Mealybugs are a large species of insects that are known as common houseplant pests. They share a lot of similarities with spider mites as they are both tiny plant pests. There are over 300 different mealybug species in existence.
Another similarity they have with spider mites is their mouthparts. The mealybugs feature piercing and sucking mouthparts. With these, they are able to cause lasting damage to indoor and outdoor plants. They are easy to spot as they can appear as white things on plans.
What Are Mealybugs?
Mealybugs are tiny white bugs that feed off the sap from a plant’s foliage. They love warm temperatures and can be found in regions of North America. These little white bugs on plants are easy to spot.
They produce a white coating which acts as a weak form of protection. This can be against certain control products and predators.
The adult mealybugs feature white-coated tiny oval-shaped bodies. This can range between 1/10 to ¼ of an inch.
As mealybug nymphs (crawlers), they don’t have the white coating as adults. But they are also small and move a lot in search of food. Their movement becomes limited when they find a good plant to feed on.
The Life Cycle Of Mealybugs
Adult mealybugs lay about 300 eggs on the underside of leaves. These eggs are held together by the white coating they produce. It can be easy to find. Within 1 to 3 weeks after being laid, the eggs hatch into nymphs.
The nymph mealybugs are also tiny but yellow. This is an active stage for them as they often go in search of food. Once they find a good feeding spot on a plant, they settle and go through their instar stages.
For male mealybugs, they go through a total of 5 instars stages. For the first two of these stages, they do not feed. Instead, they focus on mating with female mealybugs to produce more eggs. The female mealybugs go through 3 instars stages.
Identifying Mealybugs Damages on Plants
Small mealybug infestations pose little threats to most affected houseplants. But large infections might need proper disposal of the entire plant. These small white pests on plants survive by piercing and sucking sap from the plant.
By doing this, they leave tiny white cottony patches on the plant. They also excrete honeydew. This is a white substance that is known to cause sooty mold fungus to develop. In addition to this, ants are also attracted to honeydew.
Because the sap is being sucked from the plant, it might start to yellow. Its leaves also begin to curl till the plant would need to be discarded. Alongside houseplants, mealybugs also attack fruits like avocados.
Getting Rid Of Mealybugs
You can try any of the following methods to get rid of mealybugs on plants;
- Since their eggs are being stored on the white cottony coating you see. Using a powerful hose to shoot streams of water at them could work well. This method depends on the plant infested as not all plants love excess water. Try this method for a light mealybug infestation.
- Insecticidal soap also works well in treating mealybug infestations. Mix the insecticidal soap with water and spray on the affected plant. Be sure to cover everywhere on the plant. And use soap with no additives like perfumes.
- Rubbing alcohol or Isopropyl is great for treating mealybugs. Rub a bit of it on the infected plant and repeat the process for effective results.
- Beneficial insects can also be introduced to the affected plant. The Beatles, wasps, and lace bugs are great examples. These insects feed on white mealybugs and can help you control the infestation.
- Horticultural oils and neem oil can be used on mealybugs. They are natural, effective, and do not harm the environment.
- In cases of severe infestations, you can consider using a commercial insecticide. They can be harmful to the environment but they are effective against mealybugs.
Frequently Asked Questions
They are most of the time harmless to people. But there are cases of contact with them causing skin irritation.
Mealybugs love soil with high nitrogen content. If you over-fertilize your plant, you risk inviting them.
The entire lifespan of a white mealybug should last a maximum of 3 weeks
A proper mix of water and apple cider can help disrupt the molting process of mealybugs.
Rubbing alcohol is one of the most effective control measures for mealybugs.