How to Get Rid of Mealybugs
While pruning some shrubbery, 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.
Know your enemy!
Mealybugs are small armored insects that suck sap from plants, eventually killing them. Their 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. 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 indoors on houseplants or in greenhouses.
Mealybugs don’t move far on their own. Most infections are the result of new plants being brought in that are already infested with them.
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.
Always check new plants carefully for mealybug infestation before bringing them into your home or installing them in your yard. A good practice is to quarantine new plants for a few weeks before planting them in your garden or introducing them into your home.
Hose 'em down
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.
Indoors, you can simply place infected houseplants in your sink and use the sprayer to remove the insects. Since the plants are smaller and you can be more thorough, this is a good way to completely rid your plants of this pest.
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.
Soap or Oil
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.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend
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.
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 simple, organic steps.
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© 2017 Caren White