It appears to be small white or fuzzy bugs that feed on plant sap. These insects can cause serious damage to houseplants and outdoor plants. They can look like small white bugs or white fuzz on leaves and stems.
When leaves become infested with mealybugs, they start losing their color and wilting. If you don’t remove mealybugs, they can kill your plants. They are usually characterized by small white bugs on plants.
A mealybug is an insect that belongs to the family Pseudococcidae. Mealybugs have white bodies covered with a powdery coat. They are small, crawling insects measuring about 2 mm in length.
You can identify mealybug damage to plants by looking at the cotton-like residue they leave on leaves and stems. Mealybugs also produce sweet, sticky honeydew, which can rot plants, and they may also mold into black sooty mold fungus.
Learn how to get rid of mealybugs on plants in this article. Learn more about the life cycle of mealybugs and how to rid your houseplants of these tiny critters.
What do Mealybugs Look Like?
When young, mealybugs look fuzzy and white. Before they reach adulthood, they are tan or cream in color. They are easy to mistake for fungus, but when taken close up, you’ll identify a tiny white insect with a soft, oval body.
There are small, segmented mealybugs, whose bodies are covered in wax; this waxy appearance has a powdery appearance, giving the insects a furry appearance. They leave behind a fuzzy residue that makes plants appear to have cotton wool on them.
A close-up shot of a mealybug shows small spines on its oval body. Mealybugs have long filaments at the back which give the impression that they have long tails. They live in colonies so they may appear as clumps of white fuzz.
Mealybugs Life Cycle
A mealybug’s life cycle begins with an egg, which becomes a nymph, which molts several times before reaching adulthood. Its full life cycle lasts between seven and ten weeks.
White cottony mealybugs lay up to 200 eggs per female every 20 days. Nymphs emerge from eggs between seven and fourteen days after hatching. After molting several times, nymphs reach adulthood.
The yellow nymphs emerge from their eggs and damage plants. They leave behind sticky honeydew to attract other pests. As they mature, they feed on plant sap. They also bite into plant tissue to feed on sap.
It is difficult to identify mealybug eggs and nymphs on houseplants because they are so small. They like to hide in the soil, under leaves, between the leaves, and under fruit. The early stages of an infestation of mealybugs may go unnoticed. Then very quickly, clumps of white furry stuff appear on plant leaves and stems.
Where do Mealybugs Come From?
Mealybugs can be found in new houseplants you bring home, other sources of mealybugs include contaminated potting soil, and planting houseplants outdoors in the summer. They can also be found in fresh produce from the store.
The mealybugs usually enter your home by hiding inside crevices of succulents, cacti, or other tropical houseplants. Once inside your home, they can go unnoticed as they spread to other plants, covering them with sticky white fuzz.
It is possible to detect mealybugs by looking for green leaves and wilting growth on plants however, some mealybug species live in soil and attack the roots of plants.
Before planting your houseplant in fresh sterile soil, you should sterilize the container as well. In order to eradicate soil mealybugs, you should completely replace the soil.
How to Identify Mealybugs
In order to identify mealybugs, look for their fuzzy white appearance. Mealybugs often appear as fluffy cotton wool on your plants—either as colonies or collections of eggs. Individual mealybugs are small and not easy to spot.
Often, a mealybug infestation is already extensive when you identify it by its white furry cotton. Look for tiny white bugs that crawl around dark places on the plant. Mealybugs are common among succulents where they live in tight crevices between the fleshy leaves.
In addition to leaving behind a cottony residue, mealybugs also cause damage to plant foliage. For example, their sticky honeydew secretions encourage the growth of black sooty mold. Black patches in the foliage can indicate the presence of mealybugs.
To eradicate mealybugs, it is important to identify them correctly. Some other types of houseplant pests, such as whiteflies, also cause plant damage. For example, they leave honeydew behind and cause black soot mold on your houseplants.
Mealybug Damage to Plants
If you don’t get rid of mealybugs quickly, they’ll cause so much damage to houseplants that they will cause the plant to die. Stunted growth, yellow leaves, and leaf drop are obvious signs that mealybugs are damaging plants.
By feeding on the plant’s sap, mealybugs cause the most damage. In time, a heavy mealybug infestation will cause the plant to die. However, if you act right away, you can save the plant and limit the damage that mealybugs cause.
Mealybug infestations can also lead to plant damage such as:
Waxy cotton deposits on plant. There might also be white fur on stems and leaves, as well as white filling in the gaps between leaves or stems. Most pictures of mealybug infestations show clumps of white fur on stems and leaves.
Honeydew. Honeydew is a sugary substance produced by insects in response to plant juices. Though harmless to plants, the sticky substance indicates that mealybugs are damaging plants. Another side effect is that it attracts ants.
Black soot mold. The presence of honeydew encourages the growth of black sooty mold. While this fungi doesn’t damage the plant, they indicate that mealybugs are ruining your houseplants.
