What Are Mealybugs?
Commonly found in warm climates, mealybugs have a soft body and wingless. They are often found clumped together like white cotton masses on leaves, stems, and fruits of plants. They use their long sucking mouth called stylets to feed and insert their mouth into plants and drink all the sap from the plant’s tissues.
Mealybugs can cause damage to succulents and you must find and get rid of them while there is low-level damage. When the mealybugs multiply and reproduce and are high in numbers, they can cause the yellowing of the leaves and the affected succulent will weaken, wither, and die.
When the mealybugs feed, they secrete honeydew which makes the succulent sticky. This substance not only encourages the growth of molds on the plant, but it also attracts ants. Mealybugs affect houseplants, ornamental plants, fruits like avocado, and succulents. There are at least 275 species of mealybugs known to occur in the United States.
How to Identify Mealybugs
The Life-Cycle of Mealybugs
Adult female mealybugs produce around 300-600 eggs which appear as a compact and waxy cottony mass that can be found on the underside of succulent leaves. The egg-laying process can continue up to 2 weeks, and then the female mealybug will die after laying all its eggs. The eggs will hatch after 1-3 weeks and the tiny active yellow nymphs will move and find its preferable feeding sites where they can establish and settle.
While the mealybugs are feeding, they will produce honeydew, which can attract mold and ants, while a waxy coating will form on their bodies. Female nymphs will experience 3 stages while the male nymphs will pass through 5 stages. After the first two instars, the male nymphs will mainly fertilize the female nymphs and the life-cycle will continue, producing more mealybugs in the process.
Succulents are usually attractive to pests and diseases. For example, when an Echeveria succulent is in bloom, they are a magnet for aphids. The first step in controlling and preventing pests on succulents is to watch out for them.
You must check your succulents for any signs of pests. Mealybugs secrete honeydew while they are feeding, and this can attract ants and molds. If you see ants on your succulent collection, you must check for other pests as soon as possible. If you see the first sign of pests and diseases on a succulent plant, you must immediately isolate it from the other plants to prevent the pests from spreading.
What are the Sources of Mealybugs?
- When you purchase vegetables or flowers from a farmer’s market, you may bring in mealybugs to your home. Sometimes, they can come from the garden and you can accidentally bring them indoors with you.
- When you reuse potting soil, it may be infested with eggs or nymphs, so avoid reusing potting soil. Get your potting soil here!
- When you purchase succulents from a local nursery or garden, you may bring in mealybugs into your home from the roots of the new plant.
- Ants may carry mealybugs with them into your home and farm them for honeydew, as mealybugs produce honeydew while they feed.
How to Treat Mealybugs On Your Succulents
Once you find out that your succulent plant is infested with mealybugs, make sure to immediately separate the affected plant from the rest of your succulent collection to prevent the pests from spreading to the other succulents.
There are different ways that you can use to get rid of mealybugs, here are some of them:
1. Use an inorganic top dressing – Using inorganic top dressing like perlite, sand, or decorative pebbles will prevent any insects like mealybugs to reach the soil because most insects and pests usually lay their eggs on the soil.
Inorganic top dressing is not only effective in preventing any pests to lay its eggs on the soil, but it also keeps the plant clean, and it prevents soil from splashing on the leaves of the succulent. It also prevents water from evaporating too quickly during hot summer days.
2. Use isopropyl alcohol – If you notice there is a minimal infestation of mealybugs, you can use a q-tip or cotton applicator and dip it in 70% isopropyl alcohol. Apply it directly on the mealybugs using a spray bottle like this to spray alcohol on the hiding areas to make sure all the bugs and eggs will be gotten rid of.
When exposed to alcohol, the cottony substance will disintegrate and the mealybugs will turn red. After spraying with alcohol, you can spray the mealybugs with water using a garden hose to wash out all the dead mealybugs. Check the succulents for any pests left and you can repeat the process after a few days. Keep your succulents out of the sun as the alcohol can cause them to burn when exposed to sunlight. Apply isopropyl alcohol in the early morning or early evening.
Take note that some succulents with waxy substance on their stems can be sensitive to the 70% isopropyl alcohol; you can use the 50% isopropyl alcohol instead.
3. Use neem oil – You can use neem oil to get rid of pests like mealybugs. You can create a neem oil solution by mixing 1/2 tablespoon neem oil with a splash of dish-washing soap and a cup of water. The neem oil solution can be sprayed on areas where the mealybugs hide. You can also spray the neem solution on the soil just in case if any pests or eggs hiding there.
4. Use diatomaceous earth – Diatomaceous earth is a natural powder that can be used to kill mealybugs on your succulents. It works by puncturing the bodies of the mealybugs. Make sure to get the food-grade version and sprinkle it liberally on the soil. Get your diatomaceous earth here.
5. Use insecticidal soap – You can make your insecticidal soap spray. Mix 1 cup water, 1 cup isopropyl alcohol and 1/2 teaspoon of dishwashing soap. Shake the mixture well and spray it on your infested succulents. Apply the solution in early evenings or mornings; keep your plants away from direct sun as it can cause them to burn.
6. Use ladybugs – Ladybugs are helpful insects because they eat a wide range of pests. Ladybugs will feast on mealybugs, scale insects and aphids. You can purchase them at your local nursery or get them online here.
Release your ladybugs in the early evening and spray your garden with water so they will have a water source. Ladybugs may not be conventional or practical, but they can be effective in removing pests like mealybugs on your succulents. When you are planning to release the ladybugs make sure not to use any insecticides because these chemicals can also harm them.
How to Prevent Mealybugs on Succulents
1. Use worm castings. Worm castings can help prevent pests and diseases. Worm castings contain an enzyme called chitinase, it is circulated in the whole plant, insects sense the chitinase and will avoid the plants that have it. Worm castings are excellent fertilizers and will not make your plants prone to burning when exposed to the sun. Get the worm castings here.
2. Check the roots and potting soil when repotting your plants. Sometimes the mealybugs can hide in the soil and roots of the plants.
3. Always check the plants’ new growth for any deformities. If you find some, check for any mealybugs and do the necessary steps mentioned above to get rid of the pests!
4. Avoid overwatering your succulents. This can cause the plant to weaken and be prone to rot. Succulents that are exposed to overwatering are prone to pests like mealybugs.
5. Check the pots, containers, drip saucers, and trays because sometimes mealybugs can hide there!
Do you know how to deal with pests on your succulents? Do you know how to treat mealybugs on your succulents? You came to the right place! Eden Succulents can provide different information and guides regarding succulents.
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