Are you dealing with icky mealybugs on succulents in your home or garden? Learn how to get rid of mealybugs quickly before they kill your succulents!
Luckily, getting rid of them is not a difficult or expensive process. In fact, you might already have everything you need right in your bathroom cabinet.
Before we get down to the details of eliminating mealybugs, though, it’s important to understand WHY they’re so bad for your plants, how to identify them before they get out of control, and how to prevent them in the future.
Let’s get started!
Mealybugs on Succulents – What are They?
While we all love succulents for their incredibly low-maintenance qualities, mealybugs are something that succulent-growers need to be on the look-out for throughout the year.
They’re the #1 culprit!
You may have seen these bugs on your plants before but you may not have realized they were insects. You may have mistaken them for fungus or mildew.
Here’s the good news, though: if you squirm at the very sight of ugly, long-legged insects, you won’t have to face that problem with this type of bug.
Mealybugs don’t actually look like your regular old insects – hooray!
They actually look more like tiny little cotton balls. They’re easier to spot on darker-leafed succulents but they’re pretty apparent on all types because they grow and spread quickly.
By definition, mealybugs are soft-skinned and sap-sucking scale insects that multiply and form colonies if not quickly controlled.
They bite into plant tissue to feed off the succulents’ sap which is why they’re often referred to as “plant-sucking pests”.
As they eat the sap, they release honeydew onto your succulent leaves that can promote rot and attract other bugs, too, like ants.
Unfortunately, female mealybugs can plant hundreds of eggs with every excrement so getting rid of these bugs as soon as you see them is CRUCIAL to the survival of your plant.
I find that they come about because of over-watering and soggy soil. This seems to be the perfect breeding ground for them, especially if the pot is kept out of direct sun where the soil takes much longer to dry out if over-watered.
How to Identify Mealybugs on Succulents
Mealybugs are not hard to spot if you regularly inspect your succulents. If you see little mounds of white cotton-like balls on the leaves of your plant, you have a mealybug infestation.
See the ghost plant succulent below? It was attacked by mealybugs. You can see the white mounds in between the leaves and on the crown of the plant.
Also, notice the ants on the leaves? Keep in mind that where there are mealybugs, there are ants, too! They seem to go hand-in-hand. So if you see ants crawling over your succulents, check for other bugs, too.
It could be a sign that something’s not right.
How to Get Rid of Mealybugs on Succulents
Here’s some more good news: you don’t have to go out and purchase an expensive insecticide that’s full of harmful chemicals.
You don’t even have to bother with making your own natural insecticide at home. So what do you need to get a handle on your mealybug problem?
Rubbing alcohol, a few cotton swabs, and a spray bottle or watering can…that’s it!
Here’s the process:
1. Spot the mealybug (white cotton-like mounds on your plant)
It’s important to take action after you notice these little white mounds on your succulents because they love to spread out.
Make sure to check in spots that are not in plain view, such as the undersides of leaves and in the crevices where the leaves and stem connect.
You’ll be surprised at how well these little sappers can hide!
2. Isolate the infested succulents so the infestation doesn’t spread to your other pots and plants.
When bugs get a hold of a plant, it’s always a good idea to isolate the infected plant and pot.
Mealybugs spread very quickly, so acting fast can help prevent them from overtaking your otherwise healthy plants.
If your succulents are in a pot, move the pot away from your other potted plants.
Once you’ve treated the infested succulent, you can move it back to where you had it. I suggest waiting a few days after treating it to make sure the bugs don’t come back.
3. Dip a cotton swab into rubbing alcohol and swipe away at the mealybugs until they come off your leaves.
This gets the bugs off your plant and starts the healing process. But you’re not done.
Check up on your plant every day to make sure that the mealybugs are completely gone. Remember to keep your succulent away from your other plants during this time.
4. To be on the safe side, use a spray bottle filled with rubbing alcohol to spritz and drench your plant.
Don’t worry – the rubbing alcohol will not harm your succulent, but it will kill the mealybugs and stop them from spreading. You can repeat this process every day until you see no further signs of bugs.
When you do this, you’ll notice that the alcohol goes to work immediately.
The remains of the dead bugs might turn into small, brown-ish particles that you can simply brush away with a small brush (I use an old makeup brush for this!).
However, you’ll likely need to repeat this process over the next few days to make sure you totally get rid of the problem.
5. For a very large infestation, try adding rubbing alcohol to your watering can the next time you water.
The alcohol will kill any eggs and bugs that are in the soil while leaving your roots unharmed.
Fortunately, alcohol evaporates quickly, so you don’t run the risk of exposing your succulent leaves to too much moisture.
This will be your last chance to save your infested succulents from mealybugs.
If you don’t see improvement in your plant within the next few days, then I’m afraid it’s time to toss it out.
Make sure you throw out both the plant and the soil, and completely disinfect the pot if you’re going to reuse it.
If you follow these steps, your succulents should be fine and free of bugs with little effort and expense on your part!
If you’d liked to learn how to water your succulents, please check out my in-depth post here. If you need a refresher on how to care for succulents, then this post is for you!