How To Kill Mealybugs On Cactus

Mealybugs can be readily removed if you catch them early, before they have a chance to multiply.

Scrape the mealy insect off your cactus by using a q-tip in rubbing alcohol that is 70 percent strength.

To be sure, examine the plant from top to bottom. For a few more days, check the plant daily to make sure no new pests have arrived.

For each mealybug, use a different side of the q-tip because you don’t want to distribute them more than required.

You will need to spray your plant if the mealybugs are more numerous and cannot be removed one by one.

Before you can totally get rid of these pests, you will need to repeat treatment multiple times to destroy them in all stages.

Using a Homemade Dish Soap Spray

Making your own homemade mealybug spray from things you probably already have on hand is another option.

Neem oil, if you can find it, should be added to the combination for a far better success rate.

Your plant will receive a layer of protection from neem oil, making it more difficult for insects to eat through it.

With Blue Dawn dish soap and a 2 percent soap to water ratio, I’ve had the most results.

For instance, my spray bottle holds 650ml (or 20 oz), so I added 13ml (or half an ounce) of dish soap before adding water to cover the remaining space.

Use distilled or bottled water to prevent mealybugs from benefiting from the minerals in your tap water.

You want to make sure you get every area of your cactus since these small creatures can hide in crevices and crannies. Spray this mixture immediately on the surface of your cactus.

If there are still some bugs present, repeat the process again in a few days. To remove any remaining soap, spritz the cactus with distilled water after the bugs have all disappeared but don’t use any soap this time.

Avoid using too much soapy water because dish soap is still a detergent and might harm your houseplant if used excessively.

Use 70% Isopropyl Alcohol

The best method for getting rid of mealybugs on your cactus is typically to kill them using isopropyl alcohol.

Spray every bug and white fuzz spot you notice with 70% isopropyl alcohol (often referred to as rubbing alcohol) with a spray bottle.

Avoid using alcohol that is 90% strength since it will flash off too rapidly and not be as effective.

And if you opt for this strategy, be careful to keep your plant away from hot or direct sunlight to prevent burning. Spray ideally in the morning or at night.

The mealybugs are almost instantly killed by the isopropyl alcohol, which almost dries them up on touch. This will only work if you spray every single bug you see, just as the soap water method.

However, be careful with the alcohol; too much of it can harm the plant.

It might be better to dip a q-tip in the isopropyl alcohol and kill the mealybugs one at a time if you have caught them early and are certain that there are only a few bugs.

Nowadays, it can be challenging to get isopropyl alcohol, so if you can’t, try the dish soap and neem oil method first.

As there are probably other components in hand sanitizer that could be detrimental to your plant, I wouldn’t advise using it to get rid of mealybugs.

Systemic Insecticide Spray

Finally, you can buy systemic pesticide (bonide granules) at your neighborhood garden center or greenhouse to eradicate mealybugs from the inside out. Mealybugs become poisoned by the fluids.

In essence, you’ll water your cactus while using the pesticide, which works more like an antibiotic than a topical application like the other two techniques.

I advise applying a spray (either the soap mixture or rubbing alcohol) together with the systemic pesticide to get rid of mealybugs permanently.

This is because mealybugs may still be present in your soil, making it preferable to attack them from all sides.

Ideally, repot your plant in fresh soil if you can to ensure that no bugs or eggs are still present.

Other Methods That Might Get Rid of Mealybugs

You might try taking the natural approach and introducing other bugs that will devour the mealybugs if you have mealy bugs on your outdoor cacti.

Ladybugs will devour them, and mealybugs and aphids are both consumed by the larvae of the Green Lacewing.

To eliminate bugs, larvae, and other pathogens, some people bake their soil in the oven.

You can sterilize a small amount of soil by putting it on a baking sheet and roasting it in the oven for roughly 45 minutes at 175200 degrees Fahrenheit.

What rapidly eradicates mealybugs?

The parasitized and mummified grape mealybug to the right has five parasite wasps, Acerophagus notativentris, that have emerged from it.

Within a colony of mealybug nymphs, the adult mealybug destroyer lady beetle and its waxy white larva eat.

Mealybugs are soft, oval, wax-coated insects that feed on a wide variety of plants in indoor, outdoor, and garden environments. They are piercing-sucking insects that are closely related to soft scales but do not have scale covers, and they are typically found in colonies. They can produce a lot of honeydew and are frequently linked to black sooty mold, just like soft scales can. Mealybugs prefer mild temperatures and flourish in regions without harsh winters or on houseplants.


Mealybugs belong to the superfamily Coccoidea of insects, which also includes armored scales, soft scales, and cottony cushion scale. This superfamily includes the insect family Pseudococcidae.

Mealybug bodies are clearly segmented and typically wax-coated. Wax filaments may be present on older people’s body edges. Some species’ filaments can be used to help identify distinct species since they are longer towards the back of some species.

Mealybugs are typically found in colonies feeding in moderately protected locations, such as between two touching fruits, in a plant’s crown, in the crotches of branches, on stems close to the ground, or between a stem and touching leaves. A few species of mealybugs consume roots.

