For farmers and gardeners, mealybugs are tiny, soft-bodied insects that fall among the pests that harm plants. They suck on plant juices, damaging and weakening the plant.
Mealy bugs appear in masses as white cotton clusters on leaves, stalks, and around the base of plants. They are also often confused with aphids.
If left untreated, an infestation can ultimately kill a plant. Therefore, know not only the signs of their presence but also how to get rid of them.
Mealybugs are very prolific, with one female producing hundreds of eggs in one sac. When they hatch, they turn into nymphs, which is the most destructive phase .
The nymphs will swarm all over plants. They suck out the sap at the same time as the remaining adults are also still feeding.
The males cannot feed for very long. Males survive only long enough to fertilize other female bugs and then die. The females also die not long after laying their eggs.
How to Get Rid of Mealybugs Naturally
Below are home remedies and natural methods to control or kill these little white bugs on plants.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a well-known home remedy for mealybug control. Use it as a watered-down solution to spray on plants and the surrounding soil.
Mix a mild solution of one part ACV to four parts water. However, you may need to repeat this method several times, as the solution should be mild to avoid plant damage.
2. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a killer for these white fuzzy bugs on plants and all kinds of crawling insects.
Food-grade DE is also one of the best remedies to get rid of mealybugs in the house. It works great because it dehydrates and kills them within 48 hours.
To use diatomaceous earth for mealybugs, sprinkle it (this is a good brand) all over the plants, especially underneath leaves where they like to hide. You can also spread it around the base of plants or make a spray out of it.
A good measure to prevent mealybugs from spreading is to cut back infected plants and shrubs. Burn the foliage afterward.
Pruning will also help strengthen the plants and make them more resistant to attack.
4. Soap and Water
A soap and water solution is another home remedy to treat mealybugs. Dawn dish soap is suitable; however, we recommend using organic liquid soap for vegetable gardens.
For this homemade mealy bug spray recipe, combine one tablespoon of liquid soap with a quart of water. Shake well, and use the solution to spray the entire plant.
Soapy water will kill mealybugs by way of suffocation. Alternatively, try a ready-made insecticidal soap.
5. Beneficial Insects
Careful planting of attractive flowers like marigolds and rosemary may encourage mealybug-eating insects. These predatory insects include ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps.
It is even possible to buy some of these helpful insects and introduce them to the garden to help with pest problems.
However, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri (mealybug destroyer) is probably the most effective predator for the critters.
6. Essential Oils
Studies reveal that peppermint, citrus, and thyme-leaved savory essential oils are the most effective against the vine mealybug .
Lavender and cinnamon oil are other oils that repel insects. However, some oils can damage plants if overused, so be careful when using them.
For a mild DIY mealybug spray, combine 12 drops of your essential oil of choice with a cup of water. Add the solution to a spray bottle and use it on your plants.
7. Neem Oil
Neem oil is a natural insecticide and fungicide that comes from the seeds of the neem tree.When applied properly, neem oil helps to control mealybugs and many other bad garden insects.
Also, it’s not likely to harm bees and other pollinators, as they do not chew on leaves. Only insects that eat the treated leaves will be killed.
To get rid of mealybugs with neem oil, combine 2 teaspoons of liquid soap with 4 tablespoons of neem oil and a gallon of water.
Shake well and spray this DIY mealybug treatment on the entire plant, including the underside of the leaves.
8. Control Ants
Ants love mealybugs because of the residual honeydew they bring. Therefore, ants increase the bugs’ survival. They act as carriers for them, redistributing them around the garden.
However, there are various organic methods you can use to eliminate ants from your garden.
9. Debug Turbo
Debug Turbo is one of the best insecticides for mealy bugs on plants. The treatment is OMRI-listed and works great at controlling these white cotton-like bugs on your plants and a host of other insect pests in the garden.
Spray this treatment all over plants and the surrounding soil. You can also use it to spray your lawn.
Another mealybug killer, Gargoil, is an organic pesticide for controlling many types of bugs organically.
The active ingredients in this product are cinnamon oil and garlic. Use it to get rid of mealybugs on houseplants, roses, succulents, cacti, and other plants.
Moreover, you can also use it to control powdery mildew and downy mildew.
11. Hose Them
Another DIY remedy for mealybugs outside is to hose them off. Besides, any garden hose used with care to blast away the pests will work.
12. Repellent Plants
Plants that repel mealybugs include lavender, oregano, thyme, basil, and garlic. Grow these in and around your garden to help prevent an infestation.
How a Mealybug Infestation Develops
Only male mealybugs have the ability to fly. However, these pests mostly crawl around and eat from one plant to another. You will find them on outdoor plants and indoor plants, including those in greenhouses.
As they feed, they excrete honeydew, which attracts other insect pests and can also cause sooty mold to develop. The honeydew is particularly appealing to ants. The ants then protect the mealybugs from attacks from other insects.
These small white insects can also transmit viruses to plants .
Plants Vulnerable to Attacks
Mealybug damage can be seen on houseplants and outdoor plants. The critters will attack flowers, vegetables, trees, shrubs, and herbs.
The jade plant, basil, crepe myrtle, azaleas, cactus, fiddle-leaf fig, hibiscus, and orchids are some common plants they go after.
The return to organic methods of gardening and agriculture helps to re-establish natural means of controlling pests.
These white pests on plants are just one of the many insects that harm plants. However, you can effectively tackle the problem by employing the natural mealybug control measures above.