7 Tips — Tricks To Get Rid Of Mealybugs On Indoor Plants

7 Tips & Tricks To Get Rid Of Mealybugs On Indoor Plants

Now, if you are here, then you surely enjoy your indoor plants. However, with this pleasure comes pests, undesirable insects that ruin everything. But not if you know a few tips and tricks. Thus, learn how to get rid of mealybugs on indoor plants with this article.

Mealybugs are some insects that will seriously damage your flowers in the long run. Moreover, these insects produce honeydew, which is not good. With honeydew also comes ants and black mold. Let’s agree that mealybugs are a great enemy for your plants.

Take a step further and control mealybugs on your indoor plants as a main important step in maintaining plant health. This type of infestation can increase exponentially and it will most definitely cause the death of your indoor plants.

How to get rid of mealybugs:

1. Make sure to first check your houseplants for mealybug infestation if you just bought new ones. Before bringing them home, it is necessary that they were cared for in the store.

2. You can control mealybugs on indoor plants by not over-fertilizing your plants. The nitrogen-rich soil is a thriving condition for mealybugs. Thus, you need to make sure to only feed your plants when it is necessary.

3. Some means to remove mealybugs are paper towels or cloths. In this manner, you will make sure that you will eliminate mealybugs completely, not only displace them. When you are using paper towels, make sure to throw them out carefully in a plastic sack.

4. You could also use a cotton ball to dab the mealybugs. For this method to be more efficiently, soak the cotton ball in rubbing alcohol. This solution will dry the insects out.

5. There is also a great mixture you can use for sprinkling the plant. Prepare yourself a solution consisting of a gentle detergent and water.

6. Also, you can spray the plant with a soap or oil spray. Any kind of these sprays will kill instantly the mealybugs.

7. If the plant is seriously damaged due to mealybugs, you should get rid of it. Sometimes, the battle can’t be won. We need to accept this and move on. However, there will be a few lessons learned for the future so the mistakes won’t be repeated.

As a conclusion, I think you will also appreciate that I resorted mostly to natural solutions. This way, the elimination of mealybugs will be more efficient. Moreover, you won’t cause any other damage to your plants trying to give their health back. Hope you will enjoy your healthy plants with these tips and tricks in mind.

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Soapy Spray to Get Rid of Mealybugs on Plants

Soapy Spray to Get Rid of Mealybugs on Plants

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Soapy sprays are one of the few effective treatments for mealybugs on plants. However, you might find that it’s better for your plants to use a commercial insecticidal soap than to make your own spray from household detergents. Adult mealybugs are covered in a waxy coating, which makes them difficult to control. Soap breaks down the bugs’ waxy protection and the insects dehydrate, but soap also contains harsh chemicals that can damage plants.

What Are Mealybugs?

To effectively control mealybugs with soapy sprays, it helps to understand the insects’ anatomy and life cycle. Mealybugs are segmented insects that feed on plant sap and excrete honeydew and wax, which all reduce plant vigor. The insects get their name from their flaky wax coating, which resembles ground meal. The wax helps protect mealybugs from their predators, and it repels water-based insecticides. Soap sprays help to break down the wax and expose the insects’ outer shells, causing them to lose water.

Female mealybugs can reproduce without mating, typically laying a cottony white mass of 100 to 200 eggs over 10 to 20 days, although some species lay up to 600 eggs. The nymphs that hatch are pink, yellow or orange, and they don’t develop a wax coating until they’ve fed. These young mealybugs are called crawlers because they’re more mobile than the adults, which move very little. Destroying the eggs and crawlers is just as important as controlling the adult mealybugs when it comes to treating an infested plant.

Soap Sprays to Control Mealybugs

Soap sprays are contact insecticides, which means they must touch the insect to destroy it. In the case of controlling mealybugs, the soap solution must coat the insects, the crawlers and the eggs in order to break down the wax. Soap-based insecticides have the advantage of being nontoxic to humans and other animals, and they’re rarely harmful to beneficial insects. Unfortunately, the chemicals in soap can be harmful to plants, so the concentration of soap in insecticidal soap sprays is very low, usually 1 to 2 percent.

Using homemade soapy sprays on mealybugs runs the risk of damaging the plant you’re trying to protect. Many plants and trees are vulnerable to damage from soap sprays, especially tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum), which are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 11, and portulaca (Portulaca grandiflora), also called rose moss and grown in summer in USDA zones 2 through 11.

