Mealybugs are a common pest that can infest both indoor and outdoor plants. It suddenly appears as individual white and floury dots on the stems and leaves of the plant, and those unfamiliar with it will be confused and think it is some kind of fungus.
But the mealybug, a sucking pest that spreads quickly and is very harmful to plants, is a well-known problem in greenhouses, gardens, and even in indoor plants planted in pots on balconies.
We have compiled eight tips for you to get rid of mealybugs naturally that you can easily apply in your home without purchasing dangerous pesticides.
Know the Enemy: What Are Mealybugs?
The mealybugs are from the family of mealybugs belonging to a superfamily called the protective aphids.
They usually develop in areas with a warm climate. They have soft bodies and lack wings that often appear en masse in the form of white wool on the plant’s leaves, stems, and fruits. They feed by inserting long mouth organs, called stylets, into plants and sucking the skeleton out of the plant tissues.
The damage caused to the plant is not significant in small communities. However, in large numbers, the mealy aphids can cause yellowing and curling of the leaves and weakening of the plant.
The mealybug is a common garden pest that affects ornamental shrubs, pots, vegetables, spices, and fruits.
Fortunately, mealybugs aren’t known to carry any diseases that can harm humans or animals. However, they can cause severe damage to your plants as they feed on the sap of plants, weakening the plant and making it more susceptible to disease. In severe infestations, mealybugs can kill a plant.
What Do Mealybugs Look Like?
The mature mealybug (their size varies between 0.2 – 0.7 cm) has a soft bodied, oval body with clear stripes, usually covered with white or gray mealy wax. The nymphs are smaller in size. They are called crawlers. They have yellow bodies, their eyes are red, and they are waxless.
The mealybugs are more active early in the colony’s development but move much less once a suitable feeding site is found.
Mealybug Life Cycle
Adult females lay about 300 to 600 eggs in each exudation, which looks like compressed cotton wool and wax and appears mainly on the underside of leaves (the aphids’ eggs can resemble a worm).
The female mealybugs die immediately after the egg-laying period, which usually lasts about two weeks. Hatching occurs within 1-3 weeks, and the yellow nymphs begin the search over the plant, looking for food sites for settlement.
While eating, they begin to secrete nectar, and a wax coating begins to form on their bodies.
Female nymphs go through three stages of development, and each generation lasts only about a month, depending on the weather.
The male nymphs go through five stages of development when they do not feed after the first two stages and exist solely to fertilize the females. Because of this, the mealybug colony in your garden may contain successive and overlapping generations of many aphids.
Where Do Mealybugs Come From?
Mealybugs can infest both indoor and outdoor plants. They are most commonly found in greenhouses, nurseries, and gardens.
However, mealybugs can also be found in homes, offices, and other buildings where indoor plants are present.
Mealybugs can hitchhike into your home on new plants, or they may be brought in by other insects, such as ants or whiteflies. Once inside, mealybugs can quickly multiply and spread to other plants in the area.
What attracts Mealybugs?
Mealybugs are attracted to plants that produce a lot of sap. They are also drawn to warmth and humidity, which is why they are often found in greenhouses and homes.
How to identify Mealybugs on your plants?
Mealybugs can be difficult to spot because they are small and often hide in the crevices of leaves or stems. However, several signs can indicate a pest infestation, such as:
- Yellow, wilted, or distorted leaves
- Sticky honeydew on leaves or stems
- Sooty mold on leaves or stems
- White cottony egg sacs on leaves or stems
How to get rid of mealybugs naturally?
To ensure that you get rid of mealybugs, that all generations are destroyed, and that the organic pest control will be effective, you must carry out the recommended actions approximately 3 times a week for two weeks or as indicated in the individual instructions below.
1. Did the mealybug just appear? Wipe with a damp cloth!
Manual removal with a damp cloth is an excellent method of getting rid of the mealybug, especially in the initial period when it has just started to appear.
- Take a clean cloth and wet it.
- Squeeze out the excess water because the fabric should be damp and not dripping water.
- Use a cloth to wipe all the leaves and stems from top to bottom.
This action will remove the insects and their eggs from the plants.
As mentioned, this method will only be effective at the beginning of the spread of aphids, when there are only one or two infected plants.
2. Spray with water pressure
This is the easiest and cheapest method that can work great in the first stages of the spread of mealybugs.
- Spray the plants with a strong stream of water (the stream of water must be directed in a calculated manner so as not to break the plant).
- Repeat the process 3 times a week to get rid of mealy bugs in all stages of development and all parts of the plant.
- Take a bag and collect the mealybugs that were washed to the ground. Close it and throw it in the trash.
3. Spraying with soap and water
Did you know dish soap kills mealybugs?
