Mealybugs are a small insect pest that suck the sap from plants thereby weakening the plants. They are naturally attracted to plants with soft foliage and also those with high nitrogen levels. They secrete a Honeydew that attracts ants, the ants tend to protect the Mealybugs. Excessive Honeydew can lead to Sooty mould.
They particularly like the soft new green growth and you can identify them by their fuzzy white coating, best described as ‘mealy’. They are small but can reach around 7 mm long and they do reproduce very quickly in warm humid conditions. They attack citrus, succulents, ferns and many other garden plants. Control methods include sprays and predatory controls.
Their are different types of mealybug, they attack different parts and kinds of plants. They reach their peak in warm humid weather, so spring and autumn are prime times.
- Sprays for Mealy Bug Control
Horticultural soap sprays work well, these sprays act by suffocating the insects. You do need to use these during periods of temperatures as in temperatures over 30 – 32C they can cause leaf burn.
You can use dish washing liquid at 4 teaspoons to 1 litre of water, however as dish washing soaps contain perfumes, dyes and other additives than can harm the foliage, horticultural soap solutions using products such as Natrasoap are recommended.
Neem Oil can also be used as a spray, it will kill Mealybugs but also other insects.
Other proprietary sprays are are also available from most nurseries. Pyrethrum sprays will work however can be costly for large infestations.
- Predatory Insect Controls
Both Ladybird beetles and some parasitic wasps can be used as a control method. These can be purchased from online suppliers, in Australia Bug For Bugs is one such supplier. For parasitic wasps also check out www.goodbugs.org.au
- Swab Method This method of control can be used on small infestations with some success. You can use Methylated spirits or Rubbing Alcohol and apply it to the bugs with a cotton swab.
For Homemade Mealybug control – Try this recipe
You will need spray bottle
- 250 ml vegetable oil
- 50 ml dishwashing liquid
- 10 litres of water