Let’s talk about the Mealybug, the bane of every succulent lover. We despise them. We hate them. We despise them. See what I mean? They are the worst people ever. Beautiful succulents can be destroyed by them in an instant when they appear out of nowhere. Mealybugs on your succulent typically appear as a white, cottony substance close to the new growth. On rosette-type plants, they can be found right in the center of the plant, on the stem, or at the base of the leaves. Even if there are no outward indications of them, mealybugs can sneak up on you, so it’s a good idea to periodically inspect your plants. Most of the time, your leaves will start to become twisted and deformed before you even detect the real bugs. This occurs when pests congregate close to your fresh growth.
If you don’t properly examine the entire plant, Mealybugs may occasionally be more difficult to notice. The leaves on a plant like this Aeonium tabuliforme grow so closely together that mealys are unable to pass through them. Instead of having a plant that is obviously malformed, the insects are skulking underneath, feeding on older leaves and recent growth close to the stem. Mealybugs can breed in this potentially hazardous environment, making it simpler for them to spread to neighbouring plants undetected.
The above-mentioned mealy conditions are tolerable, and plants like these will probably recover soon with some help. However, other times the plant may be so contaminated and broken that it is advisable to JUST KILL IT WITH FIRE! Not particularly, however you should remove it as soon as you can from your other succulents to prevent the infestation from spreading.
Why do succulents get mealybug infestations?
Mealybugs are disgusting little insects that like munching on succulent plants’ fresh growth. It’s difficult to pinpoint the specific reason why they appear, however overwatering and overfertilizing are frequently to blame. Due to the more mild temperatures, they frequently appear on indoor plants, although they can also be seen on outdoor succulents.
In the crevices of your succulent, these tiny creatures normally hang out in a white substance that resembles a web. Right where the leaves meet the stem is where they like to hide. They are consequently difficult to see and to kill.
Mealybugs can swiftly spread throughout a succulent and to other succulents nearby if they aren’t treated very once. They move so swiftly, which is both impressive and annoying. They consume the succulent as they move. This frequently stunts the plant’s growth, making the new growth oddly shaped or smaller than typical. If they remain too long, they could also leave some dents in the leaves.
Mealybugs—are they harmful to succulents?
Mealy bugs, a type of scale insect that sucks the juices from plants and causes stunting, yellowing, and malformed leaves, frequently pose issues for even succulent house plants.
Mealybugs are difficult to see on succulents because they hide in leaf crevices and other nooks and crannies.
Mealy insect infestations can take some time to manifest their problems and damage, and if left unchecked, they can have a fatal effect on succulent plants.
How do I determine whether I have mealybugs?
The internal terrain is severely impacted by these little white insects. They adore tropical plants, particularly ivy and pothos.
Numerous species that adhere to tropical plants might occasionally be challenging to identify. Mealybug populations typically exist for a long period at low population levels before exploding suddenly. Because of their capacity to conceal themselves in cracks and crevasses in plants, they can be challenging to find when at low levels.
Why Are Mealybugs So Destructive?
Mealybugs inject toxins into plants while they feed, causing deformation and potential plant damage. Additionally, mealybugs, a soft scale-like insect, expel honeydew while they feed. On the honeydew, unsightly sooty molds frequently develop. Additionally, the sticky honeydew can adhere to surfaces like floors, walls, furniture, and other objects. Mealybug populations can lead to defoliation and even plant death in plants.
How to Identify Mealybugs
Mealybugs are recognized by their oval form and body segmentation in addition to their soft, flattened, and waxy bodies. These insects can also resemble cottony patches, particularly when the females are laying eggs with a waxy shell on them. However, adult males have a completely different appearance; they have wings, resemble little flies more, and are rarely observed. Yellowed and falling leaves, twisted growth, and sooty black mold are all signs of mealybug damage.
