Combat Mealybugs on Houseplants and Orchids
Mealybugs on houseplants and orchids typically appear as small, oval-shaped insects that are covered with a white, cottony or powdery wax. They are about 1/10 to 1/4 inch in length when fully grown. Here are some characteristics to look for:
1. Color and Texture: Mealybugs are usually light pink, yellowish or pale in color, but because of their waxy covering, they appear white or grayish. The wax can look fluffy or powdery, giving them a “mealy” appearance, which is how they get their name.
2. Shape: They have a somewhat segmented body with a distinct oval shape. They may look like tiny cotton balls or small pieces of cotton wool stuck to the plant.
3. Location: Mealybugs tend to cluster in nooks and crannies of plants, such as leaf axils, stem joints, and under leaves. On orchids, they might be found near the base of the plant or in between the leaves and the stem.
4. Damage: Infested plants may exhibit yellowing leaves, stunted growth, or a general decline in health. Mealybugs also excrete a sticky substance known as honeydew, which can lead to the growth of sooty mold on the leaves.
5. Webbing: In some cases, mealybugs might be surrounded by a light webbing or sticky honeydew, which can attract ants.
If you suspect your houseplant or orchid has mealybugs, it’s important to take action quickly as they can reproduce rapidly and spread to other plants. Treatment often involves physically removing the bugs with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol, applying insecticidal soap, or using neem oil for a more organic approach. Always check the specific care instructions for your type of plant or orchid before applying any treatment.
Combine 1 tablespoon of dish soap with 1 tablespoon of rubbing alcohol and a quart of water and spray down your plant. Test the spray on one leaf before applying to the rest, and repeat every few days as needed.