Adult male mealybugs, which are infrequently observed, are tiny two-winged insects with two long tail filaments, but adult female mealybugs are wingless and resemble nymphs in shape. Asexual reproduction is a common method of reproduction for mealybug species.

Species have slightly different life cycles. Most mealybug adult females lay 100–200 or more eggs in cottony egg sacs over the course of 10–20 days. Egg sacs can be fastened to fruit, twigs, leaves, bark, or crowns. The long-tailed mealybug is an anomaly, as it lays eggs that stay inside the female until they hatch.

Newly hatched mealybug nymphs (known as crawlers) are yellow to orangish or pink, lack wax, and are extremely active. However, soon after settling down to eat, they start to produce a waxy covering. Adults and older nymphs have legs and can move, although they cannot travel quickly or far. Before becoming adults, nymphs go through multiple instars of development.

Mealybugs can have two to six generations a year, depending on the species and habitat. All stages could be present all year round in warm areas or indoor plant environments. Mealybugs may overwinter on or beneath bark on deciduous plants like grapevines as eggs (inside egg sacs) or as first-stage nymphs.

Mealybugs are occasionally mistaken for pests like the cottony cushion scale, woolly aphids, and even some soft scales and whiteflies that create waxy coats, honeydew, and black sooty mold. To correctly identify the bug, make sure to thoroughly inspect it beneath the wax.

California is home to more than 170 different kinds of mealybugs. Few have developed into significant pests. In Table 1, a few of the most prevalent problem species are shown and discussed.


Mealybugs consume plant phloem sap, which lowers plant vigor, and they expel sticky honeydew and wax, which decreases the quality of plants and fruits, particularly when black sooty mold develops on the honeydew. It can be unpleasant to see large collections of mealybugs, their egg sacs, and wax. Healthy plants may withstand low populations without suffering considerable harm, but high populations that feed on leaves or stems can limit plant growth and induce leaf drop. Ground mealybugs, which are uncommon in gardens and landscapes, eat the roots of plants and can lead to plant decline, but they are typically not noticed until the roots of the plants have been dug out.

Mealybugs have an impact on numerous varieties of perennial plants. Citrus fruit trees experience the most issues, however mealybugs can occasionally be discovered on stone or pome fruits, albeit seldom in numbers that are harmful. Mealybugs, particularly the vine mealybug, a recent invasion that targets roots as well as aboveground components, but also the grape, obscure, and long-tailed mealybugs, can accumulate in grapes.

Cactus, coral bells (Heuchera), figs (Ficus), flax grasses (Phormium), fuchsia, gardenia, hibiscus, jasmine, mimosa, Miscanthus grasses, and oleander are only a few of the woody ornamental plants and several herbaceous perennials that can become affected. The cypress bark mealybug, which also infects other species of cypress, cedar, and juniper, can be a major pest on Monterey cypress in urban settings.

Because of the year-round mild temperatures that encourage mealybug populations and the fact that indoor plants are typically not exposed to the natural enemies that frequently keep mealybugs in check outdoors, plants grown indoors or in greenhouses are particularly vulnerable. Aglaonema, coleus, cacti, dracaena, ferns, ficus, hoya, jade, orchids, palms, philodendron, schefflera, poinsettia, and several herbs, including rosemary and sage, are among the houseplants that frequently experience issues with aboveground mealybugs. African violet and gardenia infestations with ground mealybugs are the most frequently reported.

Although some mealybugs, including those that infest grapevines, can spread viruses, these are typically not a significant issue in gardens and landscapes. The only known population of the pink hibiscus mealybug, Maconellicoccus hirsutus, is in Imperial County, California. Its saliva is particularly harmful to plants.

shorter filaments than other mealybugs found in grapes and similar to citrus mealybugs. possesses a dark stripe on the back. both aboveground and on roots may contain.

Hosts: In California, grapes predominate; however, other fruits and ornamental trees could also serve as hosts.

Two filaments in the tail that are longer than the body. generates no egg masses and delivers living nymphs.

Round, vivid orange or crimson, and covered with a wax ring. located underneath bark plates.

In appearance, the obscure mealybug is quite identical. It will exude a reddish-orange protective fluid if poked but not pierced. The excretion of obscure mealybugs would be obvious.

Numerous plants serve as hosts, however they primarily harm potted plants like African violets.

Waxy filaments of uniform length and length around the body. Its back may have a dark line running along it.

hosts: Several bushes in the landscape and citrus. The most prevalent mealybug on indoor plants.


Insecticides have a very difficult time controlling mealybugs. Fortunately, most species have natural predators that keep their numbers down to harmful levels in outdoor environments like gardens and landscapes. Choosing plants that are known to be less problematic, checking plants for mealybugs before bringing them into your property, and relying on biological control and cultural practices to keep mealybug populations in check are the best ways to manage mealybugs.

On new plants, equipment, or pots, mealybugs are frequently brought into landscapes (and especially into indoor spaces). Mealybugs can’t fly as adults, and they can only move along at a slow crawl, so they don’t spread out quickly on their own in the garden. Before putting any new plants in place, properly check them for mealybugs. If you are unable to get rid of every mealybug, throw the plant away and kill it, or if at all feasible, return it to the source.

