Mealybug: how to fight and treat your plants?

Some plants are particularly vulnerable to attack by mealybugs. These are capable of completely covering a plant or shrub in just a few days, creating considerable damage. It is therefore imperative to treat the plants concerned to fight against the mealybug. But the creature couldn’t be tougher and the fight is difficult. It is even sometimes a real hell. Zoom on the mealybug and the best solutions to get rid of it effectively.

What is the mealybug?

Mealybug belongs to the family of Pseudococcidae which consists of a good thousand species of mealybugs. Mealy is the one we see on many of our plants (indoor and outdoor). You would have to live in Antarctica or the Arctic to be almost free from this scourge – at least outdoors – because the cochineal is everywhere in the world. She likes them hot and humid atmospheres where it is developing at full speed. In France, the mealybug is omnipresent.

Cet biting-sucking hemipteran insect settles on certain plants and the female feeds on their sap. It is therefore a insecte polyphage. Its proliferation is quickly spotted by the presence of a kind of white, cottony mass on the leaves, in the armpits and on the stems.

What are the most popular plants of mealybugs

These are undoubtedly the citrus who pay the cost of the cochineal invasion. And this citrus-loving variety ranks among the worst pests. But the mealybug spares neither orchids, nor Anthuriums, nor shrubs with red fruits. It also attacks ferns, crotons, different species of ficus, papayas, cacti, roses, kalanchoes, and even (it’s a shame) certain varieties of carnivorous plants! Unfortunately, this list is far from exhaustive.

There are different mealybugs like that of the vine (Pseudococcus affines) which also ravages passionflower and tomato plants, that of the orange tree (Planococcus citri) devastating citrus fruits but also fruit trees, numerous leguminous plants as well as certain ornamental plants, or that of greenhouses (Pseudococcus longispinus) which is also called the long-tailed mealybug.

In any case, you should be aware thatit only takes one infested plant when purchased to contaminate all those in the house or garden that are susceptible to attack by mealybugs. You must therefore be particularly vigilant when choosing plants in a garden center or other because there is no question of introducing this sworn enemy into its plant setting…

The different forms of control against the mealybug

We must act at the first signs that suggest the invasion of a plant by mealybugs. There are three ways to get rid of it, namely:

  • By chemical control,
  • Through biological control,
  • By home solutions.

Chemical control of mealybug

Here, it is a question of resorting to a chemical product of the type systemic insecticide. In this category, we find for example:

  • Le thiaclopridean organochlorine insecticide,
  • L’imidaclopridea powerful pesticide that Agriculture has been using all over the world for about thirty years,
  • The dimethoatean insecticide that belongs to the category of organophosphorus products and is none other than a neurotoxin.

These treatments penetrate the shell of pests and attack their nervous system. It goes without saying that these mealybug control chemicals are certainly effective, but are not without causing problems at the ecological level. They are indeed toxic for beneficial insects and animals in general as well as for humans.

Resorting to this type of product is however possible provided that it is not on a large scale, and that theutilisation either only punctual. We can thus eradicate, for example, all mealybugs that invade indoor plants. This allows you to save your plants and consequently, many hours of work spent caring for them so that they are beautiful and healthy.

Biological control of mealybug

In order to spare human health, that of animals and more broadly our environment, it is amply recommended to give preference to natural solutions to get rid of scale insects. It’s possible. To do this, we then opt for biological control using, for example:

  • Green Chrisopus (Chrysoperla carnea), a neuroptera which, in the larval state, attacks adult mealybugs. This is one hell of a mealybug predator that we can therefore invite with open arms… There are approximately 300 lacewing eggs to biologically treat between 6 and 12 plants.
  • The Ladybugsbeetles that feed on mealybugs but also aphids among others (just to kill two birds with one stone if necessary),
  • The Hymenoptera among which :
    • Pseudaphycus maculipennis
    • Anagyrus fusciventris,
    • Anagyrus pseudococci,
    • Metaphycus flavus,
    • Encarsia citrina,
    • Coccidoxenoides perminutus,
    • Coccophagus scutellaris…

The use of these garden friends can hardly be done in the house or apartment. This biological control is therefore reserved for all plants that are grown outdoors, on the terrace, the balcony or in the ground and of which the mealybugs are fond.

Treating the mealybug naturally gives excellent results if the right predators are chosen. It is therefore imperative ask a specialist in a garden center for example or with a passionate and serious landscaper to be guided towards the most effective solution possible.

Homemade recipes to treat plants invaded by mealybugs

There are many homemade recipes known for ages that can be prepared in a few minutes in order to eliminate, at least in part, this type of vermin which inexorably attacks plants. Here’s how:

  • 1time solution: Dip a cotton swab inmethylated spirit mixed with a small amount of water and then pass it over the affected plant parts.
  • 2th solution: Pour into a spray bottle exclusively reserved for this use 100 cl of warm water, 2 tablespoons of methylated spirit, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Shake well then after total cooling of the preparation, spray the plants invaded by mealybugs. The application must be repeated several times until the disappearance of the hemipteran insects. Note that rubbing alcohol can very well be replaced by White vinegar and vegetable oil by real black soap.

Finally, in case of very strong attack of mealybugsand if the various control solutions that we have adopted have not made it possible to annihilate all of these insect pests, it is necessary – even if it is heartbreaking – very severely cut back the plants concerned. This is essential to eliminate infested branches and twigs and avoid contamination of other plants.

Photo credit: Chamaiporn Buamas, Department of Agriculture, Thailand

Leave a Comment