Homemade Soap Sprays for Mealybugs

If you’d like to try a homemade soap spray to control a mealybug infestation, use soft water to dilute the soap and avoid certain types of soap. The minerals in hard water react with soap and make it ineffective for destroying mealybugs. Only soft municipal water or distilled water should be used to make the spray. If the local water in your area is hard, you’ll probably see limescale deposits on showerheads and hot water faucets. Dry dish soap and laundry detergent contain chemicals that are harmful to plants, so avoid using these when making a soap spray. To make a soap spray for controlling mealybugs on plants, mix 2 teaspoons of mild liquid dish detergent in 1 quart of water.

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How to Control Mealybugs Using Soap Sprays

Soap sprays are most likely to be harmful to plants when the weather is hot and sunny. Treat the infested plant in early morning or in the evening, and if the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, wait until it cools down before spraying. Use a clean sprayer to apply the soap solution, and if you’re using a commercial insecticidal soap, follow the directions on the label to dilute it. Test it on a small area of the plant and wait a day or two to check whether it suffers a reaction. If there are no signs of damage, spray all areas of the plant, including the stems and under the leaves, carefully coating any mealybugs, crawlers and egg clusters. Two or three hours later, wash the plant with fresh, clean water to reduce the chance of injury. Spray the plant every four to seven days until no signs of the infestation remain.

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How to Manage Pests

Pests of Homes, Structures, People, and Pets

Mealybugs

In this Guideline:

Mealybugs, such as these obscure mealybugs, are usually found in groups feeding in protected areas.

Grape mealybug egg mass pulled apart to expose orange eggs and yellow crawlers.

First-instar nymphs of the grape mealybug and honeydew.

Five parasitic wasps, Acerophagus notativentris, have emerged from the parasitized and mummified grape mealybug at right.

Adult mealybug destroyer lady beetle and its waxy white larva feed within a colony of mealybug nymphs.

Mealybugs are soft, oval, wax-covered insects that feed on many plants in garden, landscape, and indoor settings. Usually found in colonies, they are piercing-sucking insects closely related to soft scales but lack the scale covers. Like soft scales, they can produce abundant honeydew and are often associated with black sooty mold. Mealybugs are favored by warm weather and thrive in areas without cold winters or on indoor plants.

IDENTIFICATION AND LIFE CYCLE

Mealybugs are in the insect family Pseudococcidae, part of the superfamily Coccoidea, which also includes armored scales, soft scales, and cottony cushion scale.

Mealybug bodies are distinctly segmented and usually covered with wax. Older individuals may have wax filaments around their body margins. In some species the filaments are longer in the rear and can be used to help distinguish between different species.

Mealybugs are usually found feeding in colonies in somewhat protected areas such as between two touching fruits, in the crown of a plant, in branch crotches, on stems near soil, or between the stem and touching leaves. A few mealybug species feed on roots.

While adult females are wingless and similar in shape to nymphs, adult male mealybugs, which are rarely seen, are tiny two-winged insects with two long tail filaments. Many mealybug species can reproduce asexually without mating.

Life cycles vary somewhat by species. Adult females of most mealybugs lay 100-200 or more eggs in cottony egg sacs over a 10- to 20-day period. Egg sacs may be attached to crowns, leaves, bark, fruit, or twigs. An exception is the longtailed mealybug, which produces eggs that remain within the female until they hatch.

Newly hatched mealybug nymphs (called crawlers) are yellow to orangish or pink, lack wax, and are quite mobile, but they begin to excrete a waxy covering soon after settling down to feed. Although older nymphs and adults have legs and can move, they don’t move very far or very rapidly. Nymphs molt through several instars before becoming adults.

Depending on species and environment, mealybugs may have two to six generations a year. Where climates are warm or plants are growing indoors, all stages may be present throughout the year. On deciduous plants such as grapevines, mealybugs may overwinter on or under bark as eggs (within egg sacs) or as first-stage nymphs.

Mealybugs are sometimes confused with other pests that produce waxy coatings, honeydew, and black sooty mold, including the cottony cushion scale, woolly aphids, and even some soft scales and whiteflies. Be sure to carefully examine the insect beneath the wax to identify it properly.

