Mealy Bugs may look soft, cute and fuzzy like a ball of cotton, but let me tell you, they are lean mean plant destroyers. Mealy Bugs measure in at about 1/10 to 1/8 of an inch long. Mealy Bugs suck the valuable sap from the plant robbing it of the essential nutrients that it needs to grow. It also can inject toxins into the plant. While the mealy Bug is sucking the sap from the plant it excretes honeydew. The honey dew is a perfect place for sooty mold to grow and block the plants photosynthesis from occurring.
There is over 275 species of mealy Bugs in the United States. There are some major differences among species such as the long tail mealy bug gives birth to live crawlers instead of eggs. Wow, can you imagine giving birth to 300-600 babies! And there can be up to four generations of mealy bugs in a year. Armed with that information, let’s get to work and control these bad boys.
Methods Of Control
Repeat all methods of control every 7 days until all mealy bugs are gone, to make sure you get get all crawlers as they hatch. Be careful to watch for ladybugs and lacewings before you treat for mealybugs. All insecticides will harm them.
Water – First line of defense spray off the mealy bugs with a strong spray of water, repeat this every 7 days as the new eggs hatch every 7- 10 days.
Insecticidal Soap – Spray the infected plants with insecticidal soap. I find that this regime works best if you wash heavy concentrations of the bugs off first with a strong blast of water.
Horticultural Oil – Apply the oil early in the morning or in the evening. Do not apply if the temperatures are over 90 or you will burn your plants.
Plant for Beneficials – Obviously this is a proactive approach. If you plant for beneficials ahead of time you can keep the bugs in check. Some plants that are great for beneficials are carrot left to flower, parsley left to flower, dill, fennel, yarrow, lemon balm, cilantro left to flower, catmint, pot marigolds, asters, coneflowers, sunflowers and goldenrod just to name a few. The idea is to interplant them in your garden. Beneficials like the different heights among plants just like in nature. They also like a border, row or hedge that remains permanent so they have a place to overwinter and a place to retreat to in the summer.
Who are the beneficial stars that are going to wipe out this nasty infestation of mealy bugs that you have? Well, we have the tried and true ladybug, green and brown lacewings, mealybug destroyer,parasitic wasps (Leptomastix dactylopii), and there is always the tried and true spider.
Homemade Spray – From Rodale’s Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control. Here is how to make a recipe, combine 1 garlic bulb, 1 small onion, and 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper in a food processor or blender and process into a paste. Mix into 1 quart of water and steep for 1 hour. Strain through a cheesecloth and add 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap. Mix well. The mixture can be stored for up to 1 week in the refrigerator
Rubbing Alcohol – Dip a Q-tip in rubbing alcohol and dab it on the mealy bugs and presto they are gone.
Azadirachtin– Made from the seeds of the Neem tree. Do not apple in temperatures over 90 and apply early morning or evening.
Beauveria bassiana – This is a fungus that is naturally occurring. It acts like a parasite to the insects that are targeted. Therefore it acts like an entomopathogenic fungus
Pyrethrins – Made from the seed cases of the pyrethrum flower which is in the chrysanthemum family.
Verticillium lecanii – This is a naturally occurring entomopathogenic fungus. It kills the insects by internal combustion basically. It takes 4-6 days.
Diatomaceous Earth – Made from skeletons of one celled organisms from the sea.
Rosemary Oil – This comes from a bush that is so abundant here in Texas. Once again spray early morning or evening and do not spray in temperatures over 90.
Garlic Extract – This acts as a deterrent.
Soybean Oil -This works by suffocating the mealy bugs. Once again spray in the morning or evening and do not spray any oil in temps over 90
Pyola – This is a canola and pyrethrum product. The pyrethrum is a quick knockdown and the canola suffocates the insects. Do not spray in temperatures over 90 degree. Spray in the morning or evening.