this is how you tackle this nasty mealybug!

Lice in plants, no one is happy about it. And certainly not your plants! Mealybugs seem like a cute little ball of wool, but nothing could be further from the truth. It is an insect that does a lot of damage to your houseplants.

The mealybug lives on the juice of the houseplants. The females and the young larvae of the mealybug do this very sneakily: they pierce a hole in the leaf and suck out the moisture of plant juices. Controlling mealybugs is not easy, but it can be done. How? You can read that in this article!

There are a number of ways to combat mealybugs. The manners range from the beginner stage to the coarsely shuffled. In the beginning, you may be able to quarantine the plant. But if more is needed, even pesticides may be the only solution.

These pesticides do not necessarily have to be harmful to the environment. There are home garden and kitchen resources that you can use to get rid of mealybugs. There are also resources that you buy specifically for it. And then there are methods that can protect the plant.

What exactly is a mealybug?

Let’s start with a description of the mealybug. It is an insect that likes a humid environment. Exactly the environment that your houseplants also love. There are several types of mealybugs, the best known of which is the citrus mealybug.

Mealybug explosion

The mealybug is quite explosive in multiplying itself. In a greenhouse, a mealybug can reproduce as many as eight generations. And that with hundreds of eggs at a time. The female is the most harmful to the houseplant, she attacks by damaging the plant and removing the moisture.

Most common types of mealybugs

  • Citrus mealybug
  • Short-tailed mealybug
  • Long-tailed mealybug

Of these three most common varieties of the mealybug, each likes different plants. The citrus mealybug is mainly found on plants such as a ficus, a palm or a kalanchoe. But these mealybugs can also occur on a rose or a gerbera.

Citrus mealybug
Citrus mealybug (photo credit: Green Bubble)

The short-tailed mealybug loves tomato plants and is also called the tomato mealybug. You will therefore not easily find these on your houseplants. However, this mealybug also likes a rose or a gerbera. The passiflora, the passion flower in the garden, also likes the short-tailed mealybug as a tasty snack.

Finally, the third most common species, the long-tailed mealybug. You see this mainly on potted plants such as the croton and the draceana, where it tends to hide between the axillary buds of the houseplant.

Mealybugs, how did you get them?

A mealybug is attracted to moisture. It may be that it was already found in your garden, it may also be that it was on a houseplant that you just bought. If you water your plants too much, you can attract mealybugs. Once you are bothered by it, the mealybug has spread quickly and the question ‘how to get rid of it’ is much more important.

The problems caused by mealybugs

You don’t have to worry that the mealybug is harmful to yourself. This insect does nothing to humans and animals. However, the mealybug is harmful to your plants. These can even weaken if they have been in contact with a mealybug.

A mealybug is busy sucking your houseplant dry. The insect feeds on it, while your plant suffers a deficiency. The mealybug also leaves behind a kind of woolly secretion, which can cause the plant to suffer from mold and disrupt natural photosynthesis.

What is the risk to your plants?

Plants need moisture and light. The consequence of a mealybug infestation is that the plant has too little moisture. But also that not enough light reaches the plant, because the mealybug leaves a layer on the leaf. As a result, the plant weakens.

The mealybug leaves a layer on the leaf
The mealybug leaves a layer on the leaf

Prevention better than cure?

Preventing mealybugs is complicated. After all, you often don’t know how your plants contracted the infection. However, by giving a plant less water, you can make it less attractive to mealybugs. Nevertheless, once he is inside, the uninvited guest does not leave so quickly.

Fighting mealybugs with home garden and kitchen products

Chemical pesticides can be harmful to the environment. It is therefore advisable to first take a look in your kitchen cupboard to see what you can use to get rid of these critters. Most people simply have resources such as vinegar and spirit at home. Try that first, if it doesn’t help, then it often won’t hurt either.

But before you get started with vinegar or detergent, you can also try to get rid of the critters with water. What you need for this is a plant sprayer with power. It is best to take your plants outside for this method. Does not it work? Then you go to work with other means.

Please note: almost all the methods we discuss in this article work with a lot of moisture. If you want to combat mealybugs on a cactus or succulent plant, using a lot of moisture is not a good idea. The method for these plants can be found later in this article.

Can You Control Mealybugs With Vinegar?

If the plant sprayer with water does not work, you can fill it with the water-vinegar mix. For this mix, add a good splash of vinegar to the water. You spray the plant with this and possibly repeat this a week later.

Vinegar is not completely harmless, sensitive plants do not like vinegar at all. Always research first which plants can withstand vinegar.

You can fight mealybugs with various home, garden and kitchen remedies
You can fight mealybugs with various home, garden and kitchen remedies (photo credit: Mama Botanica)

Can you fight mealybugs with methylated spirits?

