To understand how to get rid of mealybugs effectively, you must know what they are first. Mealybugs are soft-bodied, sap-sucking insects. These pests feed on indoor plants, particularly soft-stemmed, tropical species.
Mealybugs are similar to scale insects, which have hard shells instead of soft bodies. You can tell when you have a mealybug infestation if you find fluffy, white, cottony substances on your indoor plants. Scale insects would look like barnacle infestations on your plants.
These two pests also share similar curative methods to save your indoor plants. Here are five of the best ways to get rid of mealybugs.
Use Neem Oil To Eliminate Mealybugs
Many sources discussing how to get rid of mealybugs mention neem oil, which comes from neem tree seeds. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs says neem oil is a natural insecticide and fungicide.
You can use neem oil to get rid of mealybugs without worrying about synthetic materials from artificial insecticides. Neem oil kills insects on contact. And because it’s an oil, your plants can absorb its properties. By absorbing neem oil properties, it develops pesticide properties that may help prevent future mealybug infestations.
You can buy neem oil from gardening supply stores, drug stores, or hardware stores. Different neem oil products may have special instructions based on the product’s neem oil concentration.
Some neem oil products come with spray bottles, which may be convenient options for immediate use. Spray neem oil on your affected plants every day for a few days before you see results. Be sure to follow the instructions on the product label.
If you are worried about neem oil’s toxicity, the EPA has assessed neem oil’s risks to human health. Results show neem oil and its active ingredients are not harmful to humans and other objects.
If you are using neem oil against mealybugs, only the mealybugs need to worry. Since neem oil is a natural substance, it degrades naturally and doesn’t contaminate water sources.
Soap Sprays Can Get Rid of Mealybugs
There are specific insecticidal soaps meant for treating mealybug infestations. These soaps are potent concentrates that you must handle with care to avoid harming your plant. Be sure to use diluted solutions to make sure your plant can survive the insecticide.
Use soft water (water without many minerals), such as distilled water, when mixing your insecticidal soap solution. You can buy distilled water from convenience stores or make your own. Make distilled water by boiling water in a large pot and then catching the vapor in a smaller pot.
Insecticide soaps break down mealybugs’ white, waxy substances where they thrive. When you spray your soap solution on their secretions, they die as the solution reaches the mealybugs.
Soap insecticides are non-toxic to other animals and humans, so you can rest assured your pets and kids are safe. But, of course, as a concentrated substance, you must keep the insecticidal soap out of reach for children or pets. The undiluted solution may cause damage despite being non-toxic.
You can make your own soap-based insecticide spray with liquid soap or dish detergent you keep at home. But first, check if your soaps contain any perfume or fragrance enhancers. These substances may be harmful to your plants, so reconsider using those soaps for your DIY insecticide spray.
When you have found an unscented or other suitable soap, mix it with distilled water. Start with a teaspoon per gallon of water, and then increase your concentration as necessary. Spray your solution over your plants, making sure to get every side of every leaf, stem, and base. Repeat this process once a week until mealybugs are gone.
Use Isopropyl Alcohol To Treat Mealybug Infestations
Isopropyl alcohol is another effective method for how to get rid of mealybugs. You’ll want to exercise extreme caution when using isopropyl alcohol to treat mealybug infestations because your indoor plants may be sensitive to it. Use a 70% isopropyl alcohol solution and try it on one leaf before proceeding with your treatment. You don’t want to risk causing alcohol burns on your plants.
Still, isopropyl alcohol can kill mealybugs on contact as long as the solution touches them directly. You can use cotton swabs, cotton buds, or washcloths to rub your affected plants with isopropyl alcohol. Get into the plant’s base, joints, edges, and folds. Some mealybugs hide on pot edges, so be sure to rub some alcohol on those corners as well.
You will need several isopropyl alcohol treatments for mealybug infestations. Repeat the process daily until you are sure all mealybugs are gone. Once you’ve gotten rid of all white, cottony substances and are sure the bugs are dead, rinse your infected plant.
Rinse your plant in your sink or shower, depending on the size of your plant. Rinse off your plant where you applied isopropyl alcohol to ensure no left-over alcohol can burn your plant.
How To Get Rid of Mealybugs Using Water Pressure
If you want to avoid using foreign substances for your infected plants, you can hose them down with regular water. Steady water pressure from a hose, shower or sink can force mealybugs to remove themselves from your plant. However, this method is only adequate for light infestations, so keep a close eye on your indoor plants.
Using water may not be as effective in removing all mealybugs when infestations get serious. You’ll have to wash your plant continuously. However, constant strong water pressure may cause stress to your plants. Remember, mealybugs infest soft-stemmed plants. So, these may be fragile and won’t handle intense water pressure well.
Get Help From Mealybugs’ Natural Predators
Control your mealybug problem with the pest’s natural predators, which you can find at your local garden center. Ask for ladybugs, green lacewings, lace bugs, parasitic wasps, or mealybug destroyers.
These predators are typical bugs for garden pest control, and they get rid of mealybugs by attacking them directly. But they don’t stop there. Female mealybug predators will lay eggs in mealybugs’ egg sacs. Then, the predator’s larvae will eat the mealybugs before they can even develop.
Similarly, female parasitic wasps lay their eggs directly in mealybug bodies. Parasitic wasps can live up to three weeks and lay eggs in up to 200 mealybugs. The parasitic wasp’s eggs hatch inside the mealybugs and then eat their way out of mealybugs to kill them.
Using mealybugs’ natural predators helps with your mealybug infestation without having to put your plant through too much stress. If you intend to use good bugs for your mealybug problem, don’t use insecticide solutions to follow-up. Using insecticides after you’ve introduced good bugs to your infected plants will also kill the good bugs.
Get Rid of Mealybugs Today!
Getting rid of mealybugs may involve using neem oil, insecticide soap, or isopropyl alcohol. These substances are effective in killing insects without harming humans, animals, or your plant. Of these three options, only neem oil is a natural substance.
Still, if you are worried about introducing foreign substances to your plant, water may help with your mealybug problem. Granted, regular water may not completely get rid of mealybugs. In that case, consider mealybugs’ natural predators.
No matter what method you choose, you no longer have to worry about how to get rid of mealybugs. Pick the method you think is best for your situation and get started!
FAQs for How to Get Rid of Mealybugs
Mealybugs can live up to three weeks without a plant host to feed on. When they infest your indoor plants, female mealybugs lay up to 600 eggs. In 10 weeks, newly hatched mealybugs will be ready to lay their own eggs.
Mealybugs thrive in temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cold temperatures only discourage mealybugs from attacking your indoor plants. If your tropical indoor plants already suffer from a mealybug infestation, chilling your plants won’t do much damage against mealybugs.
Relatedly, mealybugs usually feed on tropical plants, which may not tolerate cold temperatures well in the first place. Be sure your plants can tolerate colder temperatures if you intend to adjust your indoor temperature as a preventive measure.
Mealybugs produce honeydew or sticky, mold-causing secretions. Honeydew is a sweet substance, which can attract ants. These ants feed on honeydew and can bite humans.
Mealybugs don’t bite or spread disease to humans. Mealybugs only feed on soft-stemmed, tropical plants and attract other pests to feed on your plants.
Mealybugs feed on soft-stemmed, tropical plants. Common examples of susceptible indoor plants include orchids, cacti, African violets, amaryllis, fuchsias, coleus, and begonias. Mealybugs may also affect outdoor plants, usually citrus plants.