clarified hydrophobic neem oil when buying a pre-mixed spray.
Clarified hydrophobic neem oil is a neem variation where the Azadirachtin is removed. But the oil is still effective against many pests, including mealybugs.
Neem oil is sensitive to heat, so cold-pressed is generally more effective.
Three commercial brands that are considered safe for garden use are:
- Dyna-Gro Pure Cold-Pressed Neem Oil
- Garden Safe Neem Oil Extract
- Safer Brand BioNEEM
Applying Neem Foliar Sprays
Use a foliar soak on edible plants or houseplants where you don’t want a toxic residue.
Due to its rapid degradation, always apply foliar neem oil insecticide sprays to outdoor plants around dusk or dawn. This reduces the risk to pollinators and beneficial insects visiting the plant during the day or night.
Homemade Neem Spray Recipe
To make a foliar spray at home:
- Put a few drops of Dawn dish soap in one quart of water.
- Allow the water and oil to mix
- Add one teaspoon of neem per quart of water
- Use a spray bottle or sprayer to apply as a foliar oil spray
- Coat the entire plant, making sure to get all crevasses and the undersides of every leaf.
The neem oil will dissipate after 45 minutes to 1 hour. Reapply every other day for 14 days or as directed on the label.
Applying Neem Soil Soaks
A neem oil soil soak is perfect for:
- Large difficult to spray outdoor plants
- Edible plants that are not nearing harvest
The main difference between a spray and soak is that the soak is poured directly on the soil and absorbed by the plant.
As a result, the oil becomes a systemic pesticide. Any insects piercing the plant tissue ingest the neem directly without harming pollinators or beneficial insects that land on the plant.
Soil drench lasts up to 22 days before requiring another application. This makes it a poor choice for vegetables or other food plants and edible flowers, even though the neem oil isn’t toxic to humans.
Using Neem as a Preventative Insecticidal Soap
Catch infestations or bacterial and fungal infections before they become a problem. Apply a fresh application of neem oil every 14 days to your indoor plants or outdoor ornamental plants.
Reapplying soil soaks to large outdoor plants will also aid in protecting plants from a potential infestation.
Finally, you can use neem cakes, a byproduct of creating neem oil, as an addition to your compost or plant food.
The cakes provide nutrient-rich organic material. These cakes retain trace amounts of Azadirachtin, which plants absorb as a systemic insecticide.