How to Get Rid of Mealybugs From Your Succulents

Growing succulents is a captivating narrative wrapped up in a pleasant storyline. Think of it, succulents are some of the most adorable plant groups nature has to offer. From their cute, unique looks to their easy to handle maintenance qualities, succulents are no doubt a living room’s required occupant.

These popular, eye-catching plants set an ambiance of tranquility and charm. These qualities make succulents almost an obsession to most plant lovers.

However, as with any narrative, there will always be a horde of antagonists— the bad boys. Succulents are not exempt from a bunch of life-sucking, little pests that spread like a plague. The most common types of these annoying, itty bitty creatures are the mealybugs. And really, they’re quite a bug to succulent lovers. Mealybugs are without a doubt, the bane in the life of every gardener.

 

What are Mealybugs?

Typically found in warm climates, mealybugs are teensy, fuzzy, elliptical insects that are usually grey-white or light brown in color. These wingless, soft-bodied insects form cotton-like mounds or powdery blotches on leaves, stem, and fruits of affected plants. This white cottony substance is usually the earliest sign of a mealybug invasion, commonly mistaken for mildew or fungus.

Mealybugs survive by feeding off the plants sap found in the tissues. They use their long sucking mouthparts known as stylets to draw out tissue sap. Given the fleshy nature of fat plants, it’s no brainer why succulents are their favorites.

As mealybugs feed, they secrete honeydew, a sugary substance that makes the plant sticky and promotes the growth of sooty molds. These molds attract bacterial and fungal attacks on the plant. Low levels of mealybugs don’t pose much of a threat to succulents. However, as they multiply, the result is a weak plant characterized by yellow and curly leaves.

Mealybugs are very cheeky pests. They hide in leaf crevices, joints where stems and leaves meet, and even in the soil. They especially like to hang out in new growth parts so they can get a good tissue sap suck.

How to get rid of mealybugs on succulents
@simplychivintage

Mealybugs Lifecycle

Want to battle? Know your enemy.

The mealybugs that invade succulents and other plants are either females or juveniles. The males are wingless and lack a mouth. They don’t even buzz around plants. They are short-lived, with mating as their only purpose of existence. You can easily mistake them for wasps or flies.

A mealybug will take 7-10 weeks to complete its full life cycle. Eggs hatch into nymphs in two weeks while nymphs mature to adults in 6 to 9 months.

Mealybugs can occur in multiple generations with overlapping lifecycles. This means that their populations can grow exponentially once they invade a plant. The small-sized eggs and nymphs make it hard for mealybugs to get noticed. They only attract attention once their population explodes.

Mealybugs secrete a sugary substance (honeydew) that attracts ants. These ants act as protection for the mealybugs in exchange for the sweet stuff.

These female mealybugs lay approximately 600 eggs during their entire lifetime. Good thing is that they die after they run out of eggs (albeit leaving a gazillion junior mealybugs to carry on with the cycle).

Where do Mealybugs come from?

Mealybugs sneak up on you. One day your plants are looking all neat and green then the next day a whitish mist of cotton-like substance plagues your succulents. Mealybugs can come from anywhere. Take a look at the most common causes of mealybugs below.

  • A new plant brought indoors.
  • Planing your succulents on contaminated soil.
  • Summer’s warm climate.
  • Bringing vegetables, fresh flowers, or fruits from the garden.
  • Fresh produce from the grocery store.
Adult mealybug on green leaf
@sentritex_biologicals

How to Get Rid of Mealybugs on Succulents

Fortunately, due to their slight lack of tenacity, there are a couple of ways to control mealybugs. You can use one or a combination of the following methods to combat against mealybug infestations on your beautiful succulents.

Quarantine Affected Plants

This is the first step to take when dealing with a mealybug invasion. Once they start multiplying, they spread like wildfire, jumping from one plant to the next.

Therefore, move the affected plant away from your other succulent plants. Be sure that the quarantined succulent plant is NOT within the same room as your other succulent plants.

Water Pressure

You can use mechanical pressure of water to hose off adult mealybugs and hopefully their eggs too. This is the simplest and the cheapest method.

To generate the desired pressure, simply place your thumb on a garden hose. You can also use your sink’s spray-faucet. Since mealybugs like hiding, a special succulent watering bottle may be helpful in reaching them in their leaf crevices. If you don’t have a set of these in your plant care kit, we highly recommend adding one. Keep a close watch on the plants and if the mealybugs rear their ugly heads, just repeat the treatment.

This method can work best in sturdier plants like cacti and agave but is unsuitable for brittle succulents like sedum morganianum, otherwise known as the burro’s tail.

Be careful not to drown your succulent with this method. Repot if necessary to avoid plant rot.

 

Isopropyl Alcohol

A very effective and inexpensive solution that knocks those bad bugs off your succulents. Depending on the extent of the invasion, you can use a spray bottle or a simple Q-tip to remove these pests. For small infestations, simply dip a Q-tip in 70% isopropyl alcohol and gently scrub the affected plant.

