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Mealybugs are a common problem on houseplants. Check out this Ultimate Guide on how to deal with them!

| What Are They | What They Do | Why are they on my plant || Identify |Treat | Prevent |

What are they?

Mealybugs are a soft scale.  They measure in between 3-6mm. Their life cycle can take anywhere between 6 weeks to 2 months, depending on environmental factors and the exact species. These little critters can live for 2-3 weeks without a host plant. Females can lay as many as 600 eggs. Once hatched the crawlers will relocate to another spot where they will feed until maturity. The female dies within a few days of laying eggs. The mature male mealybug has no functional mouthparts! It lives only a day or two to fertilize the females. They thrive in warm conditions. 

Mealybugs Life Cycle

What do they do?

They suck sap from their host plant.  Damage shows as leaves wilting, yellowing and curling. They also excrete a honeydew which can lead to other problems like ants and sooty mold

Why are they on my plant?

They often occur where plants have been over watered and over fertilized this is because they are drawn to plants with high nitrogen levels and soft growth. Through the early stages they can be blown in from outdoors through open windows and doors. They can also be brought in mistakenly on new plants or even tag along with people!

How to Identify Mealybugs

They appear as white pieces of fluff on plants. Once they have large number they produce white cottony nests. Through the immature stages they can appear as cream or brown dots and look waxy. While Mealybugs are visible to the naked eye they do love to hide on the undersides of leaves and in the petiole (where the leaf meets the stem). By hiding in these spots they often have the chance to multiply before they are noticed so its good to be vigilant when checking for pests. 

How to Treat Mealybugs

There are many ways to treat mealybugs

  • Dipping a cotton swab in isopropyl alcohol will kill them on contact, gently remove all mealies using the cotton bud. This method works best when they have been caught early. Can be done as necessary.
  • Using a castille or dish soap solution in a spray bottle with water is enough to kill mealybugs. this will suffocate the mealies.  If using dish soap it is best to first test it on a leaf before spraying the entire plant. Pure Castille soap is natural and does not have any additives and so it is safe to use on plants. Spray the plant until it is dripping wet, being sure to get the undersides of leaves and any crevices they may be hiding in. This can be repeated every few days.
  • Add neem oil into the mix! Using a neem oil, castille soap and water solution in a spray bottle. This can be done weekly until the mealybugs are gone.
  • Mealies can live in the soil, once the problem is under control, change out the top 2 inches of top soil to prevent a recurring infestation! 

How to prevent Mealybugs

Have a look at your watering schedule, check that you’re not overwatering your plant. Also check the plant food requirements of your plants to be sure you’re not over feeding them. Be vigilant when bringing new plants home and check that they are pest free, its good to quarantine your plants until you are sure. Sterilize tools in between plants as mealies can easily hitch a ride! Using a Neem oil solution to clean your plants monthly is a great way to prevent many pests, it also gives you the chance to closely inspect your plants so that you can spot any pests before they get out of control.

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Mealybugs are one of the most common pests in houseplants. They often appear seemingly out of nowhere! Check for pests regularly to avoid infestations. If you do find mealybugs, don’t worry. Keep them away from your other plants while you treat them and after a few treatments your plant should be mealie free!

Happy Gardening!

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