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MealyBugs & How To Treat Them!

Mealybugs are common pest on cacti and other houseplants. They are soft-bodied insects that feed on plant sap. They appear as tiny, white, cottony masses on the cactus. If you observe more than one on your plant, this usually means they are mature reproducing adults, as they are hard to spot with the naked eye when young. They can weaken the plant and cause yellowing or wilting, left untreated they will kill your plant and quickly spread to others. Below are ways steps and treatments you can try depending on the level of infestation and the type of treatment you would prefer to use,

Isolate the infected Cactus: As soon and you notice mealy bugs on your cactus its essential to isolate the plants from other nearby, Mealybugs can spread quickly so keeping it contain will prevent it spreading to other plant.

Repotting: It is always a good idea to repot the cactus a using fresh well-draining, sterile potting mix when you have a mealybug problem, with root mealies I find it essential to do this step. Carefully remove all of the soil in the pot and around the root system. I will normally leave the cactus unpotted for 24-48hrs before repotting. If potting into the same pot please remember to sterilize the pot before repotting. You can do this using rubbing alcohol or filling the pot with boiling water to kill any remaining bugs or eggs inside the pot.

Rubbing Alcohol: You can use a cotton swap dipped in rubbing alcohol to gently remove the pest from the plants surface. Dab the mealybugs with the alcohol-soaked swap to kill them. I find this method great if you have a few rouge mealies, however this can be very time consuming with a larger infestation and may not be treating a deeper issue.

Neem Oil: This is an effective and organic solution for controlling mealybugs. Dilute neem oil with water according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Spray it directly onto the affect areas of the cactus. Neem oil works by disrupting the pest’s life cycle and acting as a repellent.

Systemic Insecticides: These are chemicals that are absorbed by the plant and transported throughout its tissues, including the roots, and bodies of your cactus. It will also reach the leaves if you are treating other houseplants or succulents. They are Idea for controlling pests in hard to see/reach places so are great for mealy and scale. It provides a long-lasting protection as the plant distributes the chemical internally. It is important that you do not use this method outside of the growing period as the cactus will not be taking much if anything in through its system, this method will not be affective. Please remember these are chemicals that can cause harm to yourself or your plant if used incorrectly so always follow the manufactures instructions and where protection when applying. Keeping pets and children away from treated plants.

Insecticidal Soap/Spray: You can use insecticidal soap or spray to treat soft bodies pests like mealybugs and aphid and not affective against pest like scale. This works on contact so it is a good idea to thoroughly cover the whole cactus, paying special attention to the affected areas. As mealies are normally covered in a cottony like protective layer it’s a good idea to wash or pull away as much of this layer for the best results. Considered safe for most plants and cactus, it is still a good idea to test a small area before treating the whole plants, this helps identify any adverse reactions before fully treating. Always follow the instruction on the product label.

Natural Predators: Lady Bugs/Lady Bettles are perhaps the most well-know predators of mealybugs. Both adult and their larvae are voracious feeders of soft bodies pest like mealy bugs. They consume a large number of mealybugs in a short period making them valuable allies in pest control. Other natural predators like green lacewings and predatory mites can also be affective in the control on mealybugs.

Regularly inspect your cacti to catch any pest problems early on, quickly intervention is key to preventing severe damage and quickest treatment. Additionally maintaining proper growing conditions around lighting and watering will help keep your cacti healthy and more resistant to pests.

Remember, its crucial to be persistent with the treatment and monitoring the cactus for any signs of reinfestation. It may take a few rounds or combination of treatments to completely eradicate mealies from a plant. Additionally checking neighbouring plants for any signs of mealy bugs (even after you have isolated and are treating the infected cacti) will help stop the spread of to your other plants

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