How to Get Rid of Mealybugs

We're always talking on The Plant Dads blog posts about how great houseplants are as a way to "bring the outdoors inside." While that's absolutely true, there's still one major downfall about having part of the outdoors inside of your home, and that's pests!

Even the cleanest of us, and most cautious plant owners, find themselves dealing with plant pests occasionally. Spider Mites, Root Aphids, Springtails, and Whiteflies are all potential unwelcomed guests that can find a home on your indoor plants. One of the most common pests are Mealybugs, but fortunately they're also not too terribly difficult to handle.

How to Identify Mealybugs

A white mealybug on a green plant stem

Mealybugs are quite good at hiding. They look like tiny white growths, and can be concealed underneath leaves, on the various joints of a plant, or right out in the open. They have a cotton-like appearance and release a waxy honeydew substance. (If left unhandled, this substance can potentially attract ants, which can create a whole new problem for you to deal with!)

Potential Damage Mealybugs Cause

A leaf that is turning yellow.

There are a range of damaging effects that Mealybugs can create. A plant's leaves can start showing yellow spots, or the entire leaf can turn yellow. Eventually, leaves can even begin drooping or falling off the plant entirely. As mentioned earlier, they can also attract an ant infestation due to the honeydew substance that they secrete. A large Mealybug infestation can eventually lead to mold growing on your plant.

Where do Mealybugs Come From?

Mealybugs typically find their way into your home by way of new plants from a nursery. If you keep your plants together, any leaves touching can transplant Mealybugs from one plant to another. In addition to nurseries or garden centers, Mealybugs can also get onto your plant if you take your plant outdoors sometimes. Though it is a good idea to give some plants fresh air and bright sun outside, these sneaky pests can latch onto your plant while it's outside sunbathing.

Getting Rid of Mealybugs

A person wearing a hazmat suite while cleaning a ZZ plant.

Fortunately, the process of ridding your plant of Mealybugs isn't too complicated. 

If you catch the problem early enough and only have some Mealybugs on your plant, you can do a spot treatment with a cotton swab and isopropyl alcohol. 

Larger infestations will require a bit more effort. If you have a kitchen sink sprayer, thoroughly wash off all parts of your plant, aiming for any areas that you can see have an infestation. Afterwards, wipe off any remaining areas that you can see an infestation with a cloth, making sure to completely remove the Mealybugs. Next, spray the plant with a spray bottle of water and a small dollop of dish liquid. Make sure to spray every part of the plant, from leaves to stem to soil. Do this at least once more the following week to make sure your infestation is officially an issue of the past!

Though Mealybugs aren't the most difficult to get rid of, acting promptly is of the most importance. As soon as you notice that you have a Mealybug problem, taking the right steps to handle the situation is your most surefire way to avoid any bigger complications!

~Happy Planting! 💚

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