The Life Cycle of a Mealybug
The life cycle of a mealybug varies depending on the species, but as an infestation spreads, it can seriously destroy plants, especially those used for interior landscaping. Females go through four developmental stages, called instars, and can lay up to 600 eggs as adults. In 6 to 14 days, the eggs hatch, and the first instar crawlers move to new locations to eat and attach themselves. Male mealybugs have five instars, the first two of which are spent feeding and the last two of which are spent growing into adults and acquiring wings.
Adult mealybugs have a brief lifespan; females pass away immediately after laying eggs, while males live for one to two days after fertilizing females. Because adult male mealybugs lack mouthparts, they are unable to eat. They occasionally pass for fungus gnats.
It’s Time to Take Back Control
After determining the nature of the issue, consider possible solutions for its management. The most affordable remedy is frequently to remove and kill any infected plants.
It helps to know which mealybug species you are dealing with because biocontrol for mealybugs can be fairly challenging. There are some commercially available alternatives, such as the mealybug eradicator Cryptolaemus. Instead of individual containers, mass plantings are the optimum setting for this ladybird beetle. Additionally, long-tailed mealybugs should not be treated with it. The green lacewing is another advantageous insect. These predators are generalists, so in addition to mealybugs, they can aid with a variety of pests.
It is best to involve someone who is competent about biological control when dealing with mealybugs. The appropriate predator for your species of mealybug can be obtained in this method.
Horticultural oil is a good option for sprays if you can get the oil in contact with the bug. This can be challenging because of their waxy coating and capacity to conceal themselves in safe places, making it challenging to achieve adequate spray coverage. Systemic pesticides are an additional choice. These substances, which can be utilized as a drench on the interior landscape, include Flagship (thiamethoxam) and Safari (dinotefuran). When used properly, they and can be incredibly powerful.
States have different requirements for pest control labels, thus it is the user’s responsibility to review them and abide by the rules. Always check the label before using a pesticide to ensure that it is acceptable for use on the site, in the state, and on the plant material.
Preventing Mealybug Infestations
Because they can inflict such damage to the interior landscape, mealybugs might be among the most challenging and problematic pests. The best defense against a terrible mealybug offense is to inspect plants before you buy and introduce them into your accounts. Immediately remove or treat the plants if a problem is discovered.
Struggling with many typical indoor plant pests? If you’re interested in learning more about spider mites, whiteflies, fungus gnats, thrips, aphids, and scale insects, check out my Professional’s Field Guide to Plant Pest Control.
An ornamental entomologist with a focus on integrated pest control, Suzanne Wainwright-Evans. For more than 18 years, Suzanne has worked in the green industry, primarily focusing on pesticide use and biological control. She holds degrees in environmental horticulture and entomology from the University of Florida. She has performed consultancy work for greenhouses, nurseries, landscape contractors, and interior design firms across the United States and abroad.
How should mealybugs on succulents be treated?
When you detect mealy bugs on your succulents, the first thing you should do is quarantine the affected plants and relocate them away from other plants. Check the healthy plants for any indications of mealy bugs.
After that, be ready to clean your contaminated plants by removing them from the pot and giving them a thorough rinsing under running water. In hot, soapy water, wash the pot. Replant with fresh soil after allowing the plant and pot to dry out. Old dirt should be disposed of in the regular trash, not the green bin.
If you don’t instantly have ready-mix succulent soil at your home, you can put the soil in an oven-safe container covered with foil and bake it for at least 30 minutes, or until the soil reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit. After letting cool, plant again. Since there may still be mealy bug eggs in the old soil, we advise getting new soil.
Now let’s get to the most crucial step: mealybug elimination. Pesticides made of chemicals are generally the first thing that springs to mind. We don’t advise using them, though, as some of them can be highly damaging to succulents. Here are some secure choices we’ve tried and think are really helpful:
Neem oil and soap mixtures or rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) come first. The cheapest and most efficient approach for controlling aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites is to use 75 percent rubbing alcohol. Simply give the succulents a good spraying and leave them. The bug will start to turn brown, which indicates that it is dead. The plants won’t be harmed by the alcohol because it will entirely evaporate in a short period of time. Perform this each week until you no longer notice any bugs.
