What is the best treatment for mealybugs?

Having plants in the garden, greenhouse or large farmland is different from owning an average-sized houseplant. The difference is in the quantity of plants and the amount of time you can spend watering or planting. 

But what do all plants have in common? They get infested by pests, at one point or the other. A common infestation these days is a Mealybug infestation. You may have encountered these before and wondered how to best treat or get rid of Mealybugs

Mealybugs are soft, wax-covered insects that feed on many plants in the garden, landscape, as well as indoor settings. These pests feed on plants by piercing their pointy teeth and sucking plant juices. If not taken care of, they can kill plants. 

What is the best treatment for mealybugs? 

Neem oil is the best treatment for mealy bugs, and for a couple of reasons. First of all, it is a natural insecticide. It has been proven to be very effective for treating mealy bugs. Also, the product can be used as a preventive measure against these pests.

What’s more, Neem oil is non-toxic to beneficial bugs such as honey bees, especially if your plants are outside. On top of that, Neem oil is very easy to understand and use. In order to get the best and faster results from Neem oil, you may consider using the water spray method, as this knocks some of the mealy bugs off the plant, allowing Neem oil to work on the remaining, fewer pests. 

How to use Neem oil

Neem can be found in a lot of stores, such as Amazon. Before you open and start using the product, be sure to reach the instructions first. Like more pesticides, Neem oil comes in a highly concentrated mix, hence it must be diluted. 

Dilute concentrated Neem oil according to the instructions that have been written on the label, and apply with a spray bottle on a daily basis. 

Note: it may take from a few days up to a week of daily usage to start to kill the bugs. So patience really pays in this case. When you start seeing changes to the amount of mealy bugs on your plant, and continue to reapply the Neem oil until all the bugs all gone! 

Any alternatives to Neem oil?

There are other alternatives to Neem oil. These are listed below:

  • Hot pepper wax spray 
  • Horticultural oil

How else can you treat mealybugs?

While the most effective method of treating mealy bugs is Neem oil, there are a couple of other methods that you can use to keep the mealybugs at bay. 

This section will look at the 7 ways to control and eliminate mealy bugs, either from your garden or houseplants. 

  1. The prune & isolation method

The very first step that must be taken when you have discovered the mealy bugs is isolation. You should remove the plant from the room or area and place it away. 

Separating it from the others will ensure that the mealy bugs don’t spread to the other plants. So, once you have successfully moved it to a new location, you should assess the level of damage that has been done and how much the mealy bugs have spread across the plant. 

Here, there may be two scenarios. Either the plant is somewhat infested or if it is fully infested. If there aren’t too many fuzzy spots on the plant, then your plant isn’t fully infested, and you can save it. Simple prune out problem areas, disposing of them immediately. 

But it doesn’t stop there. Mealy bugs have a habit of hiding, so the prune & isolation method may not, on its own, be enough. As such, you have to use this as a starting point before applying any other methods that have been explained below. 

Note: Once you have moved a plant away from its initial area, it is very easy to forget about what to do there. The area must be cleaned and disinfected thoroughly, otherwise the mealy bugs will be ready to devour the next plant that will be placed there. 

  1. The manual removal method (Using Rubbing alcohol)

You can manually remove the mealybugs to control the population. You will use Rubbing alcohol. It is another effective option in eradicating mealybugs, especially since it kills immediately once it comes into contact with the bugs. However, it only works if it touches them directly.

How do you use rubbing alcohol? 

  1. Soak a cotton swab or washcloth in rubbing alcohol
  2. Wipe down the leaves and stems. 
  3. Wipe around leaf joints, in folds, and at the base of the plant.
  4. Rinse off the plant in the sink or shower to remove the rubbing alcohol 
  5. Repeat (i to iv) daily, as it will take several treatments. 
  1. Wash them out (the water spray method)

As we mentioned earlier, washing the mealybugs off with water is quite effective. When you hose down your plant with water, the pressure forces the mealybugs to fall off the plant. 

However, washing out mealybugs with water doesn’t remove 100% of the pests. You need a lot more arsenal than that to take them down.

 You can combine this with another method, for a full 100% mealybug-free plant. If you can’t incorporate another method, keep watch and wash off the mealybugs periodically as soon as you see them. 

  1. Consider using a soap spray

As we all know, mealybugs excrete a waxy material. In time, this material covers the insects, which becomes a protective barrier for the mealybugs. So, killing the mealybugs means having a substance that can weaken their shield, and soap sprays are one way to do it. 

Soap-based insecticides are another recommended option by many gardeners. The soap is non-toxic to humans and is pet-friendly. However, it can harm the plant, if used in concentrated amounts so use a diluted solution.

You can also consider making your own solution using dish soap, but it won’t be as effective. 

  1. Use beneficial bugs

Before I explain this point, did you know that you can actually use other bugs to take care of mealybugs on your plants? 

There are several bugs you can use, such as Ladybugs, lacewing and the Mealybug Destroyer beetle. Most of all, they are all natural predators. At the end of the day, you are starting an infestation to stop an infestation. And don’t worry, those bugs will not harm your plants. They only feast on the mealybugs, which decreases the population

Where do you find beneficial bugs?

You can find beneficial bugs your local garden center. 

Important notes: 

  • Beneficial bugs are an ideal option if your plants are in greenhouses or growing outdoors. 
  • If you are going for this option, you should stay away from using pesticides as they may kill your good bugs as well. 
  1. Be relentless

Above all attributes, relentlessness is one key that can save your plants. This is not a method on its own, though. Relentlessness should be applied to any of the aforementioned methods. Regardless of which method you decide to go for, be relentless or persistent in the fight against mealybugs and you will surely be successful.  

There are going to be times when you apply that soap spray or Neem oil and you don’t see any changes, but you shouldn’t give up just yet- said like a common motivational speaker, if I do say so myself. 

These things take time, so don’t expect them to disappear after just one or just a few treatments. It may take weeks or even a couple of months of unceasing vigilance. 

It is harder to see the changes on the plant because the mealybugs are just so tiny. The time you will see them is when their population has risen. 

Besides their size factor, these pests like to hide, which makes them a lot harder to detect. They have a tendency of hiding into these crevices and other hiding spots around the plant, especially when the plant has been disturbed- they know you are cleaning it. 

  1. Throw in the towel

As a plant lover, the last thing you want is to lose your plants. But there may be cases where this is the only thing you have to do, and this is when the infestation gets too severe. 

So, you might find yourself throwing out the worst of the bunch, after which you introduce new plants in the area, but not before cleaning out the area and ensuring that there is no sign of mealybugs. 

Conclusion

As a recap, the most effective way of eliminating mealy bugs from your houseplants or garden is by using Neem oil. The product is natural, which makes a very safe option for you and your plant, not forgetting your pet too. You can find Neem oil on almost every platform. 

Besides Neem oil, there are a lot of other great options you can go for, such as pruning and isolation, washing away the mealy bugs with water and using beneficial bugs/pests, among other aforementioned methods. 

But the ultimate key to treating mealy bugs is persistence. You can pick any other method (including Neem oil), but if you are not persistent with your application, nothing will be yielded, and your battle against mealybugs will only continue to get tougher, mostly because these bad boys will be spreading from plant to plant.

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