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, not only know the signs of their presence but how to get rid of them.
Mealybugs are very prolific, with one female producing hundreds of 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. 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 natural methods and home remedies to control or kill these little white bugs on plants.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a well-known mealybug control home remedy. Use it as a watered-down solution to spray on plants and 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 is a killer for these white fuzzy bugs on plants and all kinds of crawling insects. It works great because it dehydrates and kills them within 48 hours.
To use diatomaceous earth for mealybugs, sprinkle it 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 to strengthen the plants and make them more resistant to attack.
4. Soap and Water
Soap and water solution is another home remedy to treat white mites on plants. 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 should encourage mealybug-eating insects. These predatory insects include ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps.
It is even possible to buy some of these helpful insects to introduce them to the garden to eat away pest problems.
However, the Cryptolaemus montrouzieri (mealybug destroyer) is probably the most effective predator for the critters.
6. Essential Oils
When putting together this article, we couldn’t find any plants that repel mealybugs; however, there are essential oils you can try. Studies reveal that peppermint, citrus, and thyme-leaved savory essential oils are the most effective against the vine mealybug .
Lavender and cinnamon oil are others 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 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 produced from the seeds of the Neem tree. Use it to disrupt the growth and development of these pests so as to prevent an infestation.
When applied properly, neem oil helps to control mealybugs and many other bad garden insects. However, 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 and destroy their nests and trails.
9. Debug Turbo
Debug Turbo is one of the best insecticides for mealy bugs on plants and in soil, having several natural ingredients, including neem oil. The treatment works by disrupting the life cycle of these white cotton-like bugs on your plants and a host of other pests.
Spray this mealy bug pesticide all over and under plants and shrubs and the surrounding soil. However, in bad infestations, spray your lawn as well. Repeat applications, especially in the spring.
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, cactus, and other plants outside.
Moreover, you can also use it to control powdery mildew and downy mildew.
11. Hose Them
Another home remedy for mealybugs outside is to hose them off. Any garden hose used with care to blast away the pests will work.
How a Mealybug Infestation Develops
Only adult males have the ability to fly. However, mostly, these small white bugs crawl around and eat through from one plant to another. You will find them outdoors as well as indoors, including greenhouse spaces.
As they feed, they excrete honeydew that attracts other insect pests and can also cause a 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 will also transmit viruses to plants .
Plants Vulnerable to Attacks
Mealybug damage can be seen in houseplants and outdoor plants. Also, greenhouses are often affected.
The critters will attack flowers, vegetables, fruit trees, and other outdoor plants. The jade plant, crepe myrtle, azaleas, cactus, hibiscus, and orchids are particularly vulnerable.
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.