My wife and I have a problem with mealybugs on several of our houseplants. What can we do to control them? We have a large collection and do not want to get rid of any of our plants. Roy
Mealybugs damage plants by sucking their juices. They look like little fluffs of cotton and usually congregate on the undersides of leaves and also in the joint between a leaf and stem. They can multiply very rapidly once in the house. Vigilance is the key to saving your plants.
Once you see the little suckers, you must act immediately. One way to treat them if the infestation is not too severe is to dip a cotton swap in rubbing alcohol and rub that on the insects. If the problem is worse, another option (provided you have a sprayer and can take plants outside briefly) is to spray the plants thoroughly with a refined horticultural oil. This product smothers them, but doesn’t harm the plant. The Grump recommends Oil-Away from Gardens Alive! (www.gardensalive.com), because it is made from cottonseed oil, not petroleum. Be sure to wet all leaf surfaces and follow label directions.
Now here’s the hard truth. Any houseplant with a severe infestation of mealybugs should be thrown away. There’s no saving it. If you leave it in your house, you risk infesting every other houseplant you have.