Mealybugs - Check How to Identify and Quickly Get Rid of Pests
Mealybugs are one of the most common houseplant pests. They multiply with an incredible speed, and leaving them on plants poses an additional threat of fungal diseases. Because of its presence, plants die back – gradually, but inevitably. Are you wondering if you can get rid of mealybugs? Of course, you can! But you have to be quick. Check what to do when you find the pests in your garden or home.
What are mealybugs?
The proper Latin name of mealybugs is Pseudococcidae. They are considered a kind of hemiptera insects, which prefer warm and quite humid places. Because of the changing climate, they began appearing everywhere in the world, including Europe, where springs and summers are warm and rainy.
This pest attacks mainly plants of the following types:
- crop plants,
- greenhouse plants.
The pest is becoming widespread not only in gardens, but also on houseplants. It’s because of their ease of moving around. They are incredibly dangerous to plants – not only they cause damage by feeding on them, but also spread various plant diseases.
The name of this pest is not accidental – it refers to its unusual appearance. The larvae are covered with a characteristic substance which resembles hair or powder.
Do mealybugs fly?
Mealybugs can fly, thanks to which they can easily spread between plants. After maturing, females release pheromones to attract males. Adult male mealybugs live short, and they are difficult to spot. Thanks to their wings, they can move freely around. Morning is the typical time when one can spot them – that’s when these pests are the most active.
How to identify mealybugs on plants?
Mealybugs on orchids growing on a windowsill are a common problem. But how to identify the bugs to get rid of them once and for all? Adult insects are a few millimeters long. Males and females differ from each other. Adult males look like miniature flying wasps. Females have no wings, and they are covered with tiny waxy strings – it’s the product of their bodies. It’s the reason for the name of these pests.
Sap from the plants they attack is the main food source for mealybugs. When the pests feed on a plant, its stems, leaves, flowers, and even fruits lose their shape. The gradual degradation causes drying, and finally dying back. The pests can be typically spotted at the bottom of the leaves, but they appear in other places as well. They often sit in the soil, waiting on the roots of the plant until it’s time to eat. Because of this, identification of these pests might be difficult.
Where do mealybugs come from?
A mealybug on a potted palm tree, other plants grown indoors, or in the yard are a common problem beginner gardeners have to deal with. They are usually brought in by taking already infected plants home. For this reason, it’s crucial to carefully examine leaves and stems before buying a plant. If you observe anything suspicious – it’s better not to purchase the plant.
If you haven’t noticed any pests on the leaves, they might still hide in the soil. Because of this, many plant experts follow the rule of repotting every new plant – first checking the roots, and then placing it in a new, fresh soil.
What plants are prone to mealybugs?
Mealybugs are pests referred to as polyphagic organisms. It means it doesn’t have feeding preferences and can attack any plant it finds. The pest can be observed on orchids, camellias, ficus, and succulents.
Plant owners should regularly check their collection. A hindered growth, yellowing, and drying leaves are the first signals of this pest.
What damage do mealybugs do?
Mealybugs on plants typically occur in large quantities. They cause extensive plant damage. Both female and male insects consume plant sap. Because of this, they cause growth hindrance. Leaves, stems, flowers, and fruits develop deformations. The leaves gradually turn yellow and dry, and finally the entire plant dies back.
When the pest feeds on the plant, it produces characteristic dew. Such a wet spot on the plant creates perfect conditions for various types of fungi – a yet another problem for the attacked plant. Botrytis is a common disease which might appear in such a case.
How to get rid of mealybugs with home remedies?
The pest can be killed with professional products purchased in a garden store or a supermarket. Nonetheless, home remedies might be equally helpful. Thanks to them, you can solve the problem without spending a lot of money.
Soap and alcohol – a homemade leaf-cleaning solution
A solution based on soap and alcohol is one of the most effective methods for removing such pests from plants. Prepare 20 g of household soap and 100 ml of denatured alcohol or spirit per one liter of water. Mix the ingredients thoroughly. Soak a cotton pad with the solution and use it to clean the plant’s leaves.
The method is time-consuming, as it requires careful cleaning of each part of the plant. Regardless, it’s highly effective.
Rinsing the plant with water
Cleaning the plant with a cotton pad is convenient – especially if it has large leaves. But it might be difficult with certain species, e.g., cacti. In this case, you can use a stream of warm water to remove the pest. Place the plant in a shower or a bathtub, and use the shower head to clean it thoroughly.
This method is also effective if mealybugs attacked the plant’s roots. Just rinse them with water and place the plant in fresh soil.
Paraffin oil spray
The third way to get rid of mealybugs involves using paraffin oil – you can get it in every drugstore. Mix the paraffin with water 1:1. If you want to increase the solution’s effectiveness, you can add a few drops of dish soap. Apply the liquid onto the pests using a small brush. Paraffin oil cuts off the insects’ access to air, thanks to which both adult pests and their eggs die. Leave the solution on the plant for a few days, then rinse it with clean water.
What if home remedies against mealybugs aren’t effective?
If homemade solutions against the pest don’t work, it means one thing – the mealybugs are in the soil as well. In such a case, consider repotting all your plants. You can also use chemical mealybug killers. They are available in garden stores – physical and online.
📍 Mealybugs – what are these pests?
Mealybugs are pests attacking houseplants and garden plants. They prefer warm and moist places. The pest attacks not only crops, but also ornamental species.
📍 Where do mealybugs come from?
Mealybugs are usually spread with newly purchased plants. A plant might be already infected in a store, and after bringing it to your house, the pests multiply and spread to other plants. Make sure to carefully examine the leaves of a plant before purchasing it to see if there are no pests on it.
📍 What kills mealybugs?
Insecticide products kill mealybugs. They are available in garden stores. You can also kill these pests using home remedies. Thanks to them, you can quickly get rid of the bothersome issue.
📍 How do mealybugs spread?
Mealybugs spread mostly along with newly purchased plants. They can also get into your house through windows and air vents. The pest waits in the soil until it finds a plant to feed on.
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