Community Question: How would you get rid of mealy bugs?

Mealy bugs on a plant stem

Recently I got an email from Ben about a persistent mealy bug issue and wanted some advice on how to fix it.

But first we need to know more about mealies. Therefore we'll cover:

  • What are mealie bugs
  • How to recognize mealy bugs
  • How to get rid of mealy bugs


What are mealy bugs?

Mealybugs are soft-bodied insects that look like white oval bugs with legs surrounding their body.

Adult females deposit up to 600 eggs at a time.

Egg laying is continues for about 2 weeks with the female dying shortly after all eggs are laid. Hatching occurs within 1-3 weeks and the small active yellow nymphs

Mealybug nymphs

Small nymphs called crawlers are light yellow and free of wax. They are active early on, but move little once a suitable feeding site is found.


How to recognize mealybugs

Waxy cottony-appearing mass mostly found on the underside of leaves

Mealybugs on leaves

They feed by piercing leaves and drawing sap out of the tissue. Higher numbers can cause leaf yellowing and curling.

Feeding is usually accompanied by honeydew, which makes the plant sticky and encourages the growth of sooty moulds.


How to get rid of mealybugs

Alright here is my response to Ben about his infestation:

1. **Diatomaceous Earth** I love adding to water, then spraying down leaves & soil. Let it dry on the leaves and it will dehydrate anything that crawls over top of it.

Apply as needed without worrying about burning plants. Mealy bugs live in soil as well so sprinkling it dry on top of the soil will clean up anything that is present in the soil.

2. **Insecticidal soap.** Super important you have these ingredients in proper ratios: water, wetting agent/surfactant, and oil (vegetable, olive, etc.).

Take a litre/quart of water, 1/2 tablespoon of oil, and then I add .5 ML yucca extract (you can also use a castile or natural liquid soap but NO DETERGENTS). If using liquid soap, just add a couple drops at first.

Shake the bottle extremely well or blend mixture. Let sit for a couple minutes and if you notice oil rise to the top of the water, you need to add more yucca/soap. The goal is to emulsify the oil in the water like a vinaigrette. This is the only way to make insecticidal soaps effective. You can add diatomaceous to this mixture to help it stick to the leaves and have a double effect on pests.

3. **Repot your plants with fresh soil**. Mealies can hide in your soil and breed which make it feel like you can never get rid of them.

Take all affected plants outside, bag up the soil, spray the roots and leaves down with a sprayer (not so much pressure that it causes damage but enough to rinse off pests), and place them in a clean dark container in a cool spot while you finish with the rest of the plants.

Before you start repotting anything, throw your clothes in the wash, take a shower, and put on a new set of clothes. Pests can travel you and after this hard work you don't want them coming back in. From here you can start repotting everything in fresh soil. I would still do the diatomaceous spray and soil sprinkle after this process and hit them with the insecticidal soap mixture once per week just to be safe for the first month, and then monitor closely after that.

The last one is a lot of work, but may be necessary depending on duration of infestation and severity.

I hope this helps if you have mealies now or if you ever have them infiltrate your home from bringing a plant home 😳.


ps. Prevention is always easier than controlling a pest infestation. Keeping a diatomaceous spray or insecticidal soap handy for when you bring new plants home will save you a ton of time and frustration! Even using diluted hydrogen peroxide (4:1 ratio of water to peroxide) to water the soil once the plant is home will clean up any disease or larvae. Then follow up with Bios or a probiotic to add all the beneficial microbes back in 🪴.

We carry 100% food grade freshwater diatomaceous earth in store and the finest quality yucca extract. Head over to our online store to check them out 🪴😊

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