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How to get rid of Mealybugs

Dr. Sangeeta Soi
Dr. Sangeeta Soi

Have you ever noticed small cottony patches or a white insect on your plant? These small white insects are quite prevalent in green houses and indoor plants and are known as mealybugs. They appear like small patches and stick to the plants. Mealybugs are found mostly found in warmer growing climate and are soft-bodied, wingless insects that often appear as white cottony masses on the leaves, stems and fruit of plants. They feed by inserting long sucking mouthparts, called stylets, into plants and drawing sap out of the tissue. Damage is not often significant at low pest levels. They feed on the sap in plants. Although mealybugs are small, they can cause significant damage to your plants and garden if left untreated. If your plants are starting to wilt and die, it may be due to mealybugs.


Scientific Classification: 


















Mealybug females feed on plant sap, normally in roots or other crevices, and in a few cases the bottoms of stored fruit. They attach themselves to the plant and secrete a powdery wax layer (hence the name mealybug) used for protection while they suck the plant juices. In Asia, mango mealybug is considered a major menace for the mango crop. They are accompanied by honeydew, which makes the plant sticky, the reason why the bug gets attached with the plant. Some species lay their eggs in quantity 50-100 and others may thrive on the same.  Host for mealybugs are the citrus plants more commonly and then on sugarcane, grapes, pineapple, coffee trees, cassava, ferns, cacti, gardenias, papaya, mulberry, sunflower and orchids. Ants provide mealybugs a protection from invaders so act as the source of protection against invaders. 

Mealybugs are mostly found in warmer climates. It is found in all parts of the world. They are mostly found in indoors, nurseries and greenhouses.

Mode of Functioning 

Mealybugs are found to scale insects. Mostly they thrive by sucking plants juice and survive on it. This is the way they stick to the plant and suck the juice, as a result, lead to the yellowing of leaves and shedding.  There are a number of crops and plants, which may be found, infected. Other than this, they have a certain lifecycle as the bug releases egg, which may secrete 300-400 eggs underside of the leaves having the cottony and waxy appearance, which are very much similar to downy mildew. The females are known to die after laying eggs. Females lay eggs continuously for 2 weeks. Hatching occurs after 3 weeks and a yellow nymph is found to move above the leaf in search of food. While feeding they secrete honeydew and a waxy coat appears all over their body. This is the way they appear to us by increasing their population by continuously mating and laying eggs and multiplying.

Are they harmful? 

Yes, they are!!!! Mealybugs are most prone to the grapevines or creepers. They are found to spread the virus on touch but fewer cases of any harm to the human body have been reported until yet. Although they do not bite humans but touching them may cause some irritations so let’s keep distance and try to remove them through these simple methods mentioned below. 

How to remove Mealybugs 

Here are different methods to get rid of mealybugs:

Method 1: 

  • Take a spray bottle and fill it with soapy water. Splash the leaves of infected plants with this and rub off. This will not only clean the plant but prepare it for further treatment. 
  • Now dab a cotton with 70% Isopropyl alcohol and rub the leaves with especially underneath to wash away all the infestation.  
  • Remove away all the mealybugs by hands. If needed gloves can be used else they do not bite usually. 
  • The above process needs to be repeated weekly to eradicate the infection completely since mealybugs are good at hiding between crevices. They need to be treated regularly. 

Method 2: 

  • In another method, one can use Neem oil for potted and shaded plants. Mix together water, dishwashing soap and neem oil in a spray bottle in a ratio of one teaspoon of neem oil and 2-3 drops of dish wash soap. 
  • Now do not allow the direct sunlight after this treatment else keep the plant in shade. If treating the open plant then wait for the shady day with lower temperature. 
  • The repeated application of this spray needs to be done to completely eradicate the problem or the bugs will appear again as they have a rapid lifecycle. 

Method 3                                            

  • Spray it with insecticides. For this one has to prune the leaves showing infection so that the spray needs to be done on only the healthy areas to prevent further infection. This may also save the material and treatment time. 
  • Fill the spray bottle with insecticides specially labeled for indoor plants. Read the label carefully and then purchase. 
  • Apply it by using a spray bottle 
  • Keep repeating after week if infection reoccurs. 
  • Keep the plant at your balcony and not inside the house, as it can cause allergies and may be harmful. 

In order to prevent the infection to reoccur always keep a watch to your plant using lenses and as the bug reappears just use the above methods to prevent its multiplication. Keep the plant in sunlight so provide more security. Throw away your garden tools infected with mealybugs or just sterilize them regularly to avoid any reoccurrences. Avoid using nitrogen fertilizers as a use of nitrogen may bring back the infestation because they are more likely to occur in nitrogen efficient environment. 

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