Mealybugs are among the most common pests found to cause trouble for succulents. The tiny bugs are most often found on indoor succulents as they thrive in more temperate temperatures. In this guide, we’ll tell you everything there is to know about these pests and, most importantly, how to get rid of them.
Where Do They Come From?
There’s no exact cause for mealybug infestation but the two most common culprits can be summed down to overwatering and the over use of certain fertilisers.
The bugs can be hard to find as they’re usually tucked away at the base of a succulents leaves near the stem. Don’t be fooled that your cactus is mealybug free just because you can’t see them. If you notice a fluffy white substance anywhere on your plant, it’s a sure tell sign it’s infested. Another sign that a succulent is home to mealybugs, is misshaped, smaller, or indented new growth. This is often a result of the insects feeding at the base of the plant, leeching valuable nutrients.
The most annoying thing about these pests isn’t even the damage they cause, but the rate at which they spread. This is why it is so important to treat a mealybug infestation as soon as possible. Slow response may not just kill your succulent but also infect any other one of your plants unfortunate to be close by.
How To Get Rid Of Them
If your succulents are unfortunate enough to cross paths with mealybugs, don’t panic. There are quite a few ways to rid your plant of these pests. Some ways in which you can do this include:
- Using plant insecticide
- Using isopropyl alcohol
- Using ladybirds
Let’s discuss each of these methods in detail below.
Before You Begin
As mentioned earlier, mealybugs can spread quite rapidly in an indoor environment before you begin to remove these bugs, its best to move your infected succulent away from your other plants.
Using Plant Insecticide
Plant insecticide is probably the first thing that pops up in people’s minds when dealing with a pest infestation. Given the full range of pesticides available to choose between, picking the right one is a challenge in itself.
The best plant insecticides are most often ones that are entirely organic such as pure Neem oil. thats not to say chemical pesticides don’t work, it’s just that they may pose a threat to insects other than the pest you’re trying to control. Many plant insecticides are even banned in individual states due to the damage they cause to bees and other beneficial bugs.
Also, make sure your insecticide is compatible with your species of succulent. You don’t want to end up doing more damage to your succulent than the bugs themselves.
Using Isopropyl Alcohol
Alcohol is a great way to deal with mealybugs and it’s also a much cheaper option compared to insecticides.
All you have to do is use a spray bottle to spray 70% isopropyl alcohol directly on to the mealybugs. As the bugs can be hard to spot, make sure to saturate every inch of the plant, including the tricky areas between the leaves and the base of the stem. The bugs should die quickly, and you may notice the white cotton-like substance fade before your eyes.
Once you’re done, wait a few minutes for the alcohol to evaporate before washing the dead mealybugs out with a reliable stream of water. While the bugs should die upon first use, you may have to give it another go after a few days if you notice them return.
Alcohol is relatively safe to use on succulents, but if you notice any sign of burns or damage, you can use 50% alcohol rather than 70%.do what suits your specie of succulent best.
Yeah, you read that correctly, ladybirds can be used to fight mealybugs! Ladybirds are a natural predator to mealybugs, so placing a few on your succulent should rid it of the pests in no time.
The best thing about using ladybirds is that there’s no chemical involved, so the chance of hurting your succulent in any way is zero. What’s more, is that the bugs are experts at tracing mealy bugs down and can reach every nook and cranny of the plant where they may be hiding.
With ladybirds patrolling the plant there’s also less risk of the pests returning so that’s one less thing to worry about.
How to prevent a mealybug infection
Once you’re done getting rid of mealybugs, you want to make sure you never have to deal with them again. You can do this by taking the following preventive measures:
1. Water your succulent moderately
Overwatering succulents can lead to a whole range of issues, a mealybug infestation being one of them. Excess water can result in root rot, which is one of the things mealybugs are attracted to.
2. Keep your succulents’ environment clean
Mealybugs spread fast, so if your other indoor plants are infected, your succulent has a good chance of being affected too. Regularly inspects your plant’s environment and make sure all infected plants are timely quarantined.
3. Don’t over fertilize
Succulents generally don’t need much fertilizer to grow strong and healthy. Over fertilized soil in actually counterproductive to succulent development as it creates an ideal environment for pests, including mealybugs.
Mealy bugs aren’t the only critters out to get your succulent be on the lookout for some of these other pests:
- Slugs and snails.
- Red spider mites.
Even some rodent and birds can be a nuisance for these plants, so watch out for those too.
Follow these tips regularly, and your succulent should go on to live a long and healthy life and remember pests aren’t the only danger to your succulents. Be sure to give your plants the right amount of light and water to help it thrive. Keep in mind the best gardeners are both patients and vigilant.