Mealybugs: Get Rid of White Fuzzy Bugs on Your Plants

Mealybugs are one common type of insect, which gather and feed on the sap of plants. Mealybugs may appear tiny and unharmful but can cause serious damage to your garden plants, as they always come in a cluster. They can make your plants wilt, go dry, and few species inject toxins while they feed on your plants. And if left unnoticed most of your plants could get infected and lose leaves and die.

Normal pesticides might save your plants from mealybugs, but they will cause other mutilations too. Thus, here we come up with some side effect free home remedies to treat mealybugs, let’s learn those tricks quickly below-

What Do Mealybugs Look Like?

What do mealybugs look like mealybug on plant

Mealybugs are like small white fuzzy bugs on your plants and they are soft-bodied with a white powdery coat on them. Most of the species of mealybugs appear with this tiny white ambiguous figure and people confuse it with fungus as these bugs don’t make any visible movement on your plants. However, some of them have long, tail-like filaments at the rear ends of their torso. These filaments look like the tiny tail of these small-scale insects.

  • Size: These little bugs range from 1mm to 5mm max in size
  • Color: Soft pinkish body covered with a white powdery coat.
  • Mealybug eggs: Also, you could notice white fungus-like white cottony mass egg sacs where the female bugs lay hundreds of pinkish or yellow-colored eggs.
  • Infestation identification: An infested plant looks like white fluffy cotton patches on your plant and leaves.

They always appear in a group, crawling on the sap, leaves, and stems of normal garden plants. Mealybugs form small white nests where they feed, with a waxy coating resemblance. Thus sometimes, they resemble a layer of sprinkled snow or cotton-like web on the sap of your plants.

Where do Mealybugs Come from and how do they spread:

Mealybugs always spread from plant to plant. So, they must come into your garden from any infested plant that you bought from a nursery.

They can even live in the soil for 2 to 4 months starting from plant sap. Thus, you can sometimes find that your garden plants are infested by mealybugs from the soil too. Now, soil can bring mealybugs from outside of your house through the leaves of an infested plant.

Mealybugs mostly spread through an infested plant from a nursery or greenhouse.

Also, natural carriers like wind, rain, birds, ants and we humans unknowingly carry and help them spread from one place or plant to another.

How to get rid of mealybugs small white fuzzy bugs on plants

How to Get Rid of Mealybugs:

1. Rubbing Alcohol 70%:

To get rid of the grasp of mealybugs from your plants, use rubbing alcohol. It is one of the most effective and promising home remedies. The application steps are as follows-

  1. Take some isopropyl alcohol in a tiny bowl and dip a cotton ball into it.
  2. Now, rub that cotton ball on the infected part of your plant deeply and let the alcohol do the rest work of removing them.
  3. You can also spray a layer of rubbing alcohol on the stem, leaves, and bottom side with a spray bottle on the mealybugs-infested plants. Mix one part of rubbing alcohol to 7 parts of water in the spray bottle.
  4. Repeat this process one to two times a week until mealybugs are gone completely.

2. Apply Neem Oil for Mealybugs:

Neem oil is another brilliant insecticide to use for removing the spread of mealybugs from your favorite garden plants. To apply this product-

  • Take an empty spray bottle and 500 to 700ml plain water into it.
  • Add 1-2 teaspoon of raw neem oil into the water along with 1 tbsp of mild liquid soap.
  • Set the lid and shake the bottle finely until you combine the inside mixture properly.
  • Now, use this mixture to spray until it reaches each part of your infested plant properly.
  • Now keep the planter in a shady or partial shady windowsill and repeat this process weekly until the mealybugs are gone permanently.
  • Also, keep in mind this won’t work like magic, it will 3 to 4 applications before it could wipe the bug’s colony.

Note before using neem oil or rubbing alcohol on your plants move them to shade and let it be there for few days after spray.

3. Water Blast and Brushing for Upperhand

If your plant can tolerate a steady stream of water, you could rinse off the mealybugs. Though it won’t help you totally get rid of these bugs, it will definitely remove the majority of them.

If it is a small succulent or plant you can also use a medium to soft brush to brush off the mealybugs to some extent to prevent further infection.

Before doing any of this, isolate the plant/succulent from other plants to prevent further spread.

4. Homemade Sprays for Mealybugs:

Some other useful homemade sprays to control the spread of mealybugs and kill them are-

  • Soapy water spray that is made with 1 tsp insecticidal soap in 1 liter of water
  • A mixture of baking soda and water
  • A mixture of apple cider vinegar and water in a 1:2 ratio
  • And a mixture of water and some essential oils like tea tree oil, spearmint oil, eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil, etc. Like 1tsp of eucalyptus oil with few drops of soap and 2 cups of water in a spray bottle.
Mealybug Destroyer Dark Ladybugs without spots
Mealybug Destroyer Dark Ladybugs without spots

5. Introduce Predator: What is Mealybug Destroyer?

Cryptolaemus montrouzieri bug is known as a mealybug destroyer (ladybugs). While this bug belongs to the ladybug species (dark without any spots) but it is confused with mealybugs during its initial stages. This beetle is a predator of mealybugs and thus, can clean up the spreading of mealybugs easily out of your infested garden plants.

