There are hundreds of insect species known collectively as mealybugs, nearly 300 of which are found in North America. Fortunately, it is easy to learn how to get rid of mealybugs and reduce or stop an infestation since they harm their host plants by extracting the juice from new growth in particular.
Mealybugs are easy to spot when they develop on plant stems and leaves because of their white, cottony coating. They are often an issue with houseplants in northern climates or are seen in greenhouses, although they are rarely seen outside. However, they can be a significant issue for entire crops in warmer climates.
The plant may need to be thrown away if it is indoors, and repeated treatments are advised for outdoor plants with significant infestations of mealybugs. A mild infestation of mealybugs may be simple to eliminate. Their damage eventually causes the leaves to turn yellow and fall off the plant. Fruit, vegetable, and flower buds may also bud prematurely as a result of mealybugs. Their waxy excretions, commonly known as honeydew, promote the growth of the sooty mold fungus in a bad infestation.
Mealybugs are scale insects that suck sap from plant leaves and stems, which causes stunted or distorted leaf growth as well as leaf yellowing and drop.
These little white insects can be found anywhere on a plant, but they are most frequently seen on new growth, in the leaf veins, and at the leaf joints.
Damage from mealybugs does not happen as quickly or as severely as damage from spider mites on indoor plants.
On the other hand, if a mealybug infestation is ignored, the plant will eventually die. Nevertheless, they often take a long time to kill a plant.
Mealybugs are small white insects that often appear as white fluff on plant leaves and stems. They are found on house plants. In their early stages, mealybugs can sometimes have a waxy appearance and be brown or cream in color.
They don’t initially resemble insects and are frequently mistaken for fungus or mildew instead of plant bugs because of this.
Whiteflies rather than mealybugs are what you are seeing on your houseplants if they resemble little white flies that flit around when the plant is disturbed.
It takes a mealybug 7 to 10 weeks to complete its life cycle. The eggs hatch into nymphs after about a week, and it takes the nymphs another 6 to 9 weeks to grow into adults.
Mealybugs may have several generations, and because their life cycles can overlap, once they start, the population can increase extremely fast.
The majority of people don’t find mealybugs on their indoor plants until after the population has grown since the eggs and nymphs are so tiny and it takes some time for the population to grow large enough to be noticed.
Although there are several varieties of mealybugs within the Pseudococcidae family of scale insects, they are all members of this family. Three of the most well-known species of mealybugs are listed below:
Use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol by touching the mealybugs on house plants to kill them. The mealybugs must come into direct touch with the rubbing alcohol for it to be effective; otherwise, the bugs will die upon contact.
When treating a houseplant, be careful to look for mealybugs around the base of the plant, in folds, around the leaf joints, and underneath all of the leaves. Check the plant from several angles as well as under each leaf since these elusive plant pests prefer to hide. Additionally, remove a small amount of dirt from the base of the stem where it protrudes from the ground to inspect it.
They may hide itself on the bottom as well as around the pot’s borders. Therefore, be sure to carefully check that as well since mealybugs may be hiding there. The mealybugs will need to be treated numerous times in order to be completely eradicated, so be sure to treat your plant regularly and eliminate any insects you spot.
A steady stream of water can be used to flush out mealybugs. As needed, repeat the procedure. This method works well for minor infestations because certain plants cannot withstand such aggressive treatment.
You can also use a Insect Control Systemic Granules. For up to 8 weeks, these convenient granules will effectively and continuously eliminate insects in your flowerbeds, rosebushes, and shrubs. For the best protection, use it every eight weeks throughout the growth season.
Mealybugs are promptly killed and eliminated by putting normal rubbing alcohol into a cotton ball and then applying it to the infestation. Use an isopropyl alcohol solution that contains no more than 70% alcohol, and test it on a leaf first before applying it to the plant as a whole to make sure the alcohol won’t burn it.
You may buy insecticidal soaps or create your own by mixing mild dish detergent with water. Look for a product devoid of chemicals and scents that might hurt plants. Water should be combined with soap at a low concentration (starting with 1 teaspoon of dish soap per gallon of water and increasing as necessary). Infuse plants with the soapy solution.
To naturally get rid of mealybugs, use neem oil. The neem tree is the source of the natural component of neem oil. When applied as instructed, it has an impact on an insect’s ability to eat, grow, and develop in addition to acting as a repellant. Neem oil is safe to use on ornamentals as well as vegetables and other food plants, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Mealybugs are exterminated naturally by lacebugs, parasitoid wasps (Leptomastix dactylopii), and a beetle referred to as the “mealybug slayer” (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri). These natural predators are accessible from commercial online sellers and are more frequently utilized for outdoor infestations or in greenhouse conditions.
One garlic bulb, one small onion, and one teaspoon of cayenne pepper should be blended or processed into a paste to create a batch of DIY garden pesticide. Steep for an hour after mixing into a quart of water. Add 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap after passing the mixture through a cheesecloth. Mix thoroughly. The combination can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week. On the plant portions with mealybugs, mist the solution.
Mealybugs are resistant to a number of more potent insecticides, yet these chemicals may be less effective due to the insects’ waxy coating. When taking these substances, especially indoors, use caution. The toxicity of stronger insecticides to humans varies.
Mealybugs can crawl about on a plant and spread to nearby houseplants even though they often don’t appear to move. The worst thing is that mealybugs may survive for a very long period in cracks and crevices without a host plant. They will abandon the houseplant to hide.
Therefore, just when you believe you have subdued the beast, it will re-infest your houseplant when you’re not looking by emerging from hiding.
Mealybugs are closely related to scale insects, however unlike scale insects, which have hard protective shells, they have soft bodies. Scale insects cover plant leaves and stems with a hard, barnacle-like covering rather than the fluffy, cottony substance. Scale removal techniques are quite similar to mealybug removal techniques.
In a few of days, the 300–600 eggs laid by female mealybugs hatch. Unless they are eliminated, mealybug infestations can last for up to ten weeks before the newly born insects are ready to lay eggs.
Mealybugs are harmless to people since they only consume plant fluids, not human blood.
Mealybugs come in so many varieties that practically every indoor plant can become infested with them. Mealybug development is more prevalent in tropical plants with weaker stems and leaves.
Among the plants known to be particularly vulnerable include orchids, African violets, begonias, coleus, and amaryllis. However, in warmer climes, many outdoor plants are likely to have infestations. Mealybugs flourish in a range of 70 to 90 degrees.