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How To Identify And Prevent Mealy Bug Armageddon

How To Identify And Prevent Mealy Bug Armageddon

Fluffy white cotton-candy inspired insects sound sweet, huh?

NO!

Mealy Bugs

These stealthy, fluffy little vampires are mealy bugs and they cling to the crevices of your plants sucking the life from them. In just a couple of weeks, your precious plants will be covered in white fluff and drained like something from a Dracula movie.

Urgh! What Are Mealy Bugs Though?

Pretty much everyone with plants will catch a dose of the mealies because they love to eat healthy plant sap and set up home in the foliage.

Baby mealies are called ‘crawlers’ and they walk around your plant looking for a good place to dig in, then as they feed and grow a fluffy white coating is produced to protect them from predators. Sneaky.

How To Spot Little Gangs of Mealy Bugs

Just a few mealies are difficult to spot but they are much easier to treat if you’re observant, so regularly look where leaves meet the stem and then beneath the leaves too.

If you don’t see actual mealy bugs you might spot scars on the leaves that resemble small lines, or you may even spot their sticky poop which is ridiculously called ‘honeydew’.

Ants love honeydew so if you have a mega infestation don’t be surprised to find ants loitering about casually snacking on their favourite sweet stuff.

In fact, ants are a good indication that you have an insect invasion as they farm mealybugs and aphids for steady food supplies – nipping anything that tries to intervene.

The Mega Infestations

You can’t miss a mega infestation. It’ll look like white cotton wool has dripped all over your plants.

Inside these bundles of joy are grey, hungry mealy bugs sucking the life from your beautiful greenery. They cause stunted new growth, yellowing, and sick looking foliage.

Enough is enough.

How To Get Rid Of Mealy Bugs

Steps 1 to 3 are often enough to get rid of a few mealybugs and if you’re quick off the mark your plant won’t be harmed. Be sure to repeat the steps until your bugs be gone!

Please note that bugs are totally normal. They are not a sign of poor hygiene or lack of care on your part so don't take it too personally.

Prepare For Battle

Step 1 Take a piece of cloth dip in rubbing alcohol and press it directly onto any mealybugs you can see. 

Step 2 Spray your plant down in the shower. Your plant will enjoy the misting and the mealybugs will simply wash away. You may need to handpick or wipe some of them off. 

"Mealybug and their powder actually repels the pesticides and protects the eggs and wiping clears the way, making pesticides more effective. Insufficient wiping may result in reinfestation."

Step 3 Once your plant is dry use a natural insecticide neem oil which will kill any remaining mealybugs and their eggs. Pour some into a spray bottle and spray liberally so it covers all the leaves and soaks into the soil – mealies are hardy bugs that like to stick around. You can also use a natural organic dishwashing liquid mixed with water to drain and suffocate the bugs. Purchase the neem oil spray version online if you are wanting the more convenient option.

The plant runner neem oil online - fast free delivery

Step 4 If you have a large infestation you may want to consider potting up your babe in a new pot or sterilise the old pot. Mealybugs lay eggs in the potting mix that hatch out and BOOM! your plant is a meal - so you may need to repot your babe. Gently shake all the potting mix from the roots and put that mix in a trash bag. Make sure you do this away from your other babes because male mealybugs can fly away. Make sure you use a fresh premium potting mix with a slow-release fertiliser. 

Step 6 Over the next few days mealy bugs that escaped the process may re-appear so use your trusty neem oil again. Repeat each week until they are gone.

Step 7 To prevent mealybugs from laying their eggs in your plant pot, place a layer of perlite or gravel over the surface of the potting mix. It acts as a shield - YOU SHALL NOT PASS!

Step 8 Mealies really love fleshy young foliage, so don’t overwater or over fertilise plants.

Don’t Give Up

Mealybugs are part and parcel of gardening and they are persistent but don’t despair, practically every plant owner will have a run-in with them – you’re not doing anything wrong. 

Mealybugs attack by stealth, they look horrible and eventually will suck your lovelies dry of nutrients.

Roll up your sleeves and evict those damaging little squatters! Once they’re dealt with your plants can relax and put all their energy into looking good and making you feel happy.

*Images via Pinterest