Houseplant Pests: Mealybugs

Houseplant owners will know the pain of discovering a pest infestation; there is that moment you recognize a pest and then utter a loud “no!”  I recently had this moment as I discovered mealybugs on several of my houseplants. 

small fuzzy white insets on house plants are mealybugs
Ugh!  Mealybugs!  Photo by Laura Iles.

Mealybugs can be managed by noticing them quickly and killing them by hand with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol or with an insecticide (including soap-based products) labeled for mealybug control on your specific houseplant.  You can also use both methods as neither will kill 100% of mealybugs. 

I check plants closely for pests at least once a week.  Once a pest like mealybugs is found I plan to take an hour or so each week to carefully check each plant and kill mealybugs with an alcohol-soaked swab.  Searching plants takes time because they are usually beneath leaves, stems, or at the base of leaf petioles and are not readily visible.  To see a mealybug up close and the alcohol swab check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/1Lw2deHIpTU

For new photos of mealybugs and more information check out our Mealybug encyclopedia page https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/mealybugs and if you want to see some videos of my other pest problems check out spider mites on my Calathea https://youtube.com/shorts/21lT1aAHsP8?feature=share  and scale insects that have gotten on my Haworthia and cacti: https://youtube.com/shorts/3q9CloRZcyw?feature=share

Finally, to learn more about succulents (a common meal for mealybugs) check out our Indoor Succulent Care information. https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/indoor-succulent-care

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