Mealybug Insects and How to Control Them on Your Houseplants

by | Oct 30, 2019 | 4 comments

Is mealybug control possible? That is a great question. I wish they would fall off the face of the earth. They are so annoying! These pictures are of mealybugs that infested my cardboard plant, Zamia furfuracea. 

Mealybug on a leaf with the damage from it showing.
Mealybug with another kind of scale
Here is a mealybug and armored scale
Many mealybugs in different stages on this leaf.

Early detection key to mealybug control

As you can see below on this aglaonema, two mealybugs are visible. That does not mean there isn’t more hiding under the leaf or in the axils of the leaves. There may be eggs getting ready to hatch. 

Check your plants often so you can catch the problem early. A couple of mealybugs would be simple to get rid of compared to hundreds.

Mealybuig on aglaonema
Just one adult and one baby mealybug on this aglaonema leaf
Mealybug on cardboard plant
Mealybug on the stem of a cardboard plant stem

Mealybug control

Those are some great pictures of mealybugs in all their terrible glory. I have a bad problem. What am I going to do?

Well, this is what I did. First I grabbed the rubbing alcohol and some cotton swabs. I touched each one with a swab doused in rubbing alcohol. It dries the insect out. I touch them, but also try to wipe them off with the swab.

rubbing alcohol
Use rubbing alcohol and cotton swabs to touch each bug
Killing mealybugs
Touch each mealybug with a cotton swab soaked in alcohol
Mealybugs just suck! LITERALLY!

Second Line of Defense

The next line of defense I used was a systemic insecticide. I used Bonide Systemic Houseplant Insect Control.

Bonide Houseplant Insecticide
Bonide Systemic Houseplant Insect Control makes the whole plant poisonous

This is a granular product. Sprinkle onto the potting medium, scratch it in a bit, and then water in. The chemical is then drawn up into the plant and makes the plant poisonous to the insect. It also makes it poisonous to everything else that may chew on the leaves.

I would be very careful using this if you have small kids around. Or in my case, Henry the crazy jungle kitty who loves my plants.

This is a chemical control. I could have used Neem oil as well, but I am not going to lie to you-the plant is now in the trash. It was too far gone and I wasn’t as consistent as I should have been with the q-tips and alcohol. Remember, there are eggs hatching even after you think you have wiped off all the bugs. So repeat as needed.

Update on mealybug control

I recently listened to a webinar about mealybugs and was surprised to hear that systemic insecticides aren’t all that effective on mealy bugs. So bummed.

So now I think I’m going to wipe with alcohol, use insecticidal soap and try an all-seasons oil, too. What do you use for mealybugs that has worked?

Neem oil

Neem oil is a product derived from the neem tree. When sprayed on the infested plant,  it suffocates the insects. It is also a natural product and I have sprayed it on my plants in the house in a closed-off room. with no ill effects. 

Neem oil is an insecticide, miticide, and fungicide so a multipurpose product. This zamia also had armored scale as you can see in one of the pictures, so it was doomed. I didn’t want it to get on any other plants, so I gave up.

(Remember: READ THE LABEL of anything you use on your plants. Take precautions such as using gloves and wearing a mask if possible. SAFETY first.)

Consistency is key for mealybug control

Yes, I gave up on this plant. If you are consistent with your control you can be successful in getting rid of mealybugs. I have been successful many times, just not with this particular plant.

Have you had luck getting rid of mealybugs? Or do you see one and throw your plant out immediately? Do you use chemicals or try natural products, such as neem oil? Let me know your way of dealing with mealybugs in the comments.

Have a good week!


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  1. Margareta Handa

    If its just a few plants mild nail polish remover has proved effective But usually use a mix of neem, hort soap and water every 1-2 weeks- may bot get rid of them completely but its proved effective to reduce the infestation

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      You use nail polish remover? That is interesting. It doesn’t hurt the plants?

  2. Patty Donahue

    I have just thrown out my gardenia topiary which I could never rid of mealybugs after two years of trying! I couldn’t bear the thought of another year in the house and swabbing away!

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      I get it, Patty. I’ve given up many times on plants that just were too infested.



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