Mealybugs On Succulents: How to Identify the Problem and Fix It

So you bring home this beautiful succulent, but suddenly it stops being beautiful. You notice that the new growths are deformed or that there is a white or greyish cloud with tiny bugs crawling up and down your plant. Unfortunately, you have unlocked a new challenge: mealybugs on succulents.

But you don’t need to be intimidated. You can always find pesticides in gardening stores, but you’ll be saving yourself a lot of money with these proven remedies that I am about to share!

Close up of a succulent

What Are Mealybugs?

Mealybugs got their name from the white powdery wax coating they have that deters potential predators. An adult female of most species of mealybugs lays about 100 to 200 eggs in a span of 10 to 20 days. And some species reproduce asexually, which is why completely getting rid of them takes a long time and dedication.

How To Detect a Mealybug Infestation On Your Succulents

Mealybugs seemingly appear out of nowhere and suck the life of your succulents. Technically, they live on the succulents’ sap stealing the stored nutrients, which then ends with the plant dying when left untreated.

This is why I recommend checking on your plants regularly even when they appear to be fine. Mealybugs can hang out even in the tiny crevices between tightly packed leaves of Aeonium tabuliforme, making it difficult to notice early signs of infestation.

Look out for a whitish or greyish cottony substance right in the middle of your rosette-type succulents or around the base of the new leaves for other types of succulents. This is an obvious sign of a mealybug infestation.

Sometimes, this sign appears much later after you notice deformed new leaves, which is a symptom of microscopic pests. Yes, without a microscope, you can’t really say that there are no mealybugs on your succulents.

Some species can even be found on the roots, which makes it even more difficult to notice their presence and to start with early treatments. That’s why professional succulent gardeners know better than to shrug off deformations on the new growths.

And the first thing that you should do when you notice these signs and symptoms is to isolate your infested plants.

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

We don’t have a consensus as to why mealybugs appear on our plants. Most succulent gardeners, however, agree that overwatering and overfertilizing can summon this plague. Additionally, inspecting and quarantining new plants prevents or at least controls their spread.

Mealybugs are also more common on indoor plants because of the temperature, but that does not mean that keeping your succulents outdoors spares them from mealybugs.

As a preventive measure, you can use remedies from this list below every other week to deter mealybugs from eating your plants away.

Read more: How to Water Succulents Without Drainage

5 Efficient Ways To Treat Mealybugs

Your local gardening supply stores probably have convenient solutions for mealybugs. But you really do not have to spend that much if you can use what you already have at home. With chemical pest controls, you also have to be very careful with the dosage.

You don’t want to exterminate the bugs and find yourself facing another problem, namely chemical burns, on your precious succulents.

As such, I only recommend store-bought pesticides as the last resort when the infestation cannot be exterminated by the following remedies.

1. Mechanical Pressure

Using a spray bottle or a wash bottle can flush adult mealybugs. This has to be done daily until the last eggs of the colony are washed off.

To prevent the plant from drowning, you may need to unpot it. It’s also possible to remove the plant from the soil while it’s being treated.

This solution is cost-effective and practically free if you already own an empty spray bottle lying around the house. However, this method only works on sturdy types of succulents. Some succulent leaves might fall off if this method is applied to their delicate parts.

2. Vinegar

Vinegar

You might want to turn to your kitchen cupboard to tackle mealybugs and save money on expensive pesticides.

Vinegar’s acidity dissolves the bug’s waxy coating, which eventually causes their death. For this, you need to add 300ml of vinegar to a liter of water. Note that you might have to adjust the ratio depending on the severity of the mealybug infestation.

Spray the solution onto your plant every two days until it becomes mealybug-free.

3. Dish Soap and Oil

Another cupboard remedy is using some dish soap and oil. To create the remedy, mix 2 tablespoons of cooking oil, preferably vegetable oil, and 1 tablespoon of dish soap into a liter of water. I recommend spraying the soap and oil mixture on the plant once a week to remove the bugs.

Some gardeners say that using this soap-oil solution has the downside of stripping your succulent off its beautiful coating. I found out that rinsing it with water helps solve this unwanted side effect. So leave the solution for 2 hours, and then rinse it with water.

You might also want to switch out cooking oil with neem oil, which brings many benefits to your plants including the treatment of various plant diseases. At least then you won’t have to rinse it!

When opting for neem oil, 100 ml into a litter of water does the job. Do not forget to add 1 tablespoon of dish soap to help the oil stick to the surface of your plant.

Also Check: Simple and Effective Ways to Treat and Prevent Fungus on Succulents

4. Isopropyl Alcohol

Alcohol is a pretty efficient remedy for mealybugs.

50% Isopropyl Alcohol is recommended for more sensitive plants while a 70% strength should do it for more stubborn colonies on sturdier plants. There’s minimal risk in using alcohol because it evaporates quickly enough to prevent any permanent damage to your plants.

Alcohol can be applied to q-tips to gently scrub mealybugs off your plants. The alcohol dissolves the bug’s white waxy covering and drowns the bug to death. You can then follow it up with our first method in this list, mechanical pressure, to wash off the dead mealybugs.

I recommend using a spray bottle because it’s more time-efficient, especially if you are treating many plants. Usually, spraying alcohol the first time is enough to eliminate the adult mealybugs.

For safety measures, you should observe your plant in the following days as eggs may hatch in a day or two to replace the colony. You can then repeat the process of spraying alcohol until there are no longer any signs of mealybugs.

5. Ladybugs

Two  ladybugs on a succulent leaf

Of course, there’s always a natural and organic route to exterminating bugs. You can place your order of ladybugs from Amazon if your local gardening supply stores do not have them.

Ladybugs prey on mites, aphids, mealybugs, and other small pests without compromising your succulents.

Also, their color is a very welcome aesthetic. This remedy might take some time to bring noticeable changes, but it’s definitely worth a shot if you prefer natural remedies and minimal effort. Let the ladybugs win your battle against those pesky mealybugs!

You can also lure ladybugs and other beneficial insects into your garden using this product. It’s non-toxic and safe to use around children and pets.

The Takeaway

Mealybugs are common problems to succulent keepers, and they can’t be taken lightly because they easily spread. However, it does not cost much to treat them in the early stages of the infestation. You can use what you already have at home without having to turn to store-bought pesticides.