For farmers and gardeners, mealybugs are one of the most destructive types of pests that plants can be infested with .
Often confused with aphids, mealybugs appear in masses as white downy cotton clusters on leaves, stalks, and around the bases of plants.
Left to their own devices, large infestations can completely destroy orchards and cash crops.
Mealybugs are very prolific with one female producing several hundred eggs, protected in one sac. When they hatch, they turn into nymphs, which is the most destructive phase .
The nymphs will swarm all over plants, sucking out the sap at the same time as the remaining adults are also still feeding.
The males are not able to feed for very long, surviving only long enough to fertilize other female bugs and then die. The females can feed and last a while longer.
How to Get Rid of Mealybugs Naturally
Modern gardeners and farmers are now embracing organic methods of control to preserve beneficial insects and protect wildlife and human health concerns.
Below are 11 natural home remedies and aids to control or destroy mealybugs.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
This juice made from fermented apples has many health-giving uses today, having antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.
It is a well-known safe natural method of pest control used as a solution in water and sprayed on plants and the surrounding soil.
Mix a mild solution of one part ACV to four parts water. This method may need repeating several times as the solution should be mild to avoid plant damage.
2. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth is an old remedy against pests that have been used in many other wellness products today. It is very effective against all kinds of destructive bugs, including mealybugs.
DE is a white powdery substance made from the pulverized fossils of tiny marine creatures – a type of plankton –that is high in silica. This abrasive soil dehydrates the bugs and kills them.
It is safe to sprinkle the powder all over the plants, especially under leaves where the pests hide. It can also be spread around the bases of the plants or dug into the soil particularly before new planting.
Cutting back infected plants and shrubs and burning the foliage is a good way to limit the spread of the pests. This will also help to strengthen the plants and make them more resistant to attack.
4. Soapy Water
This is an easy way to start dealing with the problem.
Almost any household soap can be used but we recommended using organic liquid soap. Besides, insecticidal soap is likely to be more effective.
For this recipe, mix with water, spray the affected areas, and hose or wash off the plants afterward.
5. Beneficial Insects
One of the disadvantages of using chemical pesticides is the potential harm to beneficial insects.
Organic methods and careful planting of attractive flowers like marigolds and rosemary should encourage mealybug-eating insects like ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps.
It is even possible to buy these helpful creatures to introduce them to the garden to eat away the pest problem.
6. Essential Oils
There are many essential oils to try out but studies reveal that the most effective is derived from citrus peels .
Some oils can cause damage to the plants if overused but orange and lemon appeared to be successful with minimal damage.
Other oils from herbs can be used with peppermint being especially beneficial.
7. Neem Oil
Neem is a natural insecticide and fungicide produced from the seeds of the Neem tree. This is a remedy known for many centuries as is the use of Neem in many other health and beauty products.
Diluted and sprayed on plants and soil it disrupts the life cycle of mealybugs and many other pests, giving long-term benefits for the organic gardener.
It also will not harm beneficial insects and the all-important honeybee population as these creatures don’t chew on leaves.
8. Control Ants
Ants are attracted to the mealybugs because of the residual honeydew infestations bring. The ants increase the survival of the bugs, acting as carriers for them and redistributing them around the garden.
Various organic methods can be used to eliminate ants or destroy nests and trails.
9. Debug Turbo
Debug Turbo is an organic pesticide and fungicide with several active ingredients including Neem oil. It works in the same way by disrupting the life cycle of mealybugs and a host of other pests.
Diluted with water it can be sprayed all over and under plants and shrubs and also on the surrounding soil.
In bad infestations, the lawn areas can also be sprayed. Repeat applications are advised especially in the spring.
Gargoil is also an organic pesticide and fungicide controlling many types of bugs and eliminating mildew.
The active ingredients are concentrated cinnamon oil and garlic, harmless to most beneficial insects.
11. Hose Them
A quick and free natural home remedy, if only a temporary one.
A special hose can be purchased at most online and retail stores, or any garden hose used with care to blast away the pests will work.
How a Mealybug Infestation Develops
The males have some limited ability to fly but mostly the mealybugs just eat through, from one plant to another.
They leave behind honeydew that attracts other pests and can also cause mildew to develop. The honeydew is particularly appealing to ants who protect the mealybugs from attacks from other insects.
They also act as vectors carrying viruses to other plants, shrubs, or crops.
Plants Vulnerable to Attacks
Mealybugs can damage indoor and outdoor plants, and greenhouses are often affected.
Almost any plant can be attacked by the critters, flowers as well as vegetables and fruits. Orchids are particularly vulnerable.
The return to organic methods of gardening and agriculture is helping to re-establish natural means of controlling pests and protecting the environment.
Mealybugs are just one of the many harmful insects that can be effectively contained by employing these methods.