Pesky Pests and How to Deal: Mealy Bugs
Image by @khurungkuaTuan
Mealy bugs have a special gift of making your plant look unloved. Often covered in white fluff, mealy bugs are white and excrete a sticky liquid called honeydew which can cause a sooty mold to grow on the leaves. Your plant will look like it's lost its pep, is sticky, or is covered in white fluff.
They hang out along the leaf veins, undersides of leaves, or tender new growth points. But they can also hide in the nooks and crannies where stems branch. Over time, mealy bugs will suck the sap out of your plant and cause it to weaken.
Fortunately, mealies are pretty easy to treat if detected early. Waiting even a day or two will allow their numbers to increase or spread to other nearby plants. As soon as you see them you will want to take the following steps.
- Isolate the affected plant from the rest of the collection. Move it away if you can or keep it in a clear plastic bag if space is an issue. Mealies crawl, so any plant touching the infected plant is at risk.
- With a Q-tip and rubbing alcohol, gently wipe the mealybugs away. Contact with alcohol kills them, so be sure to be thorough. You may choose to prune heavily affected areas if necessary.
- Use an insecticidal spray or an insecticidal soap to spray the plant. What’s the difference? Insecticidal soap is sprayed on, left for some time, and then washed off. This is the better option if you have nibbly pets or kids. Whereas, a leave-on insecticidal spray is better for plants that don't want to be very dry or are too large to move to a sink or shower.
- Continue to keep your plant in quarantine(or bagged) away from the rest of your collection. You may need to repeat the treatments weekly.
Be sure to make inspecting your plants part of your regular plant care. When detected early, most pests are easy to treat. It's also a great rule to always check plants for pests before you buy them and quarantine them for a week before mixing them in with the rest of your collection. If the infestation is really bad, there is no shame in tossing a plant that has too many pests to tackle- save your energy and focus on maintaining your other plant friends.