How do I get rid of mealybugs on plants?

Have you ever wondered how you could quickly get rid of mealybugs or the white fluffy pesky insects on your garden plants?

Sap feeding insects on household and backyard plants like Mealybugs continue to threaten the growth of healthy foliage in our homes every day.

And, if you have walked into your garden only to notice that there is a white, fluffy-looking mass on your plants, I’m sure you have Mealybug infestation. Mealybugs are tricky to spot, if you are familiar with these sap feeders, you notice their symptoms.

Sadly, most backyard gardeners assume mealybugs are a fungal or mildew infection (even though these problems commonly appear with similar symptoms). Mealybug infestation on your tomatoes or succulents isn’t something you should take lightly, because mealybugs are destructive. 

In this article, I will be sharing with you everything you need to know about getting rid of mealybugs, the symptoms of a mealybug infestation on a plant and how you can prevent mealybugs from affecting your plants long before they show up in your garden plants. But, unless you know what steps to take if you want to get rid of mealybugs, your plants are at risk. 

How can you get rid of mealybugs on your plants?

There are 8 main steps that you can follow in order to eliminate mealybugs. These have been listed below:

  1. Prune and isolate affected plants
  2. Remove them manually
  3. Wash the mealybugs out
  4. Use a soap spray
  5. Use Neem oil
  6. Buy Bugs
  7. Be persistent 
  8. Consider cutting your losses

Having outlined them, let’s get into the details

Prune and isolate affected plants

Immediately after you have discovered that your plants have been affected by mealybugs, what you want to do is to first isolate the affected plants away from the clean ones. After you have isolated the plant from the others, remember to clean and disinfect the area that the plant was in.

But, if there are a few fuzzy spots on the plant, you shouldn’t jump to isolating the plant from the others. Instead, you should consider pruning out the areas on the plant that have been affected.

After pruning away the affected parts, it is recommended that you dispose of them immediately. Also, be very careful about where and how you dispose of them.

Having pruned and disposed of the bad parts, you should treat the rest of the plant. There are so many ways that you can do this. These have been explained in the rest of the points below. 

Remove them manually

After you have successfully isolated the affected plants from the rest of the population, try removing the mealy buys manually. And yes, you are the exterminator. 

In order to remove the mealybugs, you should first soak a cotton swab or washcloth in rubbing alcohol and use that to wipe down the leaves and stems. It’s a simple as that.  

Doing it in this way will certainly kill the mealybugs and prevent them from destroying your plants further. However, the manual removal system only works if it the alcohol touches the bugs directly. 

So, just ensure that you wipe around leaf joints as well as the base of the plant, too. Be thorough and take your time. 

The bugs tend to hide around the edges of the pot, waiting for you to leave before they can continue infesting on your plants. 

To effectively deal with mealy bugs, you should apply rubbing alcohol on a daily basis. It will a couple of applications before the mealybugs completely disappear. 

Once you are certain that the bugs are all gone, then you have saved your plant. Here, you should rinse off the plant in the sink or shower in order to remove the rubbing alcohol. 

P.S.: This manual removal method can also work with cotton swabs that have been dipped in a mixture of diluted dish soap and water. Just make sure to keep a low concentration of the dish soap.  

Wash the mealybugs out

Washing the plants is another way of reducing the number of mealy bugs affecting your plant. During your routine watering sessions, you should pour the water on the leaves and the stem of the plants. When you are applying this method, the pressure of the water can and will force the mealybugs to fall from the plant. 

However, washing doesn’t exactly eradicate 100% of the pests, so you are advised to wash them periodically, even twice as much when you see a lot of bugs on them. You can use a hose or a handheld showerhead on a high pressure.

Use a soap spray

Soap sprays are an essential part of your mealybug problem. If you are not familiar with them, soap sprays are contact insecticides that form a coat on the plant after they have been immediately applied. 

After the soap spray has been applied, it won’t be long before the mealybugs break down the waxy white secretion clears up, killing all the insects beneath. 

Compared to most insecticides, soap-based insecticides are actually non-toxic to humans as well as animals. Despite that, the insecticide can cause a lot of harm to the plant. As such, you are required to use a diluted solution. Alternatively, you can also make your own solution using dish soap.

Will dish soap kill mealybugs?

Homemade dish soap spray has been widely used to target countless garden plant pests instead of using ready-mixed harmful industrial, commercial insecticides. Sadly not everyone has confidence that your everyday kitchen dishwashing soap can kill mealybugs better than pesticides bought from a local Walmart store.

Dish soap kills mealybugs effectively by suffocating them when you spray mealybugs directly. And making your dish soap mealybug spray is as easy as mixing one tablespoon of dish soap with a quart of lukewarm water. Shake the soap and water mixture thoroughly, then spray down your plant. 

For better results with dish soap homemade mealybug spray, I recommend testing your soap spray’s strain on one leaf before you target application to the rest and repeat every few days as needed.

Use Neem oil

This is another important step that should never be overlooked. Neem oil is a natural insecticide and fungicide that is very effective for eradicating mealy bugs. This oil also works for residual pest control after the pests have long gone. 

