What Are Mealy Worms? An Introduction To Mealy Worms

Have you ever noticed certain cottony formations on your succulents? That formation is a common pest of indoor plants called a mealybug. Mealybugs are a common pest in greenhouses that affect ornamentals, houseplants, and fruits. She enjoys eating our pasta, especially its new shoots. Although there is no obvious idea why this appears, most of the time, this happens when we overwater our plants.

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Mealybugs Image: IG@homesteadbrooklyn

What are mealybugs?

Mealybugs are soft-bodied insects that do not have wings; these often appear as formations of cottony mass under the leaves, stems, and plants’ fruits. They tend to grow and develop more frequently in hot and humid climates. They feed on our plants by inserting their stylets into plants and extracting all sap from the tissue.
When this pest is at low levels of spread, the damage is usually not significant; however, when the amount increases, it can harm the leaves of our plant, weakening the stems and causing the leaves to turn yellow and curly. Besides, when this pest feeds, it usually excretes a honeydew that makes the plant sticky and helps the growth of soot. Adult specimens can be 1/4 inch long, are oval and soft insects, covered with a white or gray mealy-looking wax. The small specimens called “creepers”; have a light yellow color and do not have a wax coating.

One of the factors that make this pest so potentially dangerous is its mania for hiding under the leaves; thanks to this, it can be challenging to detect in compact-leaved succulents; we usually become aware of its presence leaves, and stems begin. To deform, this added to the fact that they can spread surprisingly quickly if they are in ideal conditions; they can weaken and consume an entire plant in a short period.
Adult female mealybugs can lay approximately 600 eggs for two weeks and then die shortly after that. These egg masses have the appearance of cotton found under the leaves. The hatching of this mass of eggs begins at two weeks, giving way to a wave of small crawlers in search of feeding sites, and, as they feed, they begin to secrete the layer of molasses that covers their bodies of a mealy appearance.

How do mealybugs affect my succulents?

As the tiny mealybugs feed on the plant through the leaves, they weaken and create open wounds that expose the plant to bacterial diseases. At first glance, the leaves are not affected initially; they retain their shape and plump texture, but, as they feed on it, it begins to acquire an irregular appearance, looking irregular across a broad extension of the plant and its center. In a short time, the leaves start to develop a yellowish color and become infected with fungi thanks to their weakness and exposed wounds. If not treated in time, these mealybugs can quickly kill an entire small garden in a matter of days.

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Isolating Mealybugs: IG@sarah.inthegarden

How can I get rid of mealybugs on my succulent?

In case any of our plants show signs of being infested with mealybugs, we must quarantine them away from other plants since the mealybugs spread to neighboring plants very quickly. We must check all the plants close to the infected one to measure how much it has spread. After we have separated all the infected plants, we must start cleaning them. For this, we will remove the plants from their containers and rinse them with a jet of healthy water. It is to remove all traces of the mealybugs possible. Besides, we also wash the pots with enough water and soap when it is dry. Replant our succulent in soil or new substrate, making sure to dispose of the old ones in the trash.

If we don’t have any extra soil or substrate, another option is to put the old soil in a heat-resistant container, cover it with aluminum foil, and put it in the oven at 200 ° F for about half an hour. After this, we let it rest, and we can use it to replant our succulent. It is not a 100% method, and mealybug eggs may remain in the ground, so it is more advisable to use new soil or substrate.

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Clean with Isopropyl Alcohol: IG@vikmarcussen

Use Isopropyl Alcohol:

For the most critical part of the whole process, eliminating the mealybugs, we have a wide variety of options. Although we usually think about using chemical pesticides, these can be very harmful to our already weakened plants. However, there are other beneficial and less dangerous options that we can use. Isopropyl alcohol is an excellent example of an easy and inexpensive method; using isopropyl alcohol is a very effective method against mealybugs and not only that but also against aphids and mites. For this, we must spray alcohol on the affected areas of our plant, it will evaporate in a few minutes without damaging it, but it is strong enough to kill the mealybugs. We must repeat this process until the cottony traces begin to turn a brown color, which will mean that they are dead.

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Spray using Neem Oil: IG@guchiscobi

Use Neem Oil:

Another safe and plant-friendly insecticide is neem oil, capable of killing any mealybug stage that infects our succulents on simple contact. It will only be enough to spray the affected areas with a mixture of neem oil, soap, and water, and voila, the mealybugs will begin to perish. Highly concentrated neem oil not to be used, as this could damage or burn our plant.

When we are going to apply any of these methods, we can use a spray bottle, or, if we do not have one of these bottles at home, we can use a swab soaked in the solutions and rub it all over the area affected by the mealybugs. After a while of applying the solutions, we rinse our plant to clean all dead insects’ traces. An important aspect to consider is that it mustn’t receive direct sunlight when using neem oil or isopropyl alcohol on our plant. It could leave burn marks; moreover, it is best to suspend all sunlight for days after performing these remedies.

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Plant Isolation and clean up Area nearby: IG@leigh_botanicals

How to prevent mealybug infection?

Some preventive measures required to prevent infection of plants are detailed as follows. Firstly, isolate any new plant purchased for approximately three weeks to avoid infection. Secondly, it is also essential to regularly check all the plants to ensure no infestations. We again try to keep the area around our plants always dry, clean, and free of rotten leaves or flowers.



Richard Miller

Salute everyone. It's Richard, the author of this Succulent & Xeriscaping blog. I am a traveler and a nature lover looking for a connection with the wild green. In my journey, I found a love for succulents and xeriscaping. What attracts me is the long-lasting & unique beauty of every plant I have the chance to see with my own eyes. Welcome to my little blog and let's enjoy a good time together!

Contact me: richard.succulentcity@gmail.com

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