Do you want to use alcohol to combat mealybugs? Then be careful with the dose. You make a mix of half a liter of water with 10 ml of spirit and add another 10 ml of soft soap. You can spray the plant with this.

Don’t forget to include the underside of the leaf as well. You can repeat this process after a week. Do you want to take on even stronger battle with alcohol? Then you can touch your houseplant with a cotton swab in the places where the mealybug has got hold of the plant.

Can You Control Mealybugs With Dish Soap?

Finally, the last household remedy: washing-up liquid. Here too you can make soapy water for in the plant sprayer. You work the entire plant with it and repeat this after a week to be sure.

Fight mealybugs chemically?

Are household resources not sufficient to combat mealybugs? Then you really have to get going with a coarser shake. Fortunately, there are many biological pesticides for sale. After all: you don’t want to use chemicals, certainly not in your living room.

Spray against stubborn insects

Pokon has developed a spray that is intended to repel stubborn insects. With this special spray you not only attack mealybugs, other lice or mites will not be happy either. The manufacturer claims that you will see an effect within 24 hours and that you can also use this spray in the garden.

Pesticide: ready to use and effective

Ecostyle also has a ready-to-use spray that fights lice. Not only mealybugs, also scale insects and scale insects. According to the manufacturer, this product is safe for humans, animals and the environment. The method with this spray does not differ from that with the plant sprayer, you spray the plant well moist with the aim of hitting the insects.

A card between the sheet, does that work?

A completely different method is that of Chrysop. No spraying, you just hang a card between the leaves of the houseplant. This card contains eggs of a natural enemy of lice, spider mites and thrips: Chrysopa carnea. The eggs hatch after a few days and then do their job within about four weeks.

Depending on the size of the plant and the degree of damage, you hang up one or more cards and let the larvae of the natural enemy do the work. It is not smart to have these cards in stock. This is because it concerns living material. A simple method that does not damage the plant, according to the manufacturer.

Concentrate: for your own dosage

If you prefer to dose yourself, Ecostyle also has a concentrate against mealybugs, spider mites and other aphids. The useful thing about the method of making the concentrate yourself is that you can adjust the dosage. For example, a different dosage is required for the control of spider mites than for the control of mealybugs.

Woolly discharge on your plant

Mealybugs can therefore be recognized by their woolly appearance. Not only as if this animal has a coat of wool, you can also describe it as a powder coating on the insect. What remains on the plant is a secretion – which also has a woolly appearance – from the female or from the larvae.

External description of the damage to the plant

In addition to the fact that mealybugs make holes in the leaf of the plant, they cause even more damage. Thus, their secretion provides a fluffy covering. Because they suck the plant sap out of the leaf or stem, everything gets sticky. In addition, honeydew remains behind, which disrupts the plant’s photosynthesis, stunts its growth and affects its health.

Quarantining the plant is also sufficient?

You cannot protect the plant by quarantining it. You do, however, protect the other plants in its environment. You prevent the mealybug eggs from settling on other plants. That is why isolating a plant with mealybugs is a great idea.

Where do you quarantine the plant?

You can place a plant with mealybugs in a room where there are no other plants. Don’t put it in the bathroom, because mealybugs love moisture. Act with care, eggs can also be on your hands or your clothes after moving the plant.

Leaf full of mealybugs
Leaf full of mealybugs (Photo credit: Goodgardn)

Is pruning the solution?

Are there more than ten mealybugs on a small piece of plant? Then you can also choose to cut this part from the plant. This works faster than fighting the mealybug. In that case, treat the rest of the plant, there is a good chance that eggs will remain behind.

Can you just brush off mealybugs?

If you only have a few mealybugs, you may think you can simply brush them off. Nothing is less true. A few mealybugs may also have infested the plant with eggs. If you have a lot of mealybugs, the first step is to wipe away the invasion with toilet paper, after which you can treat the plant further.

How do you control mealybugs on a cactus or succulent plant?

All plants with hairy leaves or cacti and succulents are not so easy to treat. After all: these plants don’t stick very well after too much water. With the cactus or succulent you can use the method with a cotton swab and spirit. You dip the cotton swab in the spirit and treat the plant directly with it.

Water the plants less

The mealybug is part of the small half-winged insects that like moist environments. Since the mealybug is attracted to moisture, you may be watering your plants too much.

Plants that get too much water give off moisture. If you are fighting mealybugs, give the plant less water, temporarily or otherwise. Over-wetting certainly attracts new mealybugs.

Conclusion on mealybugs: get rid of them!

If your houseplant has mealybugs, it will become weakened. Growth is stunted and the mealybug can even cause the plant to become misshapen. It is therefore important to start combating mealybugs as soon as possible.

Put the plant in a place alone. Be sure to check new plants before you put them on the windowsill. This prevents you from wasting unnecessary time fighting these annoying insects and your houseplants will remain beautiful. Especially if the ornamental value of your plants is worth something to you.

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