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7 Simple but Effective Tips for Getting Rid of Mealybugs

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While I could wax lyrically on the hundreds of different species, what we’re all interested in is how to get rid of mealybugs.

Mealybugs draw plant juices with their piercing-sucking mouthparts, resulting in plant stunting, leaf yellowing, and deformation. Further damage results from black sooty mold, which grows in the mealybugs’ secreted honeydew – impeding the plant’s photosynthesis abilities.

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Mealybugs are a global problem for both indoor and outdoor ornamental crops. Most ornamental plants can have mealybug infestations, especially in their most active season in warm, dry conditions.

A poison found in the saliva of the citrus mealybug causes its host plants to lose leaves and buds. The mealybugs, their ovisacs, honeydew, and sooty molds wreak havoc on heavily afflicted plants.

Mealybugs on a twig
Mealybugs on a twig

Identifying Mealybugs

Mealybug TypeScientific NameDescriptionHost Plants
Obscure mealybugPseudococcus affinisDistinct filaments around the body, covered with powdery wax.Primarily outdoor plants
Longtailed mealybugPseudococcus longispinusTwo tail filaments that are longer than their body. It gives birth to live nymphs and produces no egg masses.Citrus, grapes, nursery stock, and indoor ornamentals.
Ground mealybugsRhizoecus spp.No obvious filaments. Live in soil.Many plants, but most damaging on potted plants such as African violets
Vine mealybugPlanococcus ficusSimilar to citrus mealybug with shorter filaments than other mealybugs in grapes. Has a dark stripe on its back, and may be found on roots as well as aboveground.Vine fruits and ornamental trees.
Grape mealybugPseudococcus maritimusVery similar to obscure mealybug. If poked (not punctured), it will release a reddish-orange defensive secretion. Obscure mealybug secretion would be clear.Grapes, pears, pomegranate, and other fruit trees.
Citrus mealybugPlanococcus citriShort, equal-length waxy filaments around the body. A dark stripe may be visible down its back.Citrus, several landscape shrubs. Most common mealybug on indoor ornamentals.
Identifying Mealybugs

Mealybug Lifecycle

Mealybugs belong to the superfamily Coccoidea of insects, which also includes armored scales, soft scales, and cottony cushion scale.

Mealybugs are typically found in colonies feeding in moderately protected locations, such as between two touching fruits, in a plant’s crown, in the crotches of branches, on stems close to the ground, or between a stem and touching leaves. A few species of mealybugs consume roots.

Most mealybug adult females lay 100–200 or more eggs in cottony egg sacs over 10–20 days.

Egg sacs can be fastened to fruit, twigs, leaves, bark, or crowns. The long-tailed mealybug is an anomaly, as it lays eggs that stay inside the female until they hatch.

Newly hatched mealybug nymphs are active, but they cannot travel quickly or far as they grow older. Mealybugs can have two to six generations yearly, depending on the species and habitat. All stages could be present all year round in warm areas or indoor plant environments.

Mealybugs are occasionally mistaken for pests like the cottony cushion scale, woolly aphids, and even soft scales and whiteflies that create waxy coats and honeydew and cause black sooty mold. To correctly identify the bug, inspect it beneath the wax thoroughly.

An Interesting Mealybug Gender Fact:

Adult male mealybugs, which are infrequently seen, are tiny two-winged insects with two long tail filaments, but adult female mealybugs are wingless and resemble nymphs in shape.

Asexual reproduction is a common reproduction method for mealybug species.

Seven Ways to Get Rid of Mealybugs

Mealybugs are difficult to manage because of the egg sac’s waxy fluff encasing, which makes them largely water-resistant.

Also, as mentioned, nymphs and adults tend to cluster in plant crevices where it is challenging to apply pesticides. Nonetheless, here are five ways to get rid of mealybugs.

1. Divide and Conquer to Get Rid of Mealybugs

To stop outbreaks of mealybugs, it is crucial to find infected plants quickly and isolate them. Mealybugs typically inhabit the undersides of leaves, the junctions of petioles and leaves, and areas close to the base of plants.

2. Spray With Insecticidal Soap

You can buy insecticidal soaps (like Safer’s Insecticidal Soap) or make your own by mixing Ivory Liquid dish detergent with water.

Look for a product devoid of chemicals and scents that could hurt plants. Water should be combined with soap at a low concentration (starting a 1 teaspoon per gallon and increasing as necessary). Infuse plants with the soapy solution.

3. Use Isopropyl Alcohol

To kill and remove mealybugs, soak a cotton ball in normal rubbing alcohol and apply it to the insects. Use a solution that contains no more than 70% isopropyl alcohol, and test it on a leaf first before applying it to the plant as a whole to ensure that the alcohol won’t burn it.

4. Use Neem Oil

A natural product derived from the neem tree is neem oil, and it has a repelling effect on insects when applied as instructed and interferes with their feeding ability.

According to the EPA, Neem oil is safe to use on ornamentals, vegetables, and other edible plants.

5. Introduce Predatory Insects

Lacebugs, lacewings, parasitic wasps (Leptomastix dactylopii), and a beetle sometimes known as the “mealybug destroyer” (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri), are natural predators of mealybugs.

These are more commonly used for outdoor infestations or in greenhouse situations and are available from commercial online retailers.

Ladybirds Eat Mealybugs
Ladybirds Eat Mealybugs

6. Make Your Own Mealybug Spray

One clove of garlic, one small onion, and one teaspoon of cayenne pepper should be blended or processed into a paste to create a batch of DIY garden pesticides. Steep for an hour after mixing into a quart of water.

Add one tablespoon of liquid dish soap after passing the mixture through a cheesecloth. Mix well. The combination can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Soak the areas infested to get rid of the mealybugs.

7. Should I Use Synthetic Chemical Pesticide to Get Rid of Mealybugs?

In most cases, nonchemical techniques are enough for controlling outdoor vegetation in gardens and landscapes.

Insecticides for the home and garden, especially on bigger plants, are not very efficient against mealybugs.

The mealybugs’ waxy covering makes them resistant to most contact insecticides, and they tend to congregate in difficult-to-reach places.

Get Rid of Mealybugs

What Causes Mealybugs?

Mealybugs are drawn to specific plants that provide the fluids they prefer to eat. Mealybugs can pose a major threat to several commercial crops, like mango, and citrus trees are particularly vulnerable.

Several indoor houseplants, especially tropical species, are susceptible to mealybug infestation.

Mealybugs have low mobility for most of their lives and are usually introduced by plant material from infected crops and locations brought in.

Mealybugs may also occur if you overwater and overfertilize your plants since they are drawn to plants with soft, fresh growth.

Mealybug webbing
Mealybug webbing


In Closing

If you happen to confuse scale with mealybugs, do not fret. The methods recommended for you to get rid of mealy bugs will work on a scale too.

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