Mealybugs – Oh, I just wanna squish them!

Mealybugs – Oh, I just wanna squish them!

If you are a gardener like me then you probably detest mealybugs as much as I do. These soft, white, cottony pests not only suck the blood (plant sap) of my plants, but also transmit fatal diseases and invite other pests by producing honeydew. Moreover, they permanently impair the plant’s defence mechanism, leaving them open to subsequent infections and pests. My cherished succulents were among the numerous plants I lost to the diseases this bug carried. Every time I see them, I have a compulsive urge to just squish them with my bare fingers. If you too get similar feelings on spotting mealybugs, add a raised hand emoji in the comments.

So now, how do we defeat this numero uno enemy? This is my war plan:-

Know Your Enemy

Mealybugs are part of the Pseudococcidae family, which includes more than 300 species of related insects. They thrive in warm, humid conditions and can even infest drying crops. They obtain their nutrition by sucking juices from soft stems and leaves. Additionally, they also excrete honeydew, which is a white mold-like, sugar-rich sticky substance that attracts other pests and may also result in black sooty mold and other mildews on your plants. A mealybug has a 30-day life cycle, and during that time, each female can lay up to 600 eggs. Therefore, it is crucial to eliminate them and arrest the damage caused as quickly as possible.


The first step is to identify the level of infestation. A light infestation is when A light infestation is when there are only a few mealybugs—say, up to five—on one plant. If your plant's stem or branches are almost completely covered with white masses of mealybugs and their egg sacks, you have a heavy infestation. Their excretions, which resemble honey drops, will also be visible. Your strategy will vary depending on the extent of the infestation. In either case, isolate the infested plant(s) from the other wholesome plants.

The War

Light infestation:

  • Remove or squish the bugs physically using a stick, or dab the insects with a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol.
  • Spray them with a stream of water, perhaps from the kitchen sink.
  • If the infestation is restricted to a few branches or leaves, then prune out those affected areas.
  • Soak some onion peels, fresh aloe vera leaves and crushed garlic in water overnight. Strain this mixture in a spray bottle and spray on all your plants every few days. This is a very good insects and pest repellant. 

Heavy infestation:

  • Spray a diluted insecticidal soap spray, such as castile soap spray, all over your plant. Cover all parts including the underside of leaves.
  • Thoroughly spray the plant with a solution of diluted neem oil. To this mixture, you can also add a light dish detergent.
  • Use diluted apple cider vinegar (1:2 or 1:3) to spray the plants.
  • Introduce natural predators such as lacewings, ladybugs, parasitic wasps
  • Use homemade insecticide made by juicing 1 bulb garlic, 1 onion and a teaspoon of cayenne Dilute this in about a litre of water and then spray on the plants
  • Another option is to plant onions or garlics close to your highly susceptible plants. Onion and garlic plants will aid in repelling these bugs.
  • Spread diatomaceous earth around the stem of your plant to prevent ants, which serve as a support insect to mealybugs, from climbing up the plants.
  • Fill one-third of a plastic bottle with cooked rice and the rest with water. Do not use glass bottle as it may break. Close the bottle tightly and set it aside in a dry, warm location for 7-10 days to ferment. Ethyl alcohol is the result of the fermentation process. Dilute this mixture in a 1:1 ratio with extra water.  Using a high-pressure spray, saturate the affected areas.
  • Some gardeners also suggest washing or soaking your plants with ice-cold water. Cold temperatures kill mealybugs. I have tried this and it works pretty well.

Every few days, carry out the aforementioned treatment again until mealybugs are no longer visible on your plants. You may also choose a combination of techniques.

As a precautionary measure, always properly examine any new plants and quarantine them before putting them in your garden.

Have you tried any of the above techniques? Do you employ any different technique? Share your experience, tips and tricks in the comments section.

Tada! Take care till we meet again.

With love,
The Bee


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