How to Get Rid of Mealybugs

Updated on January 3, 2020
OldRoses profile image

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.

Mealybugs with their characteristic waxy coating
Mealybugs with their characteristic waxy coating | Source

While pruning some shrubbery one summer day, I found white fuzzy stuff on the stems and leaves. When it moved, I realized it was insects. I was shocked to learn that they were mealybugs. I thought mealybugs only survived indoors on houseplants. I wasn't aware that they can be a problem outdoors as well.

What are Mealybugs?

Mealybugs are small armored insects that suck sap from plants, eventually killing them. Plant sap is similar to our blood. If plants lose too much sap, they will die just as we die if we lose too much blood. The insects' bodies have a waxy coating that makes them impervious to insecticides. The females are 1/8 to 1/16 inch long and wingless. The males are smaller and have wings. They have wings so that they can fly around in search of females. The males don’t feed. They have very short lives, only living long enough to fertilize the females and then die. The females lay 50 to 200 eggs in a sac two to six times a year, depending on the species. Most species do not survive the winter. They need warmer temperatures which is why they are such a pest year round indoors on houseplants or in greenhouses.

Mealybugs don’t move far on their own. Most infections are the result of new plants which are infested with them being brought into your garden or your home.

Ants can also move mealybugs from plant to plant. The mealybugs secrete honeydew, which ants eat. They are known to “farm” mealybugs, protecting them from other insects and harvesting the honeydew.

Ants farming mealybugs
Ants farming mealybugs | Source

Always Isolate New Plants

Always check new plants carefully for mealybug infestation before purchasing them and bringing them into your home or installing them in your yard. Even if you don't see any, it is a good practice is to quarantine new plants for a few weeks before planting them in your garden or introducing them into your home. Any infestation of mealybugs will show up during that time.

Wash Mealybugs Off of Your Plants

An easy way to rid your plants of mealybugs is to spray infected plants with a hose that has a high pressure nozzle attached. This will knock the insects off of your plants. This won’t kill the insects nor will it get rid of them completely. It merely minimizes the infestation, making it more likely that your plants will survive.

Shortly after I discovered the infestation on the shrubs that I was pruning, we had a hard rain. When I checked the shrubs the following day, all of the insects had been washed away by the force of the rain.

Indoors, you can simply place infected houseplants in your sink and use the sprayer to remove the insects. Don't forget to wash under the leaves where these insects can hide. Since the plants are smaller and you can be more thorough, this is a good way to completely rid your plants of this pest.

Pick Mealybugs Off of Your Plants by Hand

For smaller infestations, you can remove mealybugs from your plants manually. Use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to remove the insects from the plants. Alcohol dissolves their waxy covering, so this method also kills the insects.

Use Sprays Made with Soaps or Oils

Spraying infected plants with insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils or neem oil are safe, organic ways to kill mealybugs. All three are readily available at your local nursery or online. The oils and soaps smother the insects, killing them. Make sure when you spray that you get the undersides of the leaves and the stems of the plants where these insects often hide.

Use Beneficial Insects

Outdoors, encourage beneficial insects to visit your yard by not using insecticides or herbicides which can kill or harm them. Ladybugs, parasitic wasps, lacewings and syrphid flies think mealybugs are delicious. Ladybugs can be purchased online and released into your yard. Just be aware that once they have eaten all of the mealybugs, they will fly away in search of food rather than waiting around to see if more will appear.

Most plants can tolerate mild infestations of mealybugs but when they become too numerous, they can literally suck the life out of your valuable plants or houseplants. Protect your home and yard from these insects using these simple, organic steps.

Questions & Answers

  • Is there a way to keep mealybugs from the garden? It is not possible to pick them off tomato plants. Do they come out of the soil, or do they fly and lay eggs?

    Mealybugs were introduced into your garden either through new plants that were infested, or ants brought them in. Ants "farm" mealybugs for their honeydew which the ants eat. The mealybugs and their eggs live and die on your plants. They do not fly or live in the soil. If you cannot pick them off, you can hose them off or spray your plants with insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils or neem oil which will kill them.

© 2017 Caren White


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      13 months ago

      Mealybugs infest the plant parts that are above ground, not the roots. If you have an infestation, remove the infected plants and dispose of them in the garbage. That should take care of the problem before they spread to other plants.

    • profile image


      13 months ago

      how will you know which mealybug it is? I scared it will spread in the roots..

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      2 years ago

      Jim, as a Master Gardener, I always recommend organic solutions to gardening problems. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • profile image

      Jim Ferringer 

      2 years ago

      I tried soap and oil and still had Mealybugs. I finally used Systemic Granules byBONIDE, I now have zero Mealybugs

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      2 years ago

      I love that idea! Organic solutions are always the best. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • profile image

      Danesh Kumar 

      2 years ago

      In Wayanad Dist, Kerala, we face this problem on coffee plants, found a cheap solution , spray diluted rice gruel water, water discarded after cooking rice, dilute it four time with water, and spray it, as it dries, the mealy bugs limbs become stiff, become immobile , and fall off..

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      2 years ago

      They are a nuisance, aren't they? Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      2 years ago from Brazil

      I think these are the little critters which get on my tomato plants. I pick them off by hand but they seem to cause the plant's leaves to curl.

      I too am all for natural predators in the garden.

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      2 years ago

      RoadMonkey, I wrote a hub on ridding your garden of thrips. I didn't know that they are a problem indoors, though. Have you tried insecticidal soap or neem oil? They smother insects. Spray the entire plant, expecially the undersides of the leaves where they hide. Let me know if it works for you! Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • RoadMonkey profile image


      2 years ago

      Very useful, thanks. I haven't had mealybugs on my plants but one of my old indoor plants keeps getting thrips that I try washing off.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)