Will Mealybugs Kill Your Plants After Infestation?


will mealybugs kill your plants

Ever wondered if Mealybugs kills plants after infestation?

Mealy bugs are some of the most common pests out there. They are mostly common in warmer growing climates as compared to the colder climates. They are particularly known for affecting a plant regardless of its location. They can also affect plants in greenhouses and those that live in the house with you. The worse part about these bugs is that they can even rise along people that are handling the affected plants. If you have noticed that your plants look like they have small pieces of cotton or blotches of powder all over the leaves, you are probably dealing with mealybugs. So, what happens when a plant has actually been affected? 

Will mealy bugs kill your plants?

Yes! if your plants are infested with Mealybugs, your plants will most likely get killed as mealybugs tendency of sucking sap often kills the  plant very easily. These sap feeding pests begin by sucking sap from their host plants, which ends up weakening the plant. During this feeding process, mealy bugs are said to form the waxy coating over their bodies. Also, they secrete honeydew, which attracts ants and can encourage the formation of sooty mold. In due course, the damage causes the leaves to develop a bright yellow color. As a result, the leaves fall off the plant, and will cause new growth to become stunted and the plant will even grow up in a bent manner. Mealy bugs are very easily noticeable when their population gets large enough. If the plants are unattended to or the symptoms of mealy bugs have been ignored, the mealy bugs can eventually kill the plant.

What Do Mealybugs look like and why is Control necessary?

From what we know, mealy bugs are white in color, they are soft-bodied, which gives them a cottony-looking appearance. 

We can describe them as insects that have a very protective waxy coating, and are equipped with sucking mouth parts under their hemiptera.

Mealybugs look a lot like plant scale insects (which we will talk about shortly) and aphids, mainly because they suck the fluids from green leaves and stems. Eventually, the mealybugs rob plants of essential nutrients as well as plant vigor.

Due to the fact that Mealybugs excrete large amounts of honeydew, they make ideal “growing soil” for a black fungus called sooty mold. 

Speaking of which, sooty mold is bad because it interferes with photosynthesis, and it can also lead to the slow or seized growth of the plant. The other downside of sooty mold is that it also caused the leaves to become sticky. Sooty black mold usually fades away after you have removed the mealybug that caused it.

There are many species of mealybugs, just as there is with many other insects. Some of the popular species of mealybugs have been listed below:

  • Grape mealybug 
  • Pink hibiscus mealybug (Maconellicoccus hirsutus) 
  • Obscure mealybug (Pseudococcus viburni) 
  • Vine mealybug 
  • Citrus mealybug (Planococcus citri) 
  • Longtailed mealybug (Pseudococcus longispinus) 
  • Pineapple mealybug 

Where do mealybugs come from?

When mealybugs feed, they naturally start to produce honeydew. Sooner or later, Ants start feeding on the honeydew, so when you see ants stuck on your plants, it may be that your plants have mealybugs. It can take a while for you to actually notice them, but when you are able to seek the white substances, it usually means that the population is just too high.

As such, you should always take some time to examine your houseplants closely for these mealy bugs, just to be on the safe side.

While they are common on the outside, mealybugs do surprisingly well when they are indoors- they are very fond of warm, dry environments. These pests actually have a life cycle of about 30 days. 

Mealy vs. Scale

As we mentioned before, mealybugs are very small, soft-bodied insects. They are famous for producing a white, waxy, cottony material, which helps protect them from heat as well as excessive loss of moisture loss.

Even though they are closely related to scale insects, they can easily be distinguished by their varying colors.

Scale insects are brown in color and they are capable of staying in one place on the plant. On the other hand, mealybugs are visible to the naked eye and can lay eggs without mating. Female mealybug can lay more than a hundred eggs over several days, but they always die soon after laying those eggs. 

The eggs can hatch in about 10 days, producing crawlers that then move to find a feeding spot & develop into adult mealybugs from there.

Controlling and eradicating mealybugs

Mealybugs can really feel like a huge blow to your garden, especially during the growing season when you are expecting to have very beautiful crops. Luckily, there are a couple of steps that you can take to effective control and eliminate the mealybugs.

Kill the Mealybugs on site

Fortunately, mealybugs are susceptible to home remedies, many of which are non-toxic. As such, you won’t have the need to use toxic pesticides in your home just to take care of the mealybugs. 

It is important to act upon the situation as soon as you notice the symptoms of mealy bugs. After you have noticed them, simply use a cotton swab dipped in alcohol on these pests when you see them. The best actor about alcohol is that you don’t have to wait. The alcohol kills them on first contact.

When you are applying alcohol, don’t just treat the obvious ones. Instead, consider inspecting the entire orchid in order to find any that may be lurking in the leaf joints.

Spraying alcohol will help kill off mealybug eggs.

Besides applying the alcohol on your plants’ stems and leaves, you can also consider spraying on the plants instead. 

When you are doing this, make sure you spray it lightly. Heavy spraying can attract unwanted effects. Also, it is recommended that you should spray your plants early in the day as opposed to noon or evening hours. 

Also, make sure that your plants are in an area that has bright, indirect light and good air circulation so that the water and spray will dry thoroughly. The idea is that your orchid leaves should not stay damp for an extended period of time.

If your plants are heavily infected, spraying them wouldn’t be effective enough. You should rinse your plants in Castile or dish soap and water solution. After the rinsing process, you should let your plant dry up. 

However, it is not a good idea to spray or rinse blossoms or buds. But what if the mealybugs have affected that area? If they have, it’s best to sacrifice the blossoms by pruning them off in order to save the plant.

Overall, alcohol or insecticide soaps have a residual effect on the plants. As such, you might need to treat your plants regularly if you want the pests to fully disappear in time.

Neem Oil 

Neem oil is the most recommended solution against mealybugs. Neem oil is a mild solution of an organic pest control product that is safe to use on all plants. 

Before you apply the Neem oil, be sure to read and understand all packaging directions carefully, especially when using the concentrate to make foliar sprays.

Separate Affected Plants from the unaffected ones

When you see a mealybug infestation on one or a few more other plants in your orchid, be sure to separate it from your collection. While it is important to give your plants a great drenching, they also need to be kelp apart during this infestation. Keep your plants apart for a couple of weeks.

You also have to check up on your plants on a daily basis, and treat the mealy bugs in required amounts and as needed by spraying. And don’t let those bugs hide from you. 

So, it is also recommended that you should inspect the base of the stem. Mealy bugs are known to hide in the soil surrounding the plant.

Controlling mealybugs With Beneficial Insects

Using beneficial insects or natural enemies for biological control of mealybugs is another viable option towards eliminating the infestation. 

One of the most killers (nicknamed mealy bug killer) is the beneficial insect, which is also known as the “Mealybug Destroyer” or Cryptolaemus montrouzieri.

Cryptolaemus montrouzieri are actually lady beetles. Unlike lady bugs, the Cryptolaemus montrouzieri like to hang around after release and do not disappear- at least not completely.

Another natural nemesis of the mealybug is the Leptomastix dactylopii mealybugs. Unlike lady bugs, these are actually parasitic wasps that are known to attack the citrus mealybugs.

Conclusion

A mealybug infestation is one of the worst things that can happen to your plants. And mealybugs are indeed able to kill plants. In fact, mealybugs can take out your whole orchid, but you should never let it go this far. There are so many things that you can do to control the infestation, and some of these methods are cheap that you can create your own home remedy. 

You can use this article as your plant care reference on the steps you need to take in order to effectively control and eliminate mealybugs from your orchid. 

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