Treatment for Mealybugs Infestation on Succulents

  1. Firstly quarantine the infected plant
  2. Rinse the plant until the cottony looking bugs are visibly clear off your succulent
  3. Use a strong stream of water that your succulent or plant can handle
  4. Use rubbing alcohol and cotton Qtip to further remove visible mealybugs and nests.
  5. Thoroughly wash your pot and also look for nooks. As they are masters in survival without a host, even for weeks together.
  6. Sterilize the soil to be used for later or throw it away.
  7. Let the pot and plant get dry for sometime
  8. Later add the new potting mix for succulents and repot the little one.
  9. Spray safe repellents like mild dish soap water or rubbing alcohol to prevent infection.
  10. If you feel your succulent is sensitive, test on few leaves before going for a full spray.
  11. Avoid sunlight for few hours.
  12. Once set, check your succulent for few days for any new infection to wipe them out. This will keep your plant happy and permanently safe from mealybugs.

How to Get Rid of Mealybugs in Soil:

To remove the spread of mealybugs in soil, spraying acephate or malathion is the best method. To apply this remedy, follow these steps-

  • Take 1 tbsp of Malathion 50 or any acephate in a spray bottle filled with 4 liters of water
  • Now, spray this mixture over the outer surface of the soil after shaking the bottle a couple of times
  • Spray this mixture often for 3-4 months over the infected area and you can clean the soil out of the grasp of mealybugs completely.

If your potting soil is completely infested sterilize it. And let be idle for days before using it for a plant or completely trash it.

Mealybugs Infestation Treatment Quick Summary
Mealybugs Infestation Treatment Quick Summary

Lifecycle of Mealy Bugs

  • Adult female mealybugs lay hundreds of eggs in a safe white cotton-like waxy nest.
  • Later they develop into nymphs female crawlers and males in two weeks
  • Males are short-lived and don’t directly hurt your plant.
  • While female bugs are tiny white crawlers, slowly move across the plant to feed and grow vigorously.
  • In 2 months’ time, all these fuzzy crawlers grow stages to become fully grown mealybugs.
  • Within a year, you could witness (if possible) generations of mealy bugs
  • While male bugs are tiny, winged, and rarely seen.

How Mealybugs are Harmful to Plants:

Mealybugs can be extremely damageable to your garden plants if they remain untreated for long. Some of the typical harmful effects, mealybugs can produce on your plants, are-

  • They feed themselves by sucking the plant juice from stems and leaves
  • This will hamper the growth of your growing plats badly
  • A consistent period of mealybugs on plants can make the leaf yellow, wilt and drop-leaf as well
  • Mealybugs also produce a gluey substance honeydew that escalates the mold growth on your plants
  • Sometimes, even mealybugs can kill your garden plant, if you don’t apply any remedy on them soon.

Why My Garden is Often Infested by Mealybugs?

Your garden plants may get infested by mealybugs for a couple of reasons, lets see what causes mealybugs infestation like-

  • Mealybugs are attracted to rich sap content and plants like hibiscus, fruiting plants, and succulents too
  • Tropical climate
  • Getting an infested plant into your garden from nursery
  • Garden soil has mealybugs infestation before planting
  • Too much usage of nitrogen-based fertilizer
  • Overwatering your garden plants
  • Houseplants placed outside in the scorching heat of summer

How to Prevent Mealybugs from Spreading:

Some smart moves can save you and your garden plants from getting infested by mealybugs. Such as

  • Keep a close look at the sap of your plants regularly for the first appearance of mealybugs.
  • Often check for your plant’s stem tips.
  • Prune any mealybugs infested leaf or stem instantly, once you find them on a plant.
  • Apply insecticides on your garden plants with a good amount of alcoholic substances.
  • Apply a home remedy as soon as possible, once you realize that any of your garden plants has mealybugs infestation.
  • Avoid often usage of nitrogen-rich fertilizers.
  • And bring new garden tools as well as a planter, after cleaning up the infestation of mealybugs from your garden.

FAQ: Mealybugs Quick Summary

1. Can Mealybugs Jump or Fly?

Mealybugs neither jump nor fly. Male bugs have wings, but they are rarely seen and also short-lived. Only the nymphs crawl only from one plant to another.

2. Are Mealybugs Harmful to Humans?

These tiny white fuzzy bugs could not bite or provide any sort of serious harm to humans. But by sucking the sap from your plants, making ovisacs and honeydew they slowly kill your plants. If that hurts your heart, then surely mealybugs are harmful to humans :).

3. Baking Soda/ Hydroperoxide/ Vinegar for Mealybugs:

Baking soda and vinegar are two useful things to control and kill the spread of mealybugs on your plants. However, hydroperoxide could not help that much in this attempt.


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