Over 170 species of mealybugs occur in California. Only a few have become major pests. Some of the most common problem species are pictured and described in Table 1.

DAMAGE

Mealybugs suck sap from plant phloem, reducing plant vigor, and they excrete sticky honeydew and wax, which reduces plant and fruit quality, especially when black sooty mold grows on the honeydew. Large accumulations of mealybugs, their egg sacs, and wax can be unattractive. High populations feeding on foliage or stems can slow plant growth and cause leaf drop; however, healthy plants can tolerate low populations without significant damage. Ground mealybugs, which are not very common in landscapes and gardens, feed on roots and can cause plant decline but are generally not seen until plants are dug up and roots are exposed.

Many types of perennial plants are affected by mealybugs. Among fruit trees, citrus has the most problems, but mealybugs may sometimes be found on stone fruits or pome fruits, although rarely at damaging levels. Mealybugs can build up in grapes, especially the vine mealybug, a new invader that attacks roots as well as aboveground parts, but the grape, obscure, and longtailed mealybugs also occur.

Many woody ornamental plants and some herbaceous perennials can be infested including cactus, coral bells (Heuchera), figs (Ficus), flax grasses (Phormium), fuchsia, gardenia, hibiscus, jasmine, mimosa, Miscanthus grasses, and oleander. The cypress bark mealybug can be a serious pest on Monterey cypress in urban areas and also attacks other species of cypress, cedar, and juniper.

Plants growing indoors or in greenhouses are especially vulnerable because year-round mild temperatures favor mealybug populations, and indoor plants are usually not exposed to the natural enemies that often keep mealybugs under control outdoors. Among houseplants, aglaonema, coleus, cactus, dracaena, ferns, ficus, hoya, jade, orchids, palms, philodendron, schefflera, poinsettia, and various herbs including rosemary and sage often have problems with aboveground mealybugs. Ground mealybug infestations are most often reported on African violet and gardenias.

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Some mealybugs, such as those infesting grapevines, can transmit viruses, but these aren’t usually a major problem in gardens and landscapes. The pink hibiscus mealybug, Maconellicoccus hirsutus, which currently is only established in Imperial County in California, has saliva that is especially toxic to plants.

Table 1. Common Pest Mealybugs in California

SPECIES DESCRIPTION SPECIES DESCRIPTION
Obscure mealybug
Pseudococcus affinis
Distinct filaments around the body, covered with powdery wax. Vine mealybug
Planococcus ficus
Similar to citrus mealybug with shorter filaments than other mealybugs in grapes . Has a dark stripe on its back. May be found on roots as well as aboveground.
Hosts: Many hosts, primarily outdoor plants. Hosts: Mostly grapes in California, although its potential hosts include other fruits and ornamental trees.
Longtailed mealybug
Pseudococcus longispinus
Two tail filaments that are longer than its body. Gives birth to live nymphs and produces no egg masses. Cypress bark mealybug
Ehrhornia cupressi
Round, bright orange or red and surrounded with a ring of wax. Found beneath bark plates.
Hosts: Citrus, grapes, nursery stock, and indoor ornamentals. Hosts: Monterey cypress, other cypress, cedar and juniper.
Grape mealybug
Pseudococcus maritimus
Almost identical in appearance to obscure mealybug. If poked (not punctured), it will release a reddish orange defensive secretion. Obscure mealybug secretion would be clear. Ground mealybugs
Rhizoecus spp.
No obvious filaments. Live in soil.
Hosts: Grapes, pears, pomegranate, and other fruit trees. Hosts: Many plants, but mostly damaging on potted plants such as African violets.
Citrus mealybug
Planococcus citri
Short, equal-length waxy filaments around the body. A dark stripe may be visible down its back.
Hosts: Citrus, several landscape shrubs . Most common mealybug on indoor ornamentals.

MANAGEMENT

Mealybugs are very difficult to manage with insecticides. Fortunately most species have natural enemies that keep their populations below damaging levels in outdoor systems such as landscapes and gardens. The best approach to managing mealybugs is to choose plants known to be less prone to problems, inspect plants for mealybugs before bringing them onto your property, and rely on biological control and cultural practices to keep mealybug numbers in check.

