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Protect Your Houseplants and Learn How to Get Rid of Mealybugs?

how to get rid of mealybugs

There are hundreds of species of pests known as mealybugs. These tiny insects look like snow or a cluster of white spots on a plant. If you have noticed such formations on your plant recently, your houseplant is suffering from mealybugs infestation. So, what should you do? How to get rid of Mealybugs?

From natural remedies to toxic pesticides, there are many ways to remove mealybugs from plants. Today, we will tell you how you can get rid of mealybugs without using harsh nasty chemicals. So, let’s begin! 

What Are Mealybugs?

Mealybugs are scale-like small moving insects. These insects are covered with a white and cottony wax-type membrane. Mealybugs are only found on perennial foliage plants and as they are tropical insects, they are hardly ever found on flowering plants. Pink mealybugs are native to India but quickly spread to the Caribbean in 1993 and further up to Florida. 

Mealybugs can be deadly for plants as they can invade all parts of the plants, including the roots. It is commonly known as the Long-tailed mealybug, and its scientific name is Pseudococcus Longispinus. The most common greenhouse species and the most damaging is the citrus mealybug called Planococcus Citri.

How To Identify Mealybugs?

The appearance of Mealybugs is different from ordinary insects. They are pink and have a very soft body. Their size varies from 1/20 to 1/5 of an inch. This insect is stretched out and divided into parts. Moreover, they have slippery cells attached covering their backside end, which give off their tail look. They also have a white or greyish cottony wax on their bodies.

This appearance makes them hard to find as they look like cottony cushion scales or wooly insects. Mealybugs are different from their relatives called scales, as they keep their legs alive throughout their life. 

You have a mealybug infestation if you see a white fuzzy mass surrounding your stems and leaves of the plant. Male mealybugs are rarely seen on plants.

Plants usually get infected by female mealy bugs they are tiny, light-colored, soft-bodied insects that drain nutrients from houseplants, causing the leaves and buds to wither and fall off the vine.

The female buries her eggs in the white, cottony fluff. The eggs hatch in about ten days, resulting in a more significant mealybug population.

What Causes Mealybugs?

Mealybugs are very small and they can come in hidden through different sources like planting soil, other plants, fresh produce from the farmer’s market, or even grocery stores. They are mostly found indoors, but sometimes you can find them on outdoor plants. Mealybugs can cause enough harm to kill the entire plant if left untreated. 

Homeowners who have plants in their homes and over-fertilize them or keep them wet all the time risk a swarm of these mealybugs. Mealybugs can come out of nowhere, but frequently these insects are brought into your home with a new plant from the nursery. These are highly attracted to moisture, so a lot of times, they settle on over-watered plants. 

How Mealybugs Damage Plants

Mealybugs are so minute that they look like tiny white dots. These tiny white bugs, though, are not as innocent as they might seem. They can do a lot of damage to your plants.

While a small infestation of mealybugs is unlikely to cause apparent damage, a considerable infestation can mean disaster for your plants. Here are some ways mealybugs can damage your plants: 

Cause Weakness

Feed on the plant nutrients, making the plant weak. This results in leaf deformation, limited growth, and fewer flowers, seeds, and fruits.

Damages Leave

The plants that white bugs feed on suffer a lot of damage. These sap-sucking insects penetrate plant leaves, producing yellowing, spotting, deformity, withering, and premature leaf drop. 

Can Kill Plants

A massive infestation of white bugs infestation can even cause plant death.

How To Prevent Mealybugs?

Let’s discuss how to get rid of Mealybugs?

To prevent mealybugs, you have to be defensive. These pests do not affect healthy plants, so weak and under-potted plants have a high risk of getting infected.

However,  mealybugs can still also infect healthy plants, as they often come from new plants because greenhouses are the best breeding ground for them.

To prevent them from getting into your house, check every new plant carefully while buying it and putting it in your house.  

Here are a few strategies which will help you prevent mealybugs: 

Don’t Over Water and Over Fertilize 

Don’t overfeed and overwater the plants, as it will help prevent mealybugs because it reduces plant nitrogen levels.

Neem Oil Solution

Use a leaf shine solution containing neem oil, which will help prevent mealybugs on the plants.

Washing

Plants that can stand regular spraying should be washed regularly to prevent the mealybug plague from taking hold. 