Another secure insecticide that can be applied directly to outbreaks is neem oil. It has the ability to instantly eliminate all stages of mealybugs. Neem oil at a concentration of 5% in water is combined with a few drops of soap before being sprayed all over your succulent. Keep in mind that using concentrated neem oil could burn your succulents.
If you don’t have a spray bottle, you might paint-brush any area where mealy bugs are present. After a few hours, water the plant to remove the dead insects. You can readily find rubbing alcohol and neem oil online or at your neighborhood pharmacy. To prevent water stains or sunburn when using neem oil or rubbing alcohol, be sure to keep the plant out of direct sunlight. For a few days, keep them away from the window and direct sunshine.
If there are still some mealy bugs on your plant, check it again and continue the procedure for a few days. Then, as a preventative step, spray once again after a week. Neem oil can also be sprayed into the soil to eliminate any bugs or eggs that may be lurking there. Put the plant back in its original location and continue inspecting every three weeks if mealy bugs don’t recur after thoroughly checking and spraying for a few weeks.
Neem oil and rubbing alcohol are relatively secure, but there is a danger they could harm your succulent.
So we advise utilizing ladybugs as another natural cure. Yes, you heard correctly! These adorable ladybugs are all-natural enemies of mealybug and other troublesome pests. However, we advise utilizing ladybugs only as a preventative measure and when your plant is in the early stages of infestation.
How are mealy bugs formed?
My husband and I sometimes make the joke that after appreciating someone’s succulents in their home, the first thing I say is, “Oh, sure, you have mealybugs. How humiliating! However, it really comes from a good place. I wish to assist those who, like me, are unaware of their problems. Immediately after this, a helpful “…and here’s what you can do about it” is always added.
I initially believed that having a mealybug infestation was a wonderful thing. It started to appear in areas with recent growth, and I thought, “Oh cool, it’s expanding! I wasn’t worried until my jade plant began to lose leaves rapidly. After I treated it, that same Jade briefly came back to life, but in the end it went to Flora Heaven.
What exactly are mealybugs, then? They are a very prevalent indoor plant pest. By bringing home infected plants from a nursery, they can enter your home (or outside plants) from warmer climes. They disperse among plants and eat the growth tips. They are small white creatures that build cottony nests where they feed. Even in the roots, they may survive.
How do you recognize them? You should periodically check your plants for bugs and any other problems. These small creatures are masters at camouflage. Although they can be seen with the naked eye, they frequently tuck themselves into areas that are difficult to view, such as leaf joints and plant undersides.
What can you do about it then? Move the sick plant far from your healthy plants first. Move it into a different room, not simply a foot or two over. Simply wipe them off with cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol to kill them. Remember that a mealybug has a 30-day life cycle. Therefore, even if you successfully set up the nests the first time, you will need to maintain this routine once a week for at least a month to make sure you got them all. Other possibilities include spraying insecticidal soap on the plant, making your own dishwashing liquid and water, applying neem oil, and I’ve even heard of using Windex. Always read the label because some of these treatments can make you more sensitive to light and risk a sunburn if you expose your succubabies to the sun right away.
How can you avoid acquiring them? The greatest thing to do after purchasing your new plant baby is quarantine it so you have time to see if any problems arise. But who wants to do that? Not me! But hey, at least I made it clear what you needed to accomplish.
Being selective in the nursery is occasionally the simplest solution. Before making the purchase, carefully inspect your prospective plant child, and once you get home, develop the habit of looking for them on all of your succulents.
Get into the habit of spraying all of your succulents with an insecticidal detergent before you bring them inside and again when you first set them outside in the spring if your climate requires you to move them indoors during the winter.