Cultural Practices

Mealybugs are often introduced into landscapes (and especially into indoor areas) on new plants or on tools or pots. Because adult females can’t fly and mealybugs can’t crawl very fast, they don’t rapidly disperse in the garden on their own. Inspect any new plants thoroughly for mealybugs before installing them. If you can’t remove all the mealybugs present, discard and destroy the plant or, if possible, take it back to the source.

Regularly inspect mealybug-prone plant species in your landscape or indoor plantings for mealybugs. If you find an infestation, physically remove the insects by handpicking or prune them out. Toss out older “grandmother” plants that may be a source of infestation for new plants. Check pots, stakes, and other materials for mealybugs and their egg sacs and dispose of any infested items.

If mealybugs are somewhat exposed, it may be possible to reduce populations on sturdy plants with a high-pressure or forcible spray of water. Repeat applications at several-day intervals may be necessary.

Avoid unnecessary applications of nitrogen fertilizer on plants with mealybugs. High rates of nitrogen coupled with regular irrigation may stimulate tender new plant growth as well as mealybug egg production.

If your landscape or interiorscape has a history of serious mealybug problems, consider using only plant species that are not prone to mealybugs for at least a year or two to reduce mealybug density and harborage potential.

Ground mealybugs are even more difficult to control than those that feed aboveground. Prevent introduction of ground mealybugs and quickly dispose of infested plants before the pests can move onto clean plants.

Biological Control

Many natural enemies feed on and kill mealybugs on fruit trees and woody ornamental plants in the landscape. These beneficial insects generally can be relied upon to keep numbers at tolerable levels. Natural enemies include a number of species of parasitic wasps that lay their eggs in or on developing mealybugs. Common parasites (or «parasitoids») include species in the genera Coccophagus, Leptomastix, Allotropa, Pseudaphycus, and Acerophagus. Look for parasite pupae within mealybug colonies, or emergence holes in mummified mealybugs. Leptomastix dactylopii is sold commercially for release in greenhouses, citrus groves, and interiorscapes, but it kills only the citrus mealybug.

Naturally occurring predators of mealybugs include lady beetles, green and brown lacewings, spiders, minute pirate bugs, and larvae of predaceous midges. The mealybug destroyer lady beetle, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri, is the most important of these predators in many areas. It does not tolerate cold winters, so it is more common in southern California and in coastal areas.

The mealybug destroyer can be purchased for augmentative release and is often released in greenhouses and interiorscapes or in citrus orchards after a cold winter has killed off native populations. Adult beetles are bicolored with reddish-brown heads and hind ends and black in the middle; older mealybug destroyer larvae are covered with white wax, which makes them look somewhat like large mealybugs. When releasing mealybug destroyers, focus on periods when there are many mealybug egg sacs, because the lady beetles require mealybug eggs as food to stimulate their own reproduction. There is little point in releasing them when mealybug numbers are low or when they are not reproducing.

Operators of greenhouses or interiorscapes with regular mealybug problems can establish their own mealybug destroyer colonies for self-release. The lady beetle can be reared in wide-mouth jars on mealybugs grown on sprouted potatoes or other hosts. A ring of petroleum or other sticky material smeared inside jars around the top will prevent the flightless mealybugs from crawling out but allows the lady beetles to fly out into the greenhouse.

Preserve naturally occurring biological control agents by avoiding use of broad-spectrum insecticides for any pests in the area. Also keep ants out of mealybug-infested areas and plants because ants protect mealybugs from their natural enemies.

Chemical Treatment

Nonchemical methods usually provide sufficient control for outdoor plantings in gardens and landscapes. Home and garden insecticides are not very effective for mealybugs, especially on larger plants. The mealybugs’ waxy coating repels most contact insecticides, and their habit of aggregating in hidden locations makes them hard to reach.

See also:  Why Are Ants in the House, Terminix

For houseplants, greenhouses, and interiorscapes where it is not physically possible to remove mealybugs and where biological control may not be feasible, spot treatment may be used to suppress populations of aboveground feeding mealybugs.

Spot Treatment with Isopropyl Alcohol

On small infestations on houseplants, a 70% or less solution of isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol in water may be dabbed directly on mealybugs with a cotton swab to kill them or remove them. Test the solution out on a small part of the plant 1 to 2 days beforehand to make sure it does not cause leaf burn (phytotoxicity). In some cases, a much more diluted solution may be advisable. Where infestations are extensive, a 10-25% solution of isopropyl alcohol can be applied with a spray bottle. You will need to repeat this procedure every week until the infestation is gone.