Weak plant growth. The most egregious impact of mealybugs on plants is stunted growth. They usually leave behind a cottony residue, wilted foliage, discolored foliage, and unsightly patterns on leaves.
How to Get Rid of Mealybugs on Plants
Getting rid of mealybugs on plants requires first isolating them from other plants to prevent spreading. Thereafter, they should be destroyed by spraying or washing them with natural mealybug killer products.
You should kill mealybugs immediately when you discover their presence. Although a small population of mealybugs won’t harm your plants too much, it won’t be long before they cause a full-blown infestation.
To prevent mealybug infestations, it is best to use natural pesticides instead of chemical pesticides. Those pesticides are not only harmful to people and pets, but mealybugs can develop resistance to them. This makes eradicating the plant pests more challenging.
Which are the best natural mealybug treatments to get rid of them forever?
Isolating a plant from other plants is the first step to preventing mealybugs from spreading to other plants. Inspect the plant thoroughly, especially around leaf joints, under leaves, and the top layer of soil around the stem. Next, examine the pot and the base of the plant.
If infested plants need rinsing off mealybugs, take them to the bathroom and let the water forcefully dislodge the mealybugs. The water can also be used to remove unsightly cottony residue from foliage.
For an outdoor mealybug infestation, you can turn on your garden hose and spray a jet of water on the plants. This will help you eradicate as many mealybugs from your plants as possible.
In addition to killing a variety of houseplant pests, rubbing alcohol can also kill mealybugs directly from plants. To eliminate mealybugs from plants, soak a cotton swab in 70% rubbing alcohol and apply directly to the pests.
It is also possible to make your own mealybug spray by dissolving one cup of vodka in one quart of water in a spray bottle. Once the spray treatment is applied, you can repeat it once or twice a week until all mealybugs and their eggs have died. Alcohol dissolves their protective layers and kills mealybugs and their eggs.
In order to eliminate mealybugs, you may want to replace your old soil with fresh, sterile soil. Additionally, you can use alcohol to disinfect your pot before adding fresh soil to ensure that you’ve removed all traces of these bugs forever.
Liquid Soap Spray
Spraying mealybug killer with a solution of soap and water can work extremely well. Mix a cup of lukewarm water with a teaspoon of liquid soap, such as Castile soap or dish soap, and shake the solution well. Spray the insecticide all over the plant.
After several hours, wipe the plant with a damp cloth to reduce the chance that the soap will damage it. Spray as often as necessary until your plant is pest-free.
In order for soap spray to work properly, it must coat mealybugs with soapy liquid that will help breakdown the wax.
Using organic soaps to eliminate bugs poses no health risks to children and pets.
Neem Oil Spray
To get rid of mealybugs on houseplants, mix two teaspoons of organic neem oil with one teaspoon of Castile soap, and put the solution in a spray bottle. Shake it well and spray liberally on the leaves to kill the bugs.
Neem oil is an incredibly effective natural pesticide for preventing mealybugs and killing mealybugs, as well as killing them.
You should not expect neem oil to be effective overnight. Neem oil has to be sprayed regularly on succulents, cacti, and tropical houseplants for it to work. With patience, you can eventually stop these fuzzy bugs in their tracks.
In addition, scientific evidence has proven that neem oil can kill mealybugs on contact and even their nymph stage. Researchers observed that neem oil also controls mealybug populations through its residual effect.
How to Prevent Mealybugs on Houseplants
Mealybugs can be prevented by inspecting any new plants you bring into your home. You can also prevent mealybugs by maintaining a healthy environment for plants. You can also wipe leaves with a damp cloth to remove mealybugs before you see them.
Adding too much fertilizer to plants will encourage fuzzy white bugs to reproduce. Plants need just enough nutrients to grow healthy, but mealybugs thrive in nitrogen-rich soil. Too much nitrogen creates a great environment for fuzzy white plant bugs to flourish.
Thoroughly check new houseplants for signs of mealybugs
If you intend to buy a new houseplant, you should always check it for signs of pests. Mealybugs can hide in leaves, in the joints of the plant, and in the soil. Look for minute white creatures that look similar to grains of rice.
Houseplants, even those purchased at a reputable store, may come with unwanted pests hidden in their foliage or potting mix. Additionally, new houseplants should be isolated for a couple of weeks in case of pest infestations.
Change the potting soil
Changing the potting mixed helps ensure that mealybugs cannot be detected, so it’s best to replace the entire potting soil sooner rather than later. If mealybugs are recurring problems, changing the potting mix will eliminate them completely.
In order to repot an infested plant, remove the root ball and shake the soil into a garbage bag. Rinse the roots with water to ensure that they are not infested with mealybugs. Put contaminated soil in the trash can rather than composting it, and thoroughly wash the container with hot soapy water. Choose an appropriate fresh potting mix.
The soil from your garden should not be used to plant houseplants. Pests such as mealybugs and other insects can enter the house through contaminated soil. Yard soil can also contain parasites that damage houseplants.