House plants are susceptible to a number of insect pests that usually reach them when they are introduced to new infested plants or placed outdoors for sun. A common type of pest is the mealybug, a white, hard-shelled creature that can do damage to plants. Understand the mealybug and its habits, and learn easy ways to prevent and treat mealybug infestations on your houseplants.
Mealybugs are white, shiny, hard-shelled bugs that cluster on the bottom of the leaves of a plant, usually near the areas where the leaf meets the stem. A severe mealybug infestation may cause leaf yellowing and loss of foliage.
Mealybugs usually come into contact with existing house plant when a new house plant is brought in to the environment. To prevent mealybugs from new house plants, inspect and treat all house plants for the white shiny bugs before placing them near a healthy plant.
Most mealybugs attack plants on their leaves and stems and weaken the plant, but they do not kill the plant. Plants which are particularly susceptible to mealybug infestation include the African violet and many species cacti, which are vulnerable to mealybugs on their roots, according to "The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual" by Barbara Pleasant.
Mealybugs are hard-shelled and do not respond to many pesticide sprays. Mealybugs can be removed from a plant's leaves by plucking the white bugs off the plant with a pair of tweezers. Rubbing the mealybugs with a cotton swab dipped in 70 percent isopropyl alcohol will also kill most mealybugs.
For root mealybug infestations, Pleasant recommends removing the plant from its soil, taking it outdoors, and carefully drenching the roots with an insecticide that is suitable for the plant, such as neem, imidacloprid or carbaryl, followed by repotting the plant in new, clean soil. Never use chemical insecticides indoors. Always read the instructions before using any pesticide.