Just like the soap spray that we talked about in the point above, Neem oil is also non-toxic to humans. In top of that, the product is beneficial to a wide range of bugs like honey bees, especially if your plants are outside your home. 

Before you apply Neem oil, be sure to read and follow all the instructions indicated on the label of the product. 

You first dilute the concentrated and apply with a spray bottle. You have to be very consistent with Neem oil so apply it daily. 

It may take a few days before you see changes and the oil starts to kill the bugs, so patience is a virtue. Some of the best alternatives to Neem oil are hot pepper wax spray. Other horticultural oils can also get the job done.

Buy bugs

Before we explain, I know this point does seem a little strange, but it works. Introducing some beneficial bugs at your local garden center can help in controlling the population of your mealy bugs. 

Some of the best beneficial bugs that will help you with this are Ladybugs, lacewing and the Mealy bug Destroyer beetle. 

Be persistent

No matter which method you choose to use, you have to be persistent in your applications. You shouldn’t expect the mealybugs to disappear after just one or just a few treatments. 

Mealybugs have been known to take longer than a couple of months before finally disappearing, regardless of you are applying your methods frequently or not. If the mealybugs aren’t disappearing fast enough, keep applying the same method or a combination of methods until they are completely gone.

Consider cutting your losses

Sometimes, when the problem has simply spread too much, it might be a good time to throw in the towel and cut your losses. 

Here, you might consider throwing out the worst plants and starting anew, that’s after cleaning the areas and pots that the affected plants were in. 

What causes mealybugs on plants?

When mealybug outbreaks are a constant occurence in your backyard plants, it can be hard to pinpoint what causes this pesky infestation to occur recurringly.

Mealybugs are caused by overwatering of plants where the presence of nitrogen is slightly higher than normal in garden plants. 

If you are fertilizing your plants, keep in mind that over-fertilized plants with plenty supply of water moisture attractes mealybugs in soft growth areas where they tend to appear if you dare overwater and over-fertilizing your garden plants.


A lot of people whose plants have been affected by mealybugs end up losing a large quantity and even all their harvest. This is not because they are ignorant about the gravity of mealy bugs on their plants, but they are just not familiar with the symptoms of this problem.

What are the symptoms of mealy bugs?

To those that haven’t seen them before, mealybugs are huge and pretty visually evident. It’s hard to miss them at all. 

You only have to inspect the leaves and stems of your plant and you will easily see them. If the leaves and stems have developed white, cottony masses, those are likely mealy bugs. 

Also, you should consider checking the underside of leaves and around the growing tips for signs of these bugs. Regrettably, mealybugs have a reputation of hiding in stem crevices, leaf whorls, and other tight spots, especially the spots that are hard to reach, such as the roots. This can make the bugs very hard to discover. 

Prevention of mealybugs

The best way of prevention is to avoid putting your plants outside during the summer. Besides this, you can inspect any new plant babes, pots, or tools you’re bringing home before bringing them inside your place. 

But, there’s still a chance for your plants to become a mealy playground. So, at the end of the day, it won’t matter how careful you are. 

Can plants recover from mealybugs?

When Mealybugs infestation takes hold of your garden plants, it can be hard to imagine how your plants can recover from mealybugs.

Plants attacked by mealybugs will make a full recovery. Garden plants that gets a quick mealybug intervantion recovers from the infestation to become fullu healthy again. Tomato and lemon plants are an excellent example of garden plants that go on to flower and fruit successfully after surviving mealybugs.

While mealybug infestation is recoverable when they sneak up on your plants, it’s always a good practice to put inplace a routine checklist of your plants and what other beneficial insects that feed on bad pests like mealybugs from time to time is advised. Most garden owners who suffered in the hands of mealybug infestation often see no visible signs of them until they are out of control. 

Can mealybugs infest your house?

As sneaky as mealybugs can be, its hard to believe that if they are terrolizing your garden plants outdoors, what would stop them from infesting your house too?

Mealybugs will not infest your house. Naturally, all mealybugs are plant feeders whose primary goal is to camp on the targeted plant and feed on sap the plant produces. 

However, if you have indoor plants inside your house, mealybugs will certainly infest your indoor plant and take over the most delicately soft and moist parts of their host plant. Though your tropical indoor plant may enjoy cleaning and polishing sessions weekly, when they sneak up on you, mealybugs will normally be located on the underside of your indoor plant leaves and stems, making it very challenging to spot.  

When they attack, mealybugs will populate both indoors and outdoor plants such as succulent plants, potted decortive shrubs, ornamental bushes and lemon or orange fruit shrubs. 

Even if you have your tomato plants in a secure greenhouse or a potted indoor plant, Mealybugs will heavily infest almost those plants regardless of whether they are in your house, inside the greenhouses, or your plaant is in the office at work.


Mealybugs are pests that should never be taken lightly. Without proper attention given to your lawn’s predatory colony diversified by keeping a variety of plants increases the risk of mealybugs spreading to all the plants including indoor plants like succulents and fern tree plants too. Always follow the procedure that has been explained to you above. In summary, you should prune and isolate affected plants, perform a manual removal, wash out the bugs, and the rest of the methods. 

Since prevention is better than cure, inspecting your plants, particularly new ones, will eliminate the need of having to isolate or prune away any part of your plants. 

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