It is white, fluffy ‘fur’, and tiny on your plants. When you look closer, that’s something alive. And they are everywhere on your plants.
Mealybugs could harm your plants quickly when they start to breed and lay the eggs everywhere.
But don’t worry in this article we will talk about mealybugs and how to get rid of them.
What are Mealybugs?
Mealybugs are insects, belongs to the Pseudococcidae family. Approximately, there are 275 mealybugs species in the United States. Some of them are popular like Planococcus citri, known as citrus mealybug.
Mealybugs is ‘fur’ white cotton with a pinky soft body (looks waxy tho) inside. Their ‘fur’ is helping them to keep in their moisture and overheating.
There are male and female mealybugs. The males come in an oval shape and they have wings.
It is rare to see if there are male ones on your plants since they only live for two or three days. In their short lifetime, their main purpose is only to fertilize the female.
So here are the female mealybugs. They are round and wider than males. They also don’t have wings and could grow around 1/16 inch.
How Mealybugs Reproduce
Most mealybug species birds reproduce by laying eggs even some are asexual. The size could be different depending on their species but most of them are also covered by the ‘fur’ like adult mealybugs to protect from the predator.
When they produce the eggs, it could be hundreds at once. The most annoying part is we can barely see with naked eyes since the eggs are tiny.
After five days lay the eggs, female mealybugs will die. Between 7-14 days, the eggs will hatch and dig on the plants as their feeding area for 4-8 weeks to grow into adults. It means, in one year, they only have 2-5 generations in one group.
The long-tailed mealybugs (Pseudococcus longispinus) don’t need to lay the eggs. It will hatch as it was laid by the mother. And it will find their own feeding area.
How Mealybugs Harm Your Plant
Mealybugs can harm any spot on your plant. Two things are sure.
First, they are in a group. Once they are eggs, they are already in a group and will stick together as adults. Easier for us to spot when they are in a group.
One group will be suck a bigger amount to feed them, meaning that your plants will lose their nutrients in one spot.
Second, mealybugs suck the sap out of your plants. The sap is a liquid of nutrients that is needed for photosynthesis. It is like blood on your body to distribute nutrients to all our organs.
When mealybugs consume all the sap, your plants will turn yellow and slowly die if out of control.
Mealybugs also make wax and ‘honeydew’ that will turn black and grossy mold that will make your plant ill.
The most evil ones are the citrus mealybugs since they steal the sap and at the same time they will inject toxin too. These toxins would hurt your plants.
As you see the mealybugs on your plants, you need to get rid of them as soon as possible.
How to Prevent Mealybugs
You can prevent mealybugs before they attack your plants and here is how:
First, check your new plants that they are free from any mealybugs before you add to your shelf plants. If you buy plants from Labijo, you don’t have to worry since we always have a phytosanitary certificate as a requirement for healthy plants.
If you buy plants from a local nursery, you need to check manually that there are no mealybugs on your plants.
Also better to keep new plants distance from existing plants in your home for 2 weeks, to make sure free mealybug eggs too.
Second, don’t over-fertilize your plants. High amounts of nitrogen is good for stimulating new plants but also mealybugs. All mealybugs love to lay new eggs where the new growth is.
The only way you can recognize mealybug is by looking at your plants carefully with your eyes. They will come in cotton ‘fur’ that is easy to spot on.
You need to check in any part of your plants from leaves, stem, and any potential growth spot.
Some of them can hardly be found since they can live under the soil. You can check your drainage holes of the pot to indicate the mealybugs attacking the roots..
How to Get Rid of Mealybugs
When you spot the mealybugs on your plants, you need to treat it as soon as possible.
You need to look closer at every leaf, even the folded ones, in case they still have some mealybugs there. They can be hidden in any parts of your plants.
You can use isopropyl alcohol 70% and cotton swab to tackle them. Try to swab the alcohol to the mealybugs. Try not to touch your plant directly with alcohol because your plant would be sensitive.
You could do this once a week to get rid of mealybugs. Try the small patch at first to see if your plant is sensitive with alcohol or not. If they are sensitive, you can try diluting alcohol with warm water.
Or you can also use the high pressure spray on your plants. Mealybugs will fall out from the leaves.
You can try to use the chemical ones like coracron as pest control but again, you really need to be careful with it. Otherwise it will bring more harm to your plants.
Since houseplants are mostly sensitive, using chemicals is the last option and better not to use it.
Mealybugs is every plant parents hate and need to get rid of them as soon as possible. They can be easy to tackle if we check our plants regularly. So when there’s a small mealybug, we can prevent them from making bigger colonies.
If you want rare plants with no mealybugs, you can get it from Labijo.
Do you have more tips to handle mealybugs? You can comment below.