How to Get Rid of Mealy Bugs

Mealybugs are tiny, soft-bodied insects surrounded by a fuzzy white mass. They are usually found around plant stems and leaves. They cause damage by sucking the juice from their host plants. Over time, their damage causes the leaves to yellow and eventually drop from the plant.

Credit: John Tann /

Credit: John Tann /

Although harsh chemical pesticides can be used to destroy mealybug infestations, there are alternative ways to get rid of them. The first and foremost method is to wash them away. Mealybugs can be dislodged from plants with a steady stream of water. A few blasts from a high-pressure garden hose can do the trick. Repeat as many times as necessary until you are sure the plant is bug-free.

The second method is to treat the plant with soap. There are commercially available insecticidal soaps, as well as home-brewed concoctions that work just as well. To make a home-brewed insecticidal soap, mix 10 ml of fragrance-free mild liquid soap to a gallon of water, mix well, and spray on affected areas. Be careful not to use this concoction on vegetables and fruits however, as soap can be harmful if ingested.

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Last but not least, you can remove mealybugs mechanically by wiping down your plants with cloth or paper towels soaked in rubbing alcohol. Make sure you squish the bugs as you go – the point is to kill them, not remove them from the plant. If any bugs or eggs fall off make sure you kill them as well, before they make their way back to the affected plant. Gather all the discarded paper towels or cloth in a plastic bag, tie it tightly, and throw it away with the non-recyclables.