What are Mealy Bugs?
Mealy bugs are scaled, unarmored insects that are found in warm, moist climates. The reason that they are considered pests is because they feed on the juices of all types of plants, indoors and outdoors. These bugs also act as a vector for a few plant diseases. Luckily is it easy to spot these pests and removal can be easy as well, if they are spotted in enough time that an infestation has not happened yet.
Frequented Areas of Mealybugs
These bugs are present in all parts of the world. They occur naturally in warmer regions and are introduced into greenhouses and other buildings in cooler regions. Despite this, it is highly unlikely that they inhabit the Arctic or Antarctic, except may inside of buildings. They would not be living outside in any greenery that might be present as they do not like the cold weather and will seek the warmest place that they are able to find.
Identification of Mealybugs
Mealy bugs are oval-shaped, soft-bodied insects that are covered in a white, powdery wax coating. Many species of this bug have projections that extend from their body, that give the appearance that they have many legs on the side and rear portion of their body. When spotted on plants, they may look like a small spot of cotton. They move slowly, but when they have found a place suitable for them on a plant, they will become completely immobile and will form a cluster on the plant.
Special Characteristics of Mealybugs
Mealy bugs feed on plants, and they will infest most parts of their host plant. They can normally be seen on the underside of the plant’s leaves and stems and will populate almost any outdoor plant, including bushes and shrubs. They will infest heavily on any plants in a greenhouse, home, or business.
To feed, they stick their needle-like mouth into the plant and suck the plant juices out. When they excrete honeydew, they attract ants. The ants then need on this sticky and sweet substance. Leaves will turn yellow and wilt when there is an infestation, and the plant may eventually die if the infestation is not taken care of.
Removal and Preventative Procedures of Mealybugs
To prevent a mealy bug infestation, homeowners should carefully inspect any plants that have been purchased. This does include all plants that are going to be used on the interior or exterior landscaping. If the plants do appear to be
fine, it is still a good idea to quarantine them for about two weeks anyway. It may also be beneficial to control an infestation by cutting the infested leaves and/or stems so that there is not an opportunity for them to further expand their population on the plant. As a last resort, anyone that is dealing with an infestation may even opt to completely dispose of an infested plant or plants, to keep the infestation from spreading.
Cotton swabs soaked in alcohol may also be used to treat the insects, as well as exposing the plants that are infested to running water, and even watering these plants with soapy water.
If they are on a plant that can tolerate cold, place the plant on a windowsill when the weather is cold. This will entice the mealybug to the leaf that is farthest from the window. When they move to this leaf, the bug may be wiped off with a cloth.
Chemical Application and Pesticidal Removal of Mealy Bugs
If the mealybug infestation is largely widespread, it is possible that an infestation of ants has followed, as they do feed on the dew that is left by the mealy bugs. If this is the case, it is recommended that the homeowner contact a pest management specialist. They will correctly identify the infestation, determine if there is any collateral damage, and they will use the chemicals that are needed to eradicate the infestation. These professionals will also ensure that the chemicals are applied appropriately and in the areas only where they are needed, as to keep the ecosystem around this infestation as normal as possible.
There are some insecticidal soaps that are available to the public that are effective in controlling an infestation, and the product Diatomaceous Earth may be applied around the stem of an infected plant. The product Diazinon may be used, but this does require multiple applications.