Mealy bugs are difficult-to-control pests that often infest home ficus trees. To prevent and deal with the extensive damage these pests can cause to the health and aesthetic value of your gardening space, familiarize yourself with what to look for and how to respond. Once a problem occurs, control is a challenge, but there are many methods of regaining the health of your beloved ficus tree.
Trees of the Ficus genus display aesthetically pleasing, thick, shiny, dark green leaves that make a good addition to both indoor and outdoor environments. Often grown as houseplants due to their ease of maintenance, a few minor steps are necessary toward ensuring your plant's vigor for increased resistance and recovery from pest infestations. Grow your ficus tree in areas that provide full sun exposure, according to the University of Minnesota Extension Service. Ficus trees thrive in moist, well-drained soil that is watered consistently once the top few inches of the soil dries out.
Mealy bugs that you find on ficus trees display soft bodies covered in a white waxy substance, according to the University of Connecticut IPM. These small pests measure 1/8 to 1/4 inch in length. Mealy bugs show up near the soil line on plant stems. The presence of the 200 to 600 eggs the female lays is visible as a cotton-like collection on your plant. Once the eggs hatch, infestation populations rise and become apparent as it takes only a few weeks for the nymphs to reach maturity, according to the NC State University Cooperative Extension Service.
Mealy bugs are sucking insects that pierce through plant tissue to suck out the inner fluids, or sap, from the ficus tree plant. These pests create honeydew as they feed, a sugary substance that attracts and creates an ideal environment for the development of sooty mold. Sooty mold is a fungal infection that causes the presence of a blackish mold on foliage surfaces. Mealy bug infestation leads to yellowing of leaves and defoliation as well as malformed plant parts and, in severe cases, death, according to the University of Connecticut IPM.
Natural control is best employed through the release of the predatory ladybird beetle (Cryptolamus montrouzieri). Ladybird beetles hunt and kill mealy bugs without damaging your plant or garden, according to the University of Connecticut IPM. For physical removal, soak a cloth in a warm solution of soap and water; wring the cloth out and wipe mealy bugs from the plant surfaces, advises Purdue Extension.
Chemical control often offers your most effective management solution for this problem, particularly if the mealy bug infestation is severe. If you are growing your ficus trees as indoor plants, spray a chemical with the active ingredient fluvalinate at a rate of 1/8 to 5/8 tsp per each gallon of water. If your ficus is an outdoor tree, spray a chemical containing the active ingredient acephate at a rate of 3 tbsp per gallon of water, according to the NC State University Cooperative Extension Service. Spray your plants once a week until the infestation tapers off.
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