How to Kill Mealybugs Effectively (Complete Guide)
Mealybugs destroy plants and you want to know how to remove them the right way – you came to the right place.
Mealybugs, otherwise known as Tiny white bugs, Millie bugs, Citrus mealybugs, and Pink hibiscus bug are insects that must be removed from your property and especially your garden.
There are several effective ways to kill mealybugs that I will cover, in detail, in this article. In this article, you will learn how to get rid of Mealybugs effectively.
Below me, there is a video containing a good summary(artificial kill) I found helpful, just in case you want to watch a video instead.
What are Mealybugs?
Mealybugs are tiny white insects that could appear out of nowhere. They are harmful to your plants in your garden if they do not receive treatment.
Mealybugs are a serious threat to farmers as well, because things can go downhill fast for them, especially because Mealybugs are affecting their income.
Mealybugs are also very annoying for gardeners because they spread quickly and are hard to find because it hides in ever underside of a plant and sometimes, the roots.
Mealybugs are relatively common, among garden bugs, and they are definitely not good for your plants.
Mealybugs feed on the sap of your plants and give off a substance called honeydew, which causes mold, fungus, and the unwanted attraction of other bugs.
Here are the full technical classifications for Mealybugs
Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)
Phylum: Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum: Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class: Insecta (Insects)
Order: Hemiptera: (True Bugs, Cicadas, Hoppers, Aphids, and Allies)
Suborder: Sternorrhyncha (Plant-parasitic, Hemipterans)
Superfamily: Coccoidea(Scale and Mealybugs)
Family(technical term): Pseudococcidae
Mealybugs are classified as Coccoidea(small plant-feeding insects), and they are commonly transported through migration(slow), or by garden ants(much faster). You often won’t notice a lot of damage to your plants, at first, but if you notice insects that fit these descriptions, you could be dealing with Mealybugs.
1. White(covered in wax)
2. 1/20 – 1/5 inches long
3. Oval shaped body
4. Looks like it has many legs/ hair around them(wax coating)
5. It may look like some of them have tails or antennas
6. Cotton-looking sacks around them(inside of them are hundreds of Mealybug eggs)
Mealybug Life Cycle
Mealybugs have a straightforward lifestyle, which is part of why they grow exponentially.
Female Mealybugs deposit up to 600 Mealybug eggs in a waxy, cotton-looking sack, usually under leaves. Mealybug Egg laying takes about two weeks, with the female Mealybug dying shortly after.
After 1-3 weeks(depending on the environment), these critters start hatching as baby Mealybugs(nymphs) and start feeding on your plants, and they start feeding(piercing the plant with it’s mouthparts and extracting the sap, meanwhile giving off honeydew) on as many plant hosts as necessary.
Mealybug males will grow fast by feeding on the plant and they have a very short lifestyle. Their only job is to fertilize female Mealybugs, and after that, they will die.
Mealybug females will grow by feeding on the plant as well. After that, they will get fertilized to lay eggs. They will still eat the plant shortly after they lay their eggs, then die.
In warm weather, Mealybugs can go through eight generations in a sing year. In cold weather, Mealybugs can go through two generation, which is still a lot.
How did I get Mealybugs?
Indoor and outdoor plants attract Mealybugs. These insects will attack a wide range of plants, including gardenias, fruit trees, and more.
They hide under leaves and flower petals, which makes it harder to determine whether you have them or not. These are very common insects that will thrive during the Spring and Summer.
Mealybugs have several ways of transportation from plant to plant. They can either migrate by leg, by garden ants, by plant contacting plant, and through unwashed garden tools. Male Mealybugs can also fly, to reproduce quicker.
So, now where did Mealybugs come from? Mealybugs were first reported in Egypt in the 1900s, and it spread to the Caribbean. After that, they spread from the Caribbean to the United States, Florida.
After that, they spread to Alabama, Texas, Arizona California, Georgia, Louisiana Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, and South Carolina and can be found all over the world.
Mealybugs have caused over 5 billion USD in global damage and over 700 million USD in the United States alone. Mealybugs can also pose as a threat to humans. Although these pests don’t bite or sting, they have been known to give bacterial or viral transmissions which could possibly lead to death.
