What to Do for Mealy Bugs on Indoor House Plants

Overview

Mealybugs are white, fluffy-looking bugs that are commonly found on indoor plants. These pests suck the juices from the leaves and stem, causing the plant to wilt and eventually die if left untreated. As they suck, they also excrete a sticky residue, called honeydew, which is often the first sign of a mealy bug infection. Honeydew can attract ants and sooty mold. Mealybugs can move quickly from plant to plant, so get rid of them as soon as you can.

Isolate and Blast

Move your plant immediately away from any other nearby houseplants. Mealybugs spread quickly and this will hopefully isolate the problem and prevent them from infesting any other plants. Take your plant to a location outdoors where you can get it wet. Aim a strong stream of water from a hose or pressure sprayer at the plant and knock off the bugs. Pay particular attention to the undersides of the leaves. The water will work to get rid of many of the adult mealybugs, but the eggs will probably remain. Note that if your house plant has fragile foliage that will not stand up well against a blast of water, you should skip this step.

Pluck

Slip on some gardening or rubber gloves. Soak a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and rub it on each bug or group of eggs (attached with white sticky matter to the leaves) that still remains on the plant. This will kill the bugs. Then, pluck them off by hand. You can also skip rubbing the bugs with the alcohol and pluck them live off the plant instead, then throw them in a cup of water to drown.

Spray

Spray the plant with a homemade, organic insecticide. This is especially effective if you have a very heavy infestation and can't pluck them off by hand. Fill a spray bottle with hot water, and add a few drops of liquid dish soap and a dash of Tabasco sauce or chili pepper sauce. Shake the bottle to combine the ingredients, then spray the plant thoroughly. The soap will suffocate the bugs and eggs, the hot sauce will burn them, and the smell of the hot sauce will deter new bugs from immigrating to the plant. Spray the soil as well to get any bugs that may be hiding in the dirt. Repeat this once a week until the bugs are gone.

Keywords: what to do, mealy bugs, indoor house plants, get rid of

About this Author

April Sanders has been a professional writer since 1998. She has worked as an educator and now writes academic research content for EBSCO Publishing and elementary reading curriculum for Compass Publishing. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in social psychology from the University of Washington and a master's degree in information sciences and technology in education from Mansfield University.

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