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Mealybugs are common houseplant pests - it’s important to try and eliminate them as quickly as possible if you want to save your plants!
SYMPTOMS & IDENTIFICATION
There are a few tell-tale signs to look out for when checking your plant for mealybugs. Luckily, these symptoms are typically easy to recognize as they are quite distinctive. Examples of what to check for are:
Cotton-like, white wax on the plant
Sticky sap on top of and around your plant
Leaves with yellow spots
Yellowing leaves that eventually fall off
Black sooty mold
Sometimes the waxy substance on your plant can be misidentified as mold. Check for a wet, sticky texture.
Treatment: Mealybugs are really tricky to get rid of, and spread very fast. If the infestation is advanced you might consider throwing the plant away, but if you really want to keep it:
Isolate the infected plant
Mealybugs can easily spread to other plants by crawling between them, particularly if there is overlap of branches and leaves.
Clean frequently and thoroughly around your plant
The waxy ‘fluff’ that surrounds mealybug eggs can be relatively waterproof, so it’s important to clean your plant very thoroughly to try and remove all residue.
Choose a pest control recommended for mealybugs and hang in there
3. Consider using biological pest control
Mealybugs can be fought with predatory insects such as the ladybug Cryptolaemus montrouzieri - also called Mealybug Destroyer
HOW CAN I PREVENT THIS IN THE FUTURE?
The best way to avoid a repeat Mealybug infestation is to act preventatively. Monitor your plant’s health and check it regularly for early symptoms. Periodic visual inspections are important as these pests like to hide in the small folds and crevices of your plant. Mealybugs also like soft, new growth as well as weak plants so it’s important to avoid overwatering or overfertilizing your plant. Planta’s care schedules can help you with this.
QUESTIONS ABOUT MEALYBUGS
HOW BIG ARE THEY? Mealybugs are relatively small - between 1/20 to 1/5 of an inch (1 - 4 mm) long with soft, waxy bodies. Male mealybugs look quite different to females: they have wings and are even smaller, but live for a shorter time.
WHAT DO THEY EAT? Their main diet consists of plant sap. Unlike some other pests, mealybugs aren't picky about where they get their food so be sure to check your plant carefully.
WHEN DO MEALYBUGS ATTACK? These insects can infect your plant at any time of the year, but an attack is more likely in the summer or autumn.
ARE MY PLANTS AT RISK? Mealybugs thrive in warm, moist climates, but can show up in any region. They especially love greenhouses, so if your plants are kept in these conditions it may be worth keeping an eye on them. They attack a wide range of different houseplants, so it’s a good idea to quarantine newly-purchased plants if possible to avoid introducing them into your collection.