How to Find Mealybugs
Mealybugs are well-adept at hiding. Mealybugs usually hide under plant roots and under leaves.
You can find them on hard-to-see parts of the plants. Sometimes you will have to dig to see if they are located in the soil or on the roots of your plant.
If you start seeing something that looks like white plant fungus or dark charcoal, then you may want to take a closer look at your plant.
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Methods to Kill Mealybugs Naturally
Killing Mealybugs naturally is a sure-way to ensure they are gone for good. However this may take a significantly more time than killing Mealybugs artificially. If you also have Mealybugs located on the roots, it will be significantly harder to extract them, so I recommend an artificial method for that. There are several methods for killing Mealybugs naturally.
1. The first natural method I have are essential oils. These are in most cases completely natural remedies that were tested in a 2013 study. Peppermint, Thyme, Lavender, Mentha and certain fruit essential oils were used in this study. The most effective oil was a fruit essential oil, the citrus oil from orange and lemon peels.
Now, all you you have to do is to do is to either purchase the solution, or make it at home. To make the solution at home, you will have to mix in 8-14 drops of the citrus(lemon, orange) oil into one cup of water.
After that you can test it out of one infested leaf for one week, if you see a good amount of clearing, then you should apply it to your whole plant.
2. Method two is by using coffee grounds. This is also a mostly safe option for killing Mealybugs. To create the solution, you will have to pour one tablespoons into the spray bottle, along with one cup of water.
After that swirl gently and let it sit overnight for the coffee grounds to infuse into the water. You should of course test it on one infested leaf again and check if there is any damage done. Your plants will probably smell like coffee for a while after applying this method.
Methods to Kill Mealybugs Artificially
Killing Mealybugs Artificially is much faster than killing Mealybugs naturally. However, killing them fast doesn’t always mean that Mealy bugs will be gone for good, and in a few cases, it may hurt your plant. There are several methods for Killing Mealybugs artificially.
Lemon and Orange oils may still hurt your plant, because this was tested on grape leaves, so this may harm your plant(extra rare that it does minimal damage).
1. The first artificial method is to use hydrogen peroxide, a strong chemical compound used in certain insecticides. This is extra-effective against mealybugs on the roots and and does a great performance with killing Mealybug eggs.
With hydrogen peroxide, it is a little more complex than natural remedies. To clean the roots you want to first, carefully uproot the plant and pick off chunks of dirt. Than you can dip the roots into the container that is about 70% full of hydrogen peroxide. After that, you can leave the plant in the solution for about ten minutes.
You will hear and see bubbling. You can also apply this to any other parts of your plant. Hydrogen peroxide can kill sensitive plants, so do your research.
2. The second method is rubbing alcohol, which is also a relatively strong chemical compound. I personally recommend 70% isopropyl alcohol, I haven’t tested or used 90% isopropyl alcohol.
You first want to pour a cup of 70% isopropyl alcohol into a container. Than, it would be best if you had a paper napkin to soak completely into the alcohol.
After that, you can rub the napkin all over your plant, and especially over the infested areas of your plant. After that, you will have to dispose of these critters by putting them inside a Ziplock bag and throwing that into the garbage.
Almost no one gets all of them, their first round, so if you are considering this method, get ready to do this more than once.
3. Dish soap is another effective method. If you have sensitive plants, then I recommend not using dish soap. Dish soap is a great insecticide in general.
You will have to pour 1/4 a cup of dish soap, one cup of water, and a spray bottle. After that, all you have to do is spray them down, just be sure to wipe it off the plant with a paper napkin later.
How to further prevent Mealybugs
After you have chosen your method of killing Mealybugs, than you will have to prevent them. A great way to further prevent them is to spray them with Neem and ginger oil.
Mealybugs dislike this scent. If you get new plants, then you should inspect them thoroughly, before including them to your garden or farm.
No method is perfect, so their still could be Mealybugs on the plant, therefore the survivors will probably migrate to other plants. So, be sure to inspect all your plants to ensure that none of them have Mealybugs if you have previously had Mealybugs on a plant. Also, don’t be afraid to use multiple Mealybug removal methods.
Thank you for reading the article. I hope you found this article helpful!