Insecticides

Insecticidal soaps, horticultural oil, or neem oil insecticides applied directly on mealybugs can provide some suppression, especially against younger nymphs that have less wax accumulation. Be sure to test for phytotoxicity of these materials prior to treatment as well.

Products containing the systemic insecticide dinotefuran may reduce mealybug numbers on some landscape plants, and plant spikes or granules containing the related insecticide imidacloprid may reduce mealybug crawler numbers on houseplants. These neonicotinoid products are less reliable against mealybugs than against other piercing-sucking insects in many situations. Their use should be avoided when possible, especially on flowering plants, because of potential negative impacts on natural enemies and pollinators.

Other insecticides, including pyrethroids, are also labeled for some situations but may not be much more effective than soaps and oils and can be devastating to natural enemies. Be aware that none of the available insecticides will likely provide complete control of all individuals, and that you will need to monitor and treat again as needed. When infestations become severe, consider discarding houseplants rather than repeatedly treating them with insecticides. On outdoor plants, cultural practices and biological control should be adequate for suppressing mealybugs in most situations.

REFERENCES

Bettiga, L. J. (editor). 2013. Grape Pest Management. UCANR Publication 3343. Richmond, CA. (See chapters 37-42 for information on mealybugs on grapes).

Cloyd, R. A. 2011. Mealybug Management in Greenhouses and Interiorscapes (PDF) . Kansas State University AES and CE Bulletin MF3001. 4pp.

Godfrey, K. E., K. M. Daane, W. J. Bentley, R. J. Gill, and R. Malakar-Kuenen. 2002. Mealybugs in California Vineyards. UCANR Publication 21612, Oakland, CA.

PUBLICATION INFORMATION

Pest Notes: Mealybugs

UC ANR Publication 74174

Author: M. L. Flint, Extension Entomologist Emerita, Department of Entomology, UC Davis.

Produced by University of California Statewide IPM Program

PDF: To display a PDF document, you may need to use a PDF reader.

Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
All contents copyright © 2019 The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

For noncommercial purposes only, any Web site may link directly to this page. FOR ALL OTHER USES or more information, read Legal Notices. Unfortunately, we cannot provide individual solutions to specific pest problems. See our Home page, or in the U.S., contact your local Cooperative Extension office for assistance.

Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California

Accessibility /PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74174.html revised: March 11, 2019. Contact webmaster.

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Effective Tips & Tricks to Protect Your Orchids From Mealybugs

Does your orchid have tiny, white, hairy bugs? Did you try washing them off with soap and water with no results? What is this bug called? How can you get rid of it? Well, the insects on your orchids are mealybugs. You are right to be concerned about them! As any other pests, these are also not innocent on the leaves of your orchid. They can actually break your plant and a heavy infestation of mealybugs will kill it. Because they can multiply quickly, they will get out of control. So act now!

Mealybugs often escape notice early in an infestation because the eggs and crawlers are tiny and the adults try to stay in places where you don’t notice them, on leaf undersides or deep in crevices. Most species that feed on orchids can also infest the roots.

1. Use rubbing alcohol

The first step you should use to halt the infestation is dabbing the insects with rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab. By doing so, pay special attention to crevices and folds. You could also use the alcohol from a spray bottle, but you need to move the plant to a sink or tub before you spray. This way, you avoid damaging the finish on furniture. Alcohol or any treatment to kill mealybugs will need to be repeated every 10 to 14 days to kill emerging crawlers.

2. Repotting the plant

It would also be a good idea repotting the plant, checking the roots and giving them a very gentle cleaning and spraying with alcohol if you find mealybugs. Scrub the pot and saucer, as they could harbor eggs or crawlers.

3. Discard the old soil

Also, replace the potting medium and discard the old medium in the compost pile or yard waste bin. Also, while you’re at it, check nearby plants, plant supports and pots, because the insects do wander in search of food and may turn up in surprising locations. Several that feed on orchids will also live on other houseplants.

4. Try vegetable oils

If rubbing alcohol treatments can’t bring the infestation under control, you will need to decide whether you want to try other chemicals. Among the least hazardous choices are oils, including ones based on vegetable oils, like soy, canola and neem oil. Oil sprays smother the insects. Use according to directions and avoid getting them on the flowers, which they could damage.

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