This month, we are featuring a series of articles that will teach you how to prevent, detect and eradicate common houseplant pests. Up this week: MEALYBUGS
Mealybugs thrive in moist, warm environments. Unfortunately for plant parents, this is also the environment most plants thrive in. Mealybugs also spread very quickly, so it’s important to quarantine any plant(s) you suspect may have an infestation as soon as possible. This will help keep it from spreading to your other plants.
Keeping your plants clean is the best way to prevent disease and pests. It also encourages new growth. As you do your watering routine, check your plants for abnormalities and/or bugs and remove any dead foliage. You can also wipe down the leaves of your larger plants, if you have some, with a wet paper towel. Learn more plant housekeeping tips here.
Fortunately, mealybugs are usually easy to spot. You’ll see them appear as tiny, soft-bodied insects surrounded by a fuzzy, white, cotton-ball like fluff around the stems and leaf nodes. They like to feed off the plant nutrients where they are the juiciest, for example, where the stem joins a new leaf or other stem/trunk. They are particularly fond of new growth.
A serious attack of mealybug leads to wilting, yellowing and leaf fall.
Wash them away.
Mealy bugs can be dislodged with a steady stream of water. Repeat the treatment as necessary. This is best for light infestations.
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.
Use neem oil.
Neem oil is an organic oil derived from the neem tree. Use according to label instructions.
Give your plant a soapy suds down.
Make your own insecticidal soap by using a gentle dish detergent or similar soap product free of perfumes and additives that might harm plants. Mix the soap in a weak concentration with water (starting at 1 teaspoon per gallon and increasing as necessary). Spray on plants. Depending on the severity of infestation, you may need to repeat this method weekly until the infestation is completely gone.