If the damp cloth or pressurized spraying methods are not effective enough for you, you can use a soap and water spray as follows.
- Mix one tablespoon of soap with 2 cups of warm water.
- Transfer the liquid to a spray bottle.
- Spray the plants in all their parts (it is important to pay attention to spraying under the leaves as well).
- The soap will give the leaves a faded look. Therefore you should rinse the plants with clean water after about half an hour.
The water and soap penetrate through the wax layer of the mealybug and kill it.
It is advisable to use mild soap without any additives or fragrance because soaps with additives can harm plants.
4. Rubbing Alcohol: Your secret weapon
Alcohol is another effective spray agent against mealybugs. All you have to do is take some cotton wool and dip it in alcohol.
Now take the cotton ball and wipe the part of the plant that is infected with mealybugs. The mealybugs die as soon as they come into contact with the chemical.
This method is very effective but can take a long time. If there are large colonies of mealybugs on the plant, spray the alcohol directly on the plant in the infested areas.
Be careful not to use alcohol excessively because it can harm plants.
5. Spray water, soap, and a bit of oil
Oil is another effective substance that helps get rid of mealybugs by causing the pests to suffocate and die.
To make it more effective, combine one liter of water with a tablespoon of liquid soap and two tablespoons of vegetable oil. Shake the spray and spray the mixture thoroughly (insects may hide under the leaves and lower branches of the plant) on the plants once a week and rinse the plants with clean water after two hours.
Continue until you have managed to control the spread of mealybugs.
6. Using neem oil to get rid of mealybugs
Neem oil is a natural product that has many benefits for plants. In addition to effectively fighting various diseases, neem oil is excellent for getting rid of mealybugs and other pests.
To prepare the mixture, mix one part neem oil with ten parts water and add a few drops of dishwashing liquid (this will help the mixture to adhere better to the plant).
Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and spray it on all parts of the plant thoroughly.
Repeat this process every week until you get rid of them completely. You can then reduce the frequency to once every two weeks as a preventative measure.
7. Using Vinegar
Does vinegar kill mealybugs? Yes, vinegar can be used to kill mealybugs on your plants. Vinegar is an acetic acid that will dissolve the mealybugs’ protective coating. This will eventually kill them.
To use vinegar, mix it with water at a ratio of one part vinegar to three parts water. Then, transfer the liquid into a spray bottle and mist the solution onto the affected plants.
Repeat this treatment every few days until the mealybugs are gone. You may need to increase the concentration of vinegar if you have a bad infestation.
Vinegar can also be used as a preventive measure by spraying it on your plants once a week. This will create an unfavorable environment for mealybugs and discourage them from infesting your plants.
8. Beneficial predatory insects
You can also control the spread of mealybugs with the help of beneficial predatory insects such as the carnivorous mosquito (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri), which belongs to the mosquito family to which ladybird beetles, wasps, spiders, etc. also belong.
You can purchase these insects from stores specializing in pest control products or online.
It would be best if you released several insects at a time.
Several types of beneficial insects will eat mealybugs, including ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps.
How long does it take to get rid of Mealybugs?
It depends on the severity of the mealybug infestations and how often you treat the plants.
If you treat the plants every few days, you should see a significant reduction in mealybugs within a week or two. However, it may take longer to get rid of all of them.
With a heavily infested plant, getting rid of all the mealybugs may take several weeks of treatment. Once the mealybug infestation is under control, continue treating the plants regularly to prevent them from returning.
How To Prevent Mealybugs From EVER Coming Back
Mealybugs can be a tricky pest to get rid of, but there are some things you can do to prevent them from coming back.
- First, make sure to keep your plants healthy and stress-free. Mealybugs are attracted to weak and stressed plants. Healthy plants are less susceptible to mealybug infestation.
- Second, practice good hygiene in your garden. Mealybugs can spread quickly through an area, so it’s essential to remove any infested plants as soon as possible. Be sure to disinfect any tools or equipment that come into contact with mealybugs.
- Finally, create a diverse ecosystem in your garden by planting native plants that attract beneficial insects. These insects will prevent mealybugs and help keep them under control and prevent them from taking over your garden.
You can also take some preventive measures to keep mealybugs from infesting your plants in the first place. These include:
- inspecting your plants before you bring them inside
- quarantine new plants for a few weeks before adding them to your collection
- Removing any mealybugs you see on your plants immediately
Following these tips can prevent mealybugs from becoming a problem in your garden. You can keep your other plants healthy and mealybug-free with a little effort.
How to get rid of mealybugs is a common problem for gardeners, but there are ways to get rid of them. Be sure to try several different methods until you find one that works for you. With a bit of patience and effort, you can get rid of mealybugs for good.
Do you have any tips for getting rid of mealybugs? Share them in the comments below!