How to identify mealybugs in indoor plants
The mealybug has some distinguishing features that make it easier to spot.
"It looks like white cotton," says Kevin." That's probably the best way to describe it, like cotton balls on the leaves on the plant's stems.
"That's how it gets its name, mealybug, because it's got this mealy sort of white growth it covers itself with, they partly do that to protect themselves from predators - but it's quite noticeable when you see it on your indoor plant."
"It often hides down where the leaves join the stems, or it can be on the root system."
Another sign your indoor plants have mealybugs is sap and ants! Mealybug is a sap-sucking insect. They suck all the sap out of the plant, draining all of its goodness. While they feed on the sap, they excrete a sticky honeydew, which ants love!
Another sign to watch out for is black soot on the leaves.
"The honey dew also attracts sooty mould, like a black powder that grows on the dew," says Kevin.
"This can cause problems with photosynthesis and the plant. The black powder covers the leaves, stopping the sun from getting to the leaves, so the plant doesn't get enough light."
3 ways to get rid of mealybugs
Mealybug is one of those bugs that are very difficult to control.
That said, Kevin has some tips for getting rid of mealybugs. But the first thing you need to do is isolate the plant.
"If the plant is badly invested, it needs to be isolated - particularly if you've got it mixed in with other indoor potted plants because it can spread easily."
1. Methylated spirits
Kevin says, "Because of the nature of the insect, you have to use something stronger, and cotton buds with methylated spirits is an effective way to get rid of mealybugs."
How to do it:
- Get a cotton bud and dip it into methylated spirits.
- Dab the individual insects on the plant with the cotton bud and methylated spirit.
2. Soapy water
You can also do a damp cloth dipped in soaping water and wipe down the leaves. Not only will it remove the insect, but it also helps with any dust accumulated on the plant.
How to do it:
- Grab some water with a small squirt of soap.
- Using a cloth, wipe down the leaves of your plant.
"But for them to be effective, you have to get it all over the plant where every insect is, which can be hard if they hide in crevices," he says.
What if the bugs are in the root system? Unfortunately, "if it's badly infested, I'd be inclined to throw the plant out," says Kevin.
How to prevent mealy bugs in indoor plants
Like most plant pests, prevention is the key.
One of the best things you can do is look after your plants and ensure they are happy and healthy - feed them well and water as needed.
"That makes them a bit stronger. It's a bit like us; if we are run down, we're more inclined to get bugs,” says Kevin.
"So if it's growing well, it's less likely to be attacked by bugs."
Another thing to remember is that sometimes mealybugs can make their way into your home in other plants. Inspect any new plants you buy very carefully, and if you are worried, isolate the plant until you are sure there are no unwanted pests hitching a ride.
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