What are Mealybugs?
Mealybugs are insects in the family Pseudococcidae, unarmored scale insects found in moist, warm habitats. Mealybugs feed on plant juices of flora and also act as a vector for several plant diseases.
Mealybug females are oval in top view and are usually covered with a fluffy, white secretion. Sometimes they have a slightly darker line down the back. They 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 used for protection while they suck the plant juices.
Mealybug males are smaller, gnat-like and have wings. Male do exhibit a radical change during their life cycle, changing from wingless, ovoid nymphs to wasp-like flying adults.
The males are short-lived as they do not feed at all as adults and only live to fertilize the females.
Lifecycle of Mealybugs
- The full lifecycle of a mealybug is 7 – 10 weeks.
- 1 – 2 weeks to hatch from egg to nymph and then 6 – 8 weeks from nymphs to fully mature adult.
- Male are short lived as they do not feed at all as adults and only live to fertilize the females.
Where does Mealybug come from?
Mealybugs are common in houseplants and can come from various sources.
- Bringing home infected plant from Nursery
- Using contaminated potting mix
- Travel via wind, specially in summer
- Cut flowers from store or your garden
- Fresh produce from grocery store
The mealybug thrives during the warm months of spring and summer.
Control methods of Mealybugs on houseplants
- Wash away with water
Mealybugs can be dislodged with a steady stream of water. Repeat the treatment as necessary. This is best for light infestations.
- Soap water spray
Mix the soap in a weak concentration with water (starting a 1 teaspoon per liter and increasing as necessary). Spray on plants. This works perfectly for mildly infected plant.
- Neem oil spray
Neem oil disrupts the growth and development of pest insects and has repellent and antifeedant properties. Best of all, it’s non-toxic to honey bees and many other beneficial insects. Mix 1 tablespoon / liter of water and spray every 7-14 days, as needed.
- Botanical Insecticide spray
Derived from plants which have insecticidal properties, these natural pesticides have fewer harmful side effects than synthetic chemicals and break down more quickly in the environment. This method should be used as last resort.