There are hundreds of different kinds of mealybugs, and almost 300 of them live in North America.
They do damage by sucking the juice out of their host plants, especially new growth. Luckily, there are ways to get rid of mealybugs and reduce or stop an infestation.
What Are Mealybugs?
Mealybugs are easy to spot on plant stems and leaves because they have a white, cottony covering. Most of the time, they are a problem for houseplants in the north.
They can be found in private greenhouses, but they are rarely seen outside. But in warmer places, they could be a big problem for whole crops.
Mealybug infestations that aren’t too bad may be easy to treat, but if there are a lot of them, you may need to throw out the plant if it’s inside, and high infestations on plants outside should be treated more than once.
The damage they do makes the leaves change colour and eventually fall off the plant. Mealybugs can also cause the early loss of fruits, vegetables, and flower buds. When there are a lot of them, their waxy waste, which is also called honeydew, helps black mould grow.
Read on to find out seven ways to get rid of mealybugs on plants both inside and outside.
7 Ways to Get Rid of Mealybugs on Plants
Method 1: Wash Mealybugs Away
Method 2: Use Isopropyl Alcohol
Put some regular rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball and dab it on the mealybugs. This will kill the mealybugs and get rid of them quickly.
Use a solution with no more than 70% isopropyl alcohol, and test it on one leaf before putting it on the whole plant to make sure the alcohol doesn’t burn it.
Method 3: Spray With Insecticidal Soap
You can buy soaps that kill insects, or you can make your own with a mild dish detergent. Look for something that doesn’t have any smells or ingredients that could hurt plants.
Mix the soap and water together in a small amount (starting with 1 teaspoon of dish soap per gallon of water and increasing as necessary). The soapy solution should be sprayed on the plants.
Method 4: Use Neem Oil
Neem oil can be used to get rid of mealybugs in a natural way. The neem tree is where the natural part of neem oil comes from.
It affects an insect’s ability to eat, its growth, and its development. When given as directed, it also works as a repellent.
The Environmental Protection Agency says that it is safe to use neem oil on vegetables, other plants that can be eaten, and plants that are just for looks.
Method 5: Introduce Predatory Insects
Most of the time, these natural predators, which can be bought from commercial websites, are used to get rid of pests outside or in greenhouses.
Method 6: Use Homemade Insect Spray
Mix 1 garlic bulb, 1 small onion, and 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper in a food processor or blender to make a batch of homemade garden pesticide. Steep in a quart of water for an hour.
After straining through a cheesecloth, 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap is added. Mix everything well. The mix can be kept in the fridge for up to a week. The solution should be sprayed on the parts of the plant that have mealybugs.
Method 7: Use Synthetic Chemical Pesticide
Mealybugs can be killed with a few stronger insecticides, but the wax on the bugs may make these poisons ineffective.
Be careful when using these chemicals, especially in small spaces.
Humans can be hurt by stronger insecticides in different ways.
What Causes Mealybugs?
Mealybugs are drawn to plants that have a lot of the liquids they like to eat. Mealybugs can be a big problem for citrus trees, and some commercial crops, like mango, may be in danger because of them. Mealybugs can be found on many indoor plants, especially tropical ones.
Mealybugs are attracted to plants that have a lot of nitrogen and grow slowly. This can happen if you overwater and overfertilize your plants.
How to Prevent Mealybugs
Make sure your plants are healthy overall, and you won’t have to worry about these pests coming to your garden in the first place.
On the other hand, mealybugs can spread to even healthy plants. Since greenhouses are good places for plants to grow, they often bring in new ones. Before you add new plants to your collection, you should check them out carefully.
Other ways to keep mealybugs from getting into your plants are:
- Mealybugs may be harder to get rid of if you feed and water your plants less, since this lowers nitrogen levels and slows plant growth.
- Using a leaf shine solution with neem oil on the leaves of plants that are susceptible to mealybugs may help stop them.
- Mealybugs might not be able to take hold on plants that can be sprayed with strong bursts of water on a regular basis.
- Mealybugs don’t like tropical conditions, so lowering the temperature at night to 60 degrees Fahrenheit can keep them away from indoor plants that can handle it.
If mealybugs keep coming back after two or three weekly treatments with pesticides, you might want to kill the plant before they spread to other plants in your home.
Mealybugs vs. Scale
Mealybugs are related to scale insects, but unlike scale insects, they don’t have hard shells to protect their bodies. Instead, their bodies are soft.
Scale insects cover plant leaves and stems with a hard, barnacle-like substance instead of a fluffy, cottony substance. Scale can be gotten rid of in a way that is similar to how mealybugs are gotten rid of.
How long do mealybugs live?
Do mealybugs bite or sting?
Mealybugs don’t hurt people because they only eat the fluids of plants.
What plants are most susceptible to mealybugs?
There are so many different kinds of mealybugs that almost every plant you keep inside could have them. Mealybugs are more likely to grow on tropical plants because their stems and leaves are weaker.
Orchids, African violets, begonias, coleus, and amaryllis are some of the plants that are known to be especially sensitive.
However, in warmer climates, many outdoor plants are likely to be infested. When the temperature is between 70 and 90 degrees, mealybugs do well.