Verify the presence of mealybugs in your indoor or outdoor plantings of mealybug-prone plant species on a regular basis. If you discover an infestation, get rid of the insects by hand-picking or pruning. Older “grandmother plants” that could be a source of infestation for new plants should be disposed of. Look for mealybugs and their egg sacs in pots, stakes, and other materials, and get rid of any that are infected.

A high-pressure or forcible water spray may be able to suppress populations of mealybugs on robust plants if they are partially exposed. It could be essential to apply again at intervals of several days.

On plants with mealybugs, stay away from unnecessary nitrogen fertilizer treatments. Regular irrigation and high nitrogen rates may promote both tender new plant development and mealybug egg production.

Consider employing solely plant species that are resistant to mealybugs for at least a year or two if your landscape or interiorscape has a history of major mealybug issues in order to lower mealybug density and harborage possibilities.

Even more challenging to manage than mealybugs that feed aboveground are those that feed underground. Avoid introducing ground mealybugs and get rid of infected plants right away so that the pests can’t spread to healthy plants.

Mealybugs on fruit trees and woody ornamental plants in the landscape are preyed upon and eliminated by a variety of natural enemies. In general, it is possible to rely on these helpful insects to maintain acceptable populations. A variety of parasitic wasp species that lay their eggs in or on growing mealybugs are natural adversaries of this pest. Species from the genera Coccophagus, Leptomastix, Allotropa, Pseudaphycus, and Acerophagus are examples of typical parasites (also known as “parasitoids”). Observe mealybug colonies for parasite pupae or emerging holes in mummified mealybugs. Commercially available for discharge in greenhouses, citrus groves, and interiorscapes, Leptomastix dactylopii solely kills the citrus mealybug.

Mealybugs are naturally attacked by lady beetles, green and brown lacewings, spiders, tiny pirate bugs, and predaceous midge larvae. The most significant of these predators in many locations is the mealybug destroyer lady beetle, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri. It is more prevalent in southern California and along the coast since it cannot withstand harsh winters.

After a harsh winter has wiped out the local populations, the mealybug destroyer can be bought for augmentative release and is frequently released in greenhouses, interiorscapes, orchards of citrus trees. Older mealybug destroyer larvae are covered in white wax, giving them the appearance of gigantic mealybugs. Adult beetles are bicolored, with reddish-brown heads and hind ends and black in the middle. Since lady beetles need mealybug eggs as food to promote their own reproduction, release mealybug destroyers during times when there are many of mealybug egg sacs. When mealybug populations are low or they are not reproducing, there is little sense in releasing them.

Owners of interiorscapes or greenhouses that frequently struggle with mealybug infestations might start their own mealybug destroyer colonies for self-release. On mealybugs cultivated on sprouting potatoes or other hosts, the lady beetle can be raised in jars with a large mouth. The lady beetles can fly out into the greenhouse while the flightless mealybugs are prevented from creeping out by a ring of petroleum or other sticky material spread inside jars around the top.

By refraining from using broad-spectrum pesticides to eliminate any local pests, you can protect the area’s naturally occurring biological control agents. Additionally, keep ants away from plants and regions where mealybugs are present since ants shield mealybugs from their natural predators.

In most cases, nonchemical techniques are enough for controlling outdoor vegetation in gardens and landscapes. Insecticides for the home and garden, especially on bigger plants, are not very efficient against mealybugs. The mealybugs’ waxy covering renders them resistant to the majority of contact insecticides, and they tend to congregate in difficult-to-reach places.

Spot treatments may be used to control populations of aboveground feeding mealybugs on indoor plants, greenhouse plants, and interior landscapes where physical removal of mealybugs is not possible and biological control may not be practical.

A 70% or less solution of isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol in water can be dabbed directly on mealybugs with a cotton swab to kill or eliminate tiny infestations on houseplants. To ensure that the solution won’t result in leaf burn, test it out on a small portion of the plant one to two days earlier (phytotoxicity). A considerably more diluted solution may be necessary in certain circumstances. A 10–25 percent solution of isopropyl alcohol can be sprayed on areas with severe infestations. This process must be repeated each week until the infestation is eradicated.

Direct use of insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils, or neem oil insecticides can temporarily limit mealybug populations, especially in the case of younger nymphs with less wax buildup. Prior to treatment, make careful to test these products for phytotoxicity.

On some landscape plants, products containing the systemic insecticide dinotefuran may suppress mealybug populations; on indoor plants, plant spikes or granules with the related insecticide imidacloprid may do the same. In many instances, these neonicotinoid treatments are less effective against mealybugs than they are against other piercing-sucking insects. Due of potential harm to natural enemies and pollinators, their usage should be minimized, especially on flowering plants.

Although pyrethroids and other insecticides are also listed on the labels for some conditions, they may not be all that much more effective than soaps and oils and can be quite harmful to natural enemies. Know that none of the available insecticides will probably completely eradicate all of the pests, so keep an eye on things and treat again as necessary. Instead of continuously spraying houseplants with insecticides when infestations are bad, think about throwing them out. In most cases, cultural methods and biological management should be sufficient to control mealybugs on outdoor plants.