If you haven’t had at least one interaction with Mealybugs by now, chances are you haven’t been a plant parent for very long. Mealybugs are among the most common (and pervasive) house plant pests around. You can find them in crevices on your plants during the warmer months as they can be found in warmer climates. A few of these pests won’t do too much damage to your plant, however if they start to spread you may begin to see your plant slowly weaken.
How to identify them:
It’s quite possible that you have had these pests on your plants and did not recognize them as bugs. At first glance, these pests can resemble small white bundles of cotton on your leaves. If you’re really unfamiliar with houseplant pests, you may even mistake these bugs for sap! When the female bug lands on your plant, she’ll lay somewhere between 300-600 eggs (this is what resembles cotton). This happens typically somewhere underneath your leaves, or in the crevices of your plant- so be sure to really examine your plant all over. The eggs will hatch somewhere between 1-3 weeks which means you have a short time to get them out of there before they really have it on your plant.
The longer that Mealybugs have lived on your houseplants, the more they’ll begin to eat at your foliage. As these pests begin to munch on your sugary and starchy foliage, they create honeydew that sticks to your plant and can eventually cause sooty mold. Sooty mold will resemble some sort of ashy brown speckles on your leaf or stems. Although this will not kill your plant, this mold is an indication that Mealybugs have made a comfortable home on your plant and it’s time to give them their eviction notice.
How to prevent them:
In an effort to prevent these bugs, there are a few tricks you can try to keep your plant safe. The most important step in warding off these houseplant pests is by inspecting your plant before you bring it into your home. Although our local nurseries do their best to prevent pests, there is a chance (especially in the warmer months) you may have a bug of two on your plant from the store. To do this, isolate your plant for a few days to ensure that you didn’t miss a bug or egg that may have grown on your plant. You may feel inclined to take your plants out for some air every once in a while or offer them rain water, but be careful bringing these plants outdoors. These bugs prefer to live outside and may be living on fruit trees near your home. They can even sneak their way in your home through vents or windows to get to your greens. Lastly, be sure that before you replant your new greenery, clean out the old pot thoroughly to avoid any previous critters that could be hiding in bits and pieces of old soil.
How to get rid of them:
When it’s time to take action on Mealybugs, it’s best to use the most natural and organic ingredients to get rid of these bugs. You will likely be spraying your solution in your home or into the air outdoors so you’ll want to avoid any harsh chemicals. There are a few quick at-home solutions to try first and other pre-made sprays that aim to exterminate Mealybugs in particular.
1. Rubbing Alcohol and Dish soap
This is the most efficient way to exterminate Mealybugs without going to the store or shopping online. Typically you will have these at hand and most people want to get rid of these bugs immediately. To do so, mix your alcohol with your soap and use any towel you don’t plan on wiping your face with to rub your plant’s leaves. To get into crevices, use a Qtip to ensure you’re getting each and every bug you may not see. Spray your entire plant for any hidden bug or possible eggs and dispose of your dirty towels or cotton swabs far away from any nearby plants.
2. Neem oil
Neem oil is derived from the Neem tree’s (azadirachta indica) that are native to South Asia and India. This is a natural insecticide that seeps into the plant’s stems when applied and becomes toxic to the mealy bugs that ingest your plant. Using this oil also prevents larva (that are already on your plant) from maturing. Given that this technique is used from the Neem Tree, this is a completely safe way to protect your plant. We recommend using The Neem Co.’s brand for fast results.
3. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth is another organic option that is made up of fossilized skeletons of microscopic single-celled aquatic organisms called diatoms. These diatoms have rock hard shells that deteriorate the body of a bug with an exoskeleton when contacted. Although this may take a bit longer than the other techniques, DE is completely non-toxic and natural. Use one scoop of DE to 3-4 parts water into a spray bottle and be sure that your plant does not get wet after use until you reapply or see that the bugs are completely gone. Spray liberally all over your plant’s stems and leaves for best results.