Mealybugs are snow-colored, soft-bodied pests that infest gardens found in warm, moist climates. They use a long, needle-like mouthpart called a stylet to pierce and suck juices from plants. If left untreated, these mealybugs will cause plants to wilt and turn yellow, then eventually die.
To prevent mealybugs from permanently damaging your plants, act immediately once you spot their cotton-like bodies on plant stems or the underside of leaves. Below are the most effective measures to combat a mealybug infestation.
6 Ways to Get Rid of Mealybugs On Your Plants
- Quarantine Plants
One of the first things gardeners should do when they notice a mealybug infestation is to quarantine plants. For instance, separate plants in your home that are affected from those unaffected by the bugs.
Be prepared to quarantine plants free of bugs for at least two weeks or until you have gotten rid of the mealybug infestation. Also inspect plants thoroughly before bringing them into your home or planting them in your garden, as this could result in a new outbreak.
Pruning plants that show signs of infestation is one of the best ways to get rid of mealy bugs. This is especially effective if only limited bugs are found on the plant’s stem or leaves. Cut away leaves or stems with mealybugs present to prevent the infestation from spreading on the plant. In such cases where there are only a few bugs, you can also simply remove them by picking them off one by one. Use water to wash away the powdery residue they leave behind.
- Q-tips and Alcohol
Household alcohol and q-tips also work well when it comes to removing mealybug pests. Use a 70% isopropyl alcohol solution or other types of rubbing alcohol found in your home or purchase one at a corner store.
Dip a q-tip in a small container of alcohol and use the q-tip to remove mealybugs attached to stem, leaves or fruits. You may also create your own mealybug insecticide solution by combining ½ cup alcohol with 1-quart liquid soap or dishwashing soap. Pour ingredients into spray bottle and apply to mealybug. Use a q-tip to remove them if necessary. Note that the alcohol will soften and remove the powdery substance or coating that the mealybugs leave on plants. The soap in the solution will in turn cripple the pests, making it easier for you to remove them.
- Natural Neem Oil
An organic pest control solution which proves effective in combating a mealybug infestation is the use of natural neem oil. This product possesses insecticide properties such as chemical compounds which reduce a bug’s appetite and disrupt bodily functions. It is especially effective in killing soft-bodied garden pests including mealybugs and mites.
In addition, the product can be applied by simply spraying a generous amount on the plant’s leaves, stems and other infested areas. The plant will absorb the neem oil and begin working immediately.
Neem oil is sold commercially online or in garden supply stores. Be sure to use the product according to the instructions provided on the label.
- Natural Predators
Natural predators are beneficial garden insects since they reduce pest populations in your garden. Some of the most beneficial predators of mealybug pests include mealybug destroyers, ladybugs, and lacewings. They are all available commercially.
Mealybug destroyers (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri) are bugs with copper-colored heads and black bodies. They especially love to dine on young mealybugs and are known to clean up large populations of bugs in relatively short periods of time. Ladybugs and lacewings are also effective mealybug killers. They are useful biological control tools due to their highly effective mouth-parts which gobble up mealybug eggs and adults.
Other predators which attack various mealybug species include crab spiders, minute pirate bugs, and parasites like the grape mealybug parasite.
- Bug Blaster
Another non-chemical method effective in mealybug pest control involves the use of a bug blaster. This tool provides a wall of water that cover 360°, enabling gardeners to blast away mealybugs on the top, as well as undersides of leaves, on stems, and fruits.
Attach the bug blaster to your hose and turn on the water. This environmentally friendly pest control method is highly effective as it provides enough pressure to damage and kill soft bodied insects like mealybugs while causing no harm to plants. After use, detach the blaster from your hose then begin to remove mealybugs which have landed on your soil. Don’t run the risk of having them reappear on your plants in case a few of them were resilient enough to survive.