This week, for Plant Tip Tuesday...

Imagine, you’re casually admiring one of your houseplants when suddenly, you spot white, cotton-ball-like clusters of the dreaded MEALYBUG.

Mealybugs are soft, oval-shaped insects that suck the sap and vigor from plants, leaving behind a sticky substance, known as honeydew.

Usually found in colonies, mealybugs like to hide out in the crown, and between stems and leaves of plants. This habit of congregating in nooks and crannies can make them a real challenge to treat. 

If you spot evidence of mealybugs, first evaluate the level of infestation, being sure to also examine nearby plants. It can be heartbreaking, but sometimes the best course of action is to discard an infected plant. 

Treatment is possible, but be ready to play the long game:

  • Start by disinfecting the area and isolating the affected plant(s).
  • Using a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol, remove any mealybugs you can see - it’s actually kind of meditative !  
  • NOTE:  Some plants, including cacti and succulents, and plants with fuzzy leaves (called, "tomentose"), do not tolerate other topical foliar treatments. Consistent manual removal of adult mealybugs, and treating the soil* are the only options for treating these plants.
  • For treatment-tolerate plants, start by showering the foliage with warm water.
  • Mix and apply a horticultural oil solution, doing your best to ensure it gets into all the crevices.
  • Swab mealybugs as you see them, and repeat water showers and foliar treatments every two weeks for a minimum of four treatments. 
  • When you think the mealybug are going...treat a few more times.
  • *Treat the soil for any eggs that may be present by adding diatomaceous earth to the topsoil. 

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