What is Mealybug?
Mealybug is a sap sucking insect that can rapidly spread throughout a succulent collection and cause very ill plants. Tiny cotton threads can be seen on the foliage. They usually hide in tiny crevices and reproduce rather quickly. Many people use methylated spirits on a cotton bud or white oil to remove them however once they are there it is very difficult to remove entirely.
These little guys don't stop at the foliage. They can also infest your roots.
Root Mealybug spreads like wild fire once it gets hold in your pots. And unfortunately you don't know it is there because it is on the roots of your plant. Tip your plant over and take the pot off. They look like white cotton throughout the potting medium. Eventually they can kill your plant and can easily spread to all of your collection.
What are the signs?
If you see Ants hanging around your pots there is a good chance that there are Mealybug or some other sap sucking insect like scale attacking your plant. Most sap sucking insects including Mealybug, excrete a sticky residue, and this is what the ants are attracted to. Contrary to popular belief, removing the ant problem is not going to get rid of the Mealybug. Get rid of the Mealybug and the ants will disappear for they will not have anything to feed apon.
How do I keep Mealybug away from my collection?
Prevention is by far the best solution:
- Avoid using second hand pots. Mealybug can be transferred from the pot to the plant.
- Never use second hand potting mix.
- If you find they are infested on the roots throughout your plant, take cuttings (as long as the foliage is free of them) and throw your plant in the rubbish.
- If the Mealybug is on the foliage, isolate the plant from your other plants and apply a systemic pesticide, alcohol spray or soapy emulsion. If they are seriously infested, throw the plant out. It is just not worth the risk. Apply the pesticide to your other succulents at the same time for a preventative measure.
Good hygiene when handling your plants is very important. Also, keep your plants healthy with regular feeding, sufficient water, adequate light and excellent drainage. All this and the occasional application of a seaweed solution helps the plant defend itself against Mealybug by helping to build strong cell walls. If the insect can't penetrate the strong thick cell walls they can't feed. Healthy Plants are happy plants and are generally bug free!