Drop Temperature 

To prevent mealybugs from an indoor plant, drop the temperature to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, making them go away as they prefer tropical temperatures.

Ways To Get Rid Of Mealybugs On Plants

Following are the ways to get rid Of Mealybugs on plants:

Wash Mealybugs Away

Water pressure can remove mealybugs. You have to repeat this treatment if you find it necessary. This is the best method for light swarms of Mealybugs. Also, some plants cannot stand this kind of treatment as overwatering can damage the soil and roots. 

Use Isopropyl Alcohol 

Another way to remove mealybugs is to use Isopropyl Alcohol. It is a very simple yet effective treatment. You just have to soak a cotton ball with alcohol and wipe it on the mealybugs. This treatment will kill and remove them from the plant. 

You can prepare a solution of 70 percent of isopropyl alcohol yourself. Also, to avoid burning the plant, test the solution on one leaf before applying it to the whole plant. 

Spray With Insecticidal Soap

These types of soaps are readily available on the market, and you can also make your own Insecticidal soap by using a dish detergent. Find a product that is free of harsh chemicals, perfumes, or flavors that will harm the plant. All you have to do is mix the soap in water and then spray this soapy solution on the plants. This will help you remove Mealybugs. 

Use Neem Oil

Neem oil is a natural ingredient that is extracted from the neem tree. It consists of antibacterial properties and it is also antifungal. This oil kills the insect which comes in contact, and it is also used as a systemic pesticide that the plant absorbs. Neem oil is safe to use on vegetable plants and other edible plants. 

Introduce Predatory Insects

Natural predators of mealybugs are lace bugs, parasitic wasps, lacewings, and beetles. They are very common and are used for outdoor plants on which there is a swarm of mealybugs. They are also used in greenhouses and are readily available to purchase from online shops. 

Use Homemade Insect Spray

This is the easiest way to get rid of mealybugs and make a homemade insect spray. For the DIY pesticide spray, combine one onion, one garlic, and one teaspoon of cayenne pepper in a blender and make it into a paste.

Then mix the paste into one-quarter of the water and soak for 1 hour. Strain this solution through a cotton cloth and add one tablespoon of liquid dish soap. Then mix the solution well, and you can store this solution for up to 1 week easily.

After you are done making the solution, spray the solution on the plant sides where mealybugs exist. Repeat this treatment 3-4 times a day for best results. 

Please read this article on Glossy Leaf Plant to find out how to make your house plants clean and shiny. 

Use Synthetic Chemical Pesticide

There are a lot of new and robust insecticides which are approved to use against the mealybugs. These are safe, but you have to be cautious when using them on indoor plants as they are also very toxic. 

Note: If you can’t control these mealybugs after two or three weeks of use of insecticide, you have to destroy the plant before the mealybugs start infesting other plants in your home. 

FAQs

What kills mealybugs instantly?

I have found the best method to kill mealybugs instantly is by using rubbing alcohol applied with a cotton swab. The alcohol will dissolve the protective wax covering of the insect, and then it will penetrate the mealybug’s body and rapidly kill it.

Will dish soap kill mealybugs?

Yes, dish soap can kill mealybugs. To kill mealybugs with dish soap, mix 1 tablespoon of dish soap with 1 gallon of water. Soak the plant well in the solution, and then spray the plant with more solution. Repeat this process until all the mealybugs are gone.

How did my plant get mealybugs?

Mealybugs are a type of sap-sucking insect that can infest plants, causing leaf yellowing and shedding, stunted growth, and sometimes plant death. They are most often found on the underside of leaves or hidden in the crooks of branches.

Conclusion

Mealybugs are harmful to your plants and can cause a large amount of damage to them. They are often looked over until it is too late. Don’t overwater or over-fertilize your plant as it will be vulnerable to mealybugs, and they will infect it instantly. If you take care of your plant, you can avoid them altogether. But by any chance, if you find your plant infected by these tiny insects, don’t worry. Just follow the tips mentioned above and you will have a mealybug-free plant again!  

Written by Chris Buckland

Hello, I’m Chris. I’m a houseplant expert. I have been Cultivating and Growing Houseplants for 20 years. Plants are like my children. I love to write about Indoor plants and share my experience. That's why I started writing everything I know about houseplants.

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