Detect, treat & prevent: Mealybugs
Pests and insects can be very detrimental to your plants, so it is important to always keep an eye out for them. A very common invasive species that can be very harmful to your plants are mealybugs. A sign of mealybug infestation is that your plant is covered with white cotton looking substance. Check out in this article how to recognise if your plant has been attacked by mealybugs, how to treat and how to prevent it from happening again and to other plants!
What are mealybugs?
Mealybugs are small insects (to bigger than 2mm) that love attacking your indoor and outdoor plants. They like moisture, warm and confined spaces which is why we find them indoors, but that doesn’t stop them from invading your outdoor plants.
Mealybugs can cause a lot of damage as they suck the sap out of your plant, which weakens it and some of them even inject toxins into the stems and leaves.
When you see signs that your plant might be infested by mealybugs it is important to act quickly as they reproduce very rapidly. Although 1 mealybug has a life cycle of 7 to 10 weeks, they can lay over 100 eggs in around 2 weeks. This rapid multiplication can cause serious harm to your plant, and if not treated in time, can kill it.
How to recognise mealybugs?
Mealybugs are very small insects (only measure 2mm), so finding the insect itself can be difficult if you don’t know what you are looking for.
The biggest sign that your plant might be infested is the presence of white, cotton-looking fuzz on your plant. This cotton-like substance is a white powdery substance made by the mealybugs.
Other signs of mealybugs that are identifiable on your plant are a loss of colouring on the leaves, weak growth, and sometimes black spots.
Tip: when looking for the presence of mealybugs, make sure to look everywhere as they love to hide under leaves, in crevices, and other places you wouldn’t usually look!
How to treat mealybugs?
There are different ways to treat mealybugs, the importance is to act quickly before too much damage is made to the plant.
If you are dealing with a light infestation, you can try washing your plants by spraying water on them (with a hose). The force of the water should get the mealybugs and eggs of the plant. However, this technique is not to be used on very fragile plants as the force of the water can damage it. When applying this technique, make sur to then wipe away any excess white residue and excess water on the leaves.
For a more efficient technique that work with all plants, you can buy products made for that purpose. Most of these pesticides are oil based and act by covering up the mealybugs and eggs and killing them.
If you are dealing with repetitive infestations, change your potting soil, as it might contain traces of mealybugs or their eggs.
How to prevent mealybugs?
Getting rid of mealybugs is tedious, so the best solution is to prevent the infestation! To do so, frequently wipe down your plant with a cloth. This will wipe any pest that may be present, but also helps get rid of the dust that settles on indoor plants and prevent them from thriving. Alternatively, use a preventative treatment product.
Before bringing any new plant inside, make sure to thoroughly inspect it to make sure it is not already infested.