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Mealy Bugs: Controlling A Mealybug Infestation

Mealy bugs (Pseudococcidae)

Mealy bugs (or Mealybugs) (Pseudococcidae). 

There are a few ways to get rid of these common garden pests.

But before I get into ways of controlling Mealy bugs, find out why we get them in the first place.

The females are white, soft-body cotton-like insects that love warm, moist climates. They can lie anywhere from 100-200 eggs (except the long-tailed mealy bug that give birth to live nymphs) and reproduce 2-4 generations each year.

Males have wings and are rarely seen. They rarely feed and their sole existence is to mate.

They will invade your garden, house plants and anywhere they find climate conditions that are similar to subtropics, greenhouses, etc.

They are closely related to scale insects but don’t develop the hard scale shell.


Besides attacking the leaves and stems, Root Mealybugs will attack the roots of your plants. Read more about them below.

Mealy Bug Food Source

Mealy Bug Food Source

Mealy bugs are usually found feeding in places they can hide, like where stems and leaves are touching, in crotches of the stem, etc.

They feed on the new growth of leaves and stem juices, sucking the nutrients out of the plant making them weak and causing the leaves to curl and turn yellow and fall off the plant.

They can also cause flower bud, fruit and vegetables to drop from the plant before they are ripe.

Mealy bugs become a real problem when ants are around because ants will protect these bugs from predators and parasites so they can feed on the sweet sap (Honeydew) left behind.

These common garden pests will crawl from plant to plant in search of food. They will hide in joints of benches, under the lips of pots and other places where they won’t be seen. They will stay there until they find another host plant to feed on.

Types of Mealy Bugs

Types of Mealy Bugs

There are many different types of Mealy bugs but they all look similar and the cure is the same.

There are 2 main types of Mealy bugs found in Ontario:

  • citrus (Planococcus citri)
  • long tailed (Pseudococcus longispinus)


Citrus Mealybugs are found on Ornamental plants, vegetables and fruit.

Longtail Mealybugs feed on tropical fruits and tropical ornamentals imported from hotter climates. Here in the north they are mostly found in greenhouses. When they become pregnant they keep the eggs inside them until they hatch and give birth to live nymphs.

Mealy Bug Life Cycle 

Nymphs are born from a waxy coated egg sac laid from the female which take 10 days to hatch. The first stage of the nymph or crawler is called 1st instars and they are very hard to spot without a magnifying glass. 

The 2nd instars are salmon to whitish coloured and are a little easier to spot as they crawl around inside the bark of the plant.

As they become adults their waxy bodies turn white and they start moving around the outside of the plants. They will have 2 filaments sticking out behind them which can sometimes be used to identify them.

How to Get Rid Of Mealy Bugs

  • If you have a small infestation of them you can prune your plants to get rid of Mealybugs.
  • Just like with aphids, you can rub the leaves and stems or just pick them off of the plant to squish them.
  • Another way to get rid of Mealy bugs is to use rubbing alcohol and water on a q-tip or cotton ball and rub these common garden pests to kill them.
  • You can also use rubbing alcohol and dish soap which you can spray on the plant.
  • Neem oil or horticultural oil can also be mixed with rubbing alcohol and be applied to the infected plants by either q-tip or a spray bottle.
  • Other natural ways are to use a bug blaster. It’s a steady 360 degree stream of water to spray both the top and bottom of the leaves. Although this way isn’t one hundred percent effective, it will kill about 70% of the adult and all the young pests. 

 Have other ways to get rid of these common garden pests? Let us know here.

Mealybug destroyers can be used to get rid of them.

  • Ladybugs
  • Mealybug destroyers
  • Cryptobug-L (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri)
  • Spiders
  • minute pirate bugs
  • larvae of predaceous midges
  • green and brown lacewing

These predators will kill Mealy bugs.

Root Mealybug (cataenococcus ensete)

Root Mealybugs are very hard to spot. They are mixed into the soil around the roots of your plants which is what they feed on.

It will look like there are cobwebs in the soil around the roots.

To prevent these common garden pests:

  • Always inspect your plants before you buy them.
  • If it is root bound it can encourage Root Mealybugs.
  • Always use clean pots and soil when replanting
  • Bag any infected soil and dispose of in the garbage
  • Be careful not to let water from infected plants leak out as the young Mealybugs will infect other nearby plants.

To kill these bugs on the roots try putting the roots in hot water (about 120 degrees F) for a few seconds. This will kill any bugs that are attached to the roots.

You can also try mixing 1 part hydrogen peroxide without any additives to 5 parts water. You will want to make sure all of the soil gets very wet. The hydrogen peroxide should fizzle and that is what will kill the root Mealybugs.

Or you can dispose of the plant, pot and soil into the garbage to prevent further infection.

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