Are mealybugs infesting your precious succulents, killing them from the inside and eating them to death? You should do something immediately or else these tiny white insects will flush all that time and money you’ve invested into growing your beloved succulents and cacti down the drain!
The small white bugs can swarm and wiggle unto your succulents like maggots on rotting meat if you don’t immediately find ways to get rid of them. Also, as much as possible, you should avoid systemic pesticide to remove these bugs in light of how it affects the environment.
In this article:
- What are mealybugs?
- Where do mealy bugs come from?
- How to identify mealybugs on succulents?
- Preventing mealybugs on succulents
- 5 natural ways to get rid of mealybugs on succulents
- Other pests
What are mealybugs?
Mealybugs (Pseudococcidae) are tiny, white insects that feed on succulents and other plants by sucking their juices dry. They’re like parasites that feed upon their host plant until it dies, which would then make them move to a new host plant to repeat the cycle. They’re more commonly found on indoor succulents but they can still infect outdoor succulents as well.
Mealybugs are problematic because they approach succulent consumption like locusts would wheat. They’re a plague for many a garden out there and can be quite difficult to get rid of. Keep on reading if you want the safe, all-natural methods of keeping your plants safe without throwing them out or using pesticides.
Where do mealy bugs come from?
If you have a succulent with new growth, it’s possible that mealybugs aren’t far behind since they love feeding on them specifically. These nasty insects will also attack compromised succulents, like the ones you’ve over-watered and are on the verge of root rot. When you over-fertilize a plant, they’re sure to follow.
Doing anything in extreme to your plant will have these bugs in a feeding frenzy like piranhas or sharks that have smelt blood. They’re mostly indoor pests because they favor the temperate temperatures of a warm home, but they’re above snacking on your outdoor succulents as well.
How to identify mealybugs on succulents?
First and foremost, do a visual check on your houseplant. Do you see tiny white web-like spots all over the succulent? It might be the bugs themselves. They love hiding in the nooks and crannies of your plant. Specifically, the hide on the place where stem and leaves meet, like the plant’s underarm.
Mealybugs are hard to identify visually but their effects on your succulents are quite apparent. A magnifying glass should reveal trilobite-like or pill-bug-like insects reminiscent of fleas “frosting” your plant with their webbing.
Preventing mealybugs on succulents
For potted succulents, make sure your soil is well-draining. Otherwise, change the soil in order to ensure that future infestations from these bugs are prevented. Also, move your infected plant away from other plants to prevent spreading the infestation.
You should also take good care of your succulents by avoiding over-watering them or feeding them too much fertilizer, since these bugs are attracted to high nitrogen levels and soft plant growth. A dying succulent with curling off, yellowing leaves could be a sign of a heavy mealybug infestation.
5 natural ways to get rid of mealybugs on succulents
Use these all-natural methods of getting rid of mealybugs feasting upon your collection of succulents.
#1. Sprinkle Food-Grade DE on Your Succulent
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is an all-natural powder that can puncture the bodies of mealybugs on a cellular level. This is because they’re made up of small, snowflake-like crystals that cut small insects up like glass shards or blades. Use the food-grade version instead of the pool-grade one.
Sprinkle a little on your succulent and a lot on your soil your succulent is planted on, whether it is found on its pot or planter’s box as well as your lawn. It’s like putting up barbed wire or a broken glass shield over your succulents since this dust can really rip apart these bugs on a cellular level.
#2. Spray The Succulents with Alcohol
Get a bottle of 70% isopropyl rubbing alcohol and put it in a sprayer. Spray it directly unto your succulents to kill the mealybugs that are sucking it dry. You can spray it purely or dilute it in half with one part water.
You also have the option to use a cotton swab Q-tip and gently dab the alcohol on your succulent, especially the problem areas where you’d typically find these mealybugs. They’re better than pesticides because they attack the bug directly without harming other innocent insects or the plant itself.
#3. Spray with Neem Oil Solution
Make a neem oil solution by mixing a squirt of dish soap with a tablespoon of neem oil. Typically, neem oil and dish soap are separate entries in lists like this. However, they’re so much more effective when used in tandem. What’s more, they’re probably the best mix among the other solutions here.
Once you’ve combined them, spray them unto the areas that are susceptible to mealybug infestations or on existing webbing to eliminate those bugs post-haste. This tandem should effectively drown the bugs in a multitude of ways.
#4. Introduce Ladybugs or Other Predators to Your Garden
You can avail from many a garden supplies shop ladybugs that feast on mealybugs, among other natural predators of the pest. They’re best used on outdoor succulents though, since they’re mostly outdoorsy insects you wouldn’t want infesting your home.
Other insects or organisms you can use to lower your mealybug populations include lacewings, predatory mites, and even nematodes or roundworms that are also effective at ridding you of various soil-borne pests like fleas, garden grubs, and so forth. Use them when mite populations are still low.
#5. Insecticidal Soap
Instead of using a heavy chemical pesticide systemically to get rid of mealybugs but also the rest of the bugs in your garden, no matter how beneficial or innocent they are, you can use insecticidal soap as an alternative. This soap is also an even more effective mealybug killer than dishwashing soap solutions.
It’s best used on succulents that are heavily with mealybugs. This soap is a short-lived, all-natural pesticide that damages the outer layer of the mealybug’s body. This dehydrates and kills them in mere hours. Apply for 7-10 days with about 2.5 gallons’ worth of insecticidal soap water.
Succulents are typically plagued by many other pests aside from mealybugs—it’s just that these bugs are among the most prominent. Succulents also have to deal with different fungus gnats, fruit flies, fleas, vine weevils, garden grubs, and spider mites. Many of these same insects are also susceptible to the same anti-mealybug tactics outlined above.