Mealy bugs are hard to get rid of once you have them. Early detection is the key to plant survival.
Severe infestations look like patches of cotton on the plant. During the feeding process, they excrete lots of wax (known as honeydew) and if left on the plant can lead to the growth of sooty mold. The excretion is used for protection while they suck the plant juices. It is also a place where they hide their eggs. It takes about 10 days for the Eggs to hatch producing crawlers or nymphs.
What To Look For
- Look for a fluffy white wax produced in the leaf axils or on the stems and branches of the plant.
- The plant will start to lose its vigor and the leaves will turn yellow and eventually drop. As a result, it may be become stunted, or even killed
The best control for mealy bugs is defensive. Healthy, vigorous plants are less likely to be infested than the weak ones.
- Water - works well in early stages of infestation. Simply blast the bugs off with a strong stream of water. Needs to be repeated daily until they are gone.
- Insecticidal Soap - Such as Garden Safe Insecticidal Soap Insect Killer. Follow instructions on back of bottle. This is a contact spray so bugs have to be present in order for it to work. Safe to use around pets and children.
- Bonide Neem Oil - Safe around pets and children. Can be sprayed on plants following directions on back of bottle. Bugs must be present in order for it to work.
- Bonide Systemic Housepant Insect Control - This chemical actually gets soaked up into the plant and if the bugs chew on the plant they will die. The bottle says it can prevent bugs for up to two months. Just follow directions on bottle for use. This is not organic and says to keep out of reach of children and pets.
- Throw Out Plant: If infestation is to the point of beyond control. Your best option is to pitch the plant into the garbage. Do not compost.
If left untreated mealybugs will spread to other plants in the house.