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
Leaves with yellow spots
Yellowing leaves that eventually fall off
Sometimes the waxy substance on your plant can be misidentified as mold, however, this can be distinguished by its wet, sticky texture.
Treatment: Mealybugs are really tricky to get rid of, and spread very fast. 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/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 residues.
Choose a pest control recommended for Mealybugs and hang in there (Mealybugs can be biologically defeated with the beetle Cryptolaemus montrouzieri - also called Mealybug Destroyer)
CAN I AVOID THIS FROM HAPPENING AGAIN?
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. Do a thorough visual inspection every now and then - these pests like to hide in the small folds and crevices of your plant, so be careful to check everywhere. Mealybugs also like soft/new growth, therefore 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 small insects, between around 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 and exist only to reproduce.
WHAT DO THEY EAT? Their main diet consists of the sap of their host plant, which they can suck out of any part of the plant.
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/fall.
ARE MY PLANTS AT RISK? Mealybugs thrive in warm, moist climates, but can show up in greenhouses across all regions, so if your plants are kept in these conditions then it may be worth keeping an eye on them. They attack a wide range of different house plants, so it’s a good idea to quarantine newly-bought plants if possible to avoid introducing them into your house plant collection.