- Cultivation Tips : Plant Care
How to get rid of Mealybugs
Picture this: you're casually admiring your houseplants or proudly patrolling your garden when suddenly, you see these fuzzy cottony clusters form on the leaves and stems. Some leaves may have maybe started turning yellow and curling as well. Shocked, you look closely and spot them— mealybugs.
What are mealybugs?
Mealybugs are one of the most common houseplant pests. They are soft bodied insects that feed on the juices of many tropical plant varieties and can cause serious damage and sometimes even the death of your plant. It may seem that they can appear out of thin air, but they are transmitted from one plant to another. Sometimes they stay in soil as eggs.
If not treated, things can escalate quickly as one female mealybug usually lays around 600-900 eggs, after which they die. These eggs are laid in the crevices of the plants, such as the axil of the stem or leaf nodes.
They may seem innocent, but these sap-sucking beasts can be ferocious and annoying. Fear not, though, for we see through their fluffiness and are ready to expose their true colours!
What can you do against Mealybugs?
In the battle against mealybugs, we're all about modern strategies and eco-friendly solutions. Depending on the severity of the situation and type of plant, different strategies will need to be used.
- Homemade Manual Removal: For smaller infections, we suggest using a cotton swab dipped in a mixture of rubbing alcohol and soap to delicately dab and remove individual mealybugs. This targeted approach can be effective, especially for isolated infestations. Take a close look in the crevices because that is where they like to hide. The alcohol removes their waxy protective layer and the soap kills the bug.
- Spray and Pray: If the infected area is very large, spray a gentle stream of water to dislodge mealybugs from your plants. The challenge here is that the waxy coating of the mealybug makes them stick very tight to your plant so water does not really remove them that easily. Direct the spray to affected areas, ensuring they are washed away. Maybe a small brush is needed to give those little monsters the final push. However, avoid using too much water force, as it may damage your green buddies.
- Insecticidal Soap: There are plenty of commercially available insecticidal soap solutions. Apply them to affected areas following the instructions provided. Look for organic and natural solutions if possible to avoid any serious harm to your plants. These soaps disrupt mealybugs' protective coatings and eventually make them disappear, forever.
- Use natural predators: There are various natural predators that enjoy eating mealybugs, as if they were fluffy cotton candy. Lady beetles, green and brown lacewings, certain spiders, minute pirate bugs, and larvae of predaceous midges. This is a great way to get rid of pests whilst avoiding the use of chemicals or tedious hours of dabbing a cotton swab on your plants. Especially the Lady Beetle (Cryptolaemus) which is also known as the Mealybugs Destroyer, is frequently used in greenhouses and will be able to save your plants in no time! Check online as depending on where you live, you can even have the lady beetle delivered to your house. If your plants are indoor, it is less advised to use this approach.
Preventing Future Mealybug Infestations
After having removed the mealybugs from the leaves and stems of the plant, we suggest changing the soil and giving the pot a good clean too, as often the mealybugs have nested themselves into the soil and edges of the pot and they will just creep right back up if not removed. It could be that the Mealbugs originated from your soil, so possibly look into buying a different brand of soil.
When introducing new plants into your collection, isolate them for a few weeks to monitor for any signs of mealybugs or other pests. This precautionary step ensures that your existing plants remain protected because these beasts can spread faster than the wink of an eye.
Patience is key when it comes to Mealybugs and the battle might last longer than you expected. Look closely and frequently monitor your plants, as a single female Mealybug can lay over hundreds of eggs. Good luck in your battle and may the odds be in your favour.