If the majority of the plant is covered by the pests, use a wash bottle and spray the plant with isopropyl alcohol. Don’t worry about drowning the plant since the alcohol will quickly evaporate. (Obviously don’t spray it too much either, be considerate).

Pay close attention to their hiding places and saturate them with alcohol. After the alcohol has evaporated, all mealybugs should be dead in a few minutes. The grayish bugs turn deep red while the cottony substance disintegrates.

The 70% isopropyl alcohol is completely safe for succulents and they won’t get burnt or damaged. This is because succulents possess a thick cuticle, some sort of barrier found on the leaves to prevent liquids from getting in or out of them. This is the adaptation that’s behind their water-saving prowess.

3 x 950ml Bottles of 99+% Pure Isopropyl Alcohol Industrial Grade...
Empty Amber Glass Spray Bottles with Labels (2 Pack) - 16oz...
3 x 950ml Bottles of 99+% Pure Isopropyl Alcohol Industrial Grade...
Empty Amber Glass Spray Bottles with Labels (2 Pack) - 16oz...
-
$27.84
$19.98
3 x 950ml Bottles of 99+% Pure Isopropyl Alcohol Industrial Grade...
3 x 950ml Bottles of 99+% Pure Isopropyl Alcohol Industrial Grade...
-
$27.84
Empty Amber Glass Spray Bottles with Labels (2 Pack) - 16oz...
Empty Amber Glass Spray Bottles with Labels (2 Pack) - 16oz...
$19.98

Last update on 2020-10-25 / Amazon

 

How to get rid of mealybugs from succulent plants
@rojakpod

Azamax

This is an organic, broad-spectrum pest control product that is derived from neem oil. Not only is it effective against mealybugs, but also squashes aphids, spider mites, and other pests. This all-natural insecticide is highly lauded as an effective pesticide.

Azamax is dangerous to aquatic life so avoid using it near water features.

 

Neem Oil

We’ve mentioned this in some of our previous articles but this antiseptic and antifungal pest control solution is an excellent fit for combating mealybugs. It keeps your succulent plants safe too!

We recommend this Neem Oil from Oleavine, it’s affordable and gets the job done! For general pest control simply add 1 Tablespoon per 1 Gallon, this Neem Oil is pretty strong!

Check the product label before using as it has to be diluted before using. Applying neem oil during the day may burn your plants due to the effect of the sun on the oil. Try applying neem oil on your mealybug infested succulent plant at night instead.

Last update on 2020-10-25 / Amazon

 

Biological Control Methods

You can introduce predators on your succulents that would love to feast on mealy bugs. A great example is a ladybug. They feed on several problematic pests, mealybugs included.

Alternatively, you can opt for the mealybug destroyer. Not kidding, that’s what a Cryptolaemus Montrouzieri does— it will literally crush mealybugs.

Introducing predators to snuff out mealybugs is a low-effort solution. This is best practiced in your outdoor garden as it might be tricky in houseplants. (You don’t want more bugs in your home anyways right?)

 

How to get rid of mealybugs using ladybugs
@gardenactivist

4 Tips to Keep Mealybugs Away

  1. Regularly check for any pests. Catching pests especially mealybugs early on makes a huge difference.
  2. If you spot ants around your plant, that may be a sign that mealybugs are present. Isolate your succulent plant and begin treatment right away.
  3. Be mindful to check for pest infestation when introducing a new succulent into your succulent garden.
  4. Use a potting mix that is free of any pests or eggs to your succulents.

If all else fails, it’s okay. Sometimes we can’t fix every issue that arises with succulents but that’s the beauty of plants in general. Growing these beautiful succulents comes with growing pains.

Did this article help answer your succulent-care questions? Succulent City is devoted to aiding all succulent lovers, and that’s why we created a line of ebook guides! Check out our in-depth tips on Different Types of Planters or even The Right Way to Propagating Succulents Successfully today!

If you enjoyed this article, give us a comment below! Let us know how you handle these pests, maybe we can learn something new too. Or come join the conversation in our exclusive Facebook group, Succulent City Plant Lounge. Also, be sure to subscribe and check for new activity on our Succulent City Youtube channel. We will be releasing some quality packed videos sure to delight all succulent enthusiasts. 

 

ALSO READ:

  • I have always used the vegetable oil / dishwashing liquid method to eliminate pests from my plants. It’s very effective, but can get messy so I was surprised to hear about the alcohol. I’ve tried metholated spirit 1/10 mix but it had to be washed off within an hour or it burns the plants. I will certainly try this remedy.

  • Gave this advice to a friend that had an infestation of mealy bugs. (the Alcohol method) and was happy to have you back my advice to her. Sometimes you remember a method, but need an expert to back you up. Thanks . Enjoyed quite a long time on your site

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