You may have seen small off-white insects covered in a waxy or cotton-like coating in your garden. It is the so-called cottony mealybug, a very common pest that can cause damage in all types of gardens and plantations.
If you want to know how to eliminate the cottony mealybug and prevent it in your plants, keep reading us in this article, which we have prepared as a practical guide to combat this pest.
What is the cottony mealybug
With the scientific name Planococcus citri , the so-called cottony scale or cotonet is an insect that can be found in a large number of plant species, especially citrus fruit trees and ornamental plants such as oleanders, geraniums or ficus, among many others.
This insect should not be confused with the grooved mealybug , which also frequents citrus fruits and is native to Australia, although it is currently widespread in many areas. The main difference between the two species is that the adults of the grooved mealybug are almost always hermaphroditic and, therefore, can be self-fertilizing, spread more easily and, therefore, be more difficult to eliminate.
Females of the cottony mealybug are oval in shape and covered with a kind of white or yellowish wax that they secrete themselves. They stick their beaks into the plants to feed on the sap by sucking it up and removing excess sugar in the form of these excretions, which sometimes make the bold fungus appear and which in turn attract ants. The males, on the other hand, are much smaller and live for a very short time, since after fertilizing the female they die. They are flying, but only move through the air in the early morning.
The detection of the cottony mealybug can be a bit tricky in the earliest stages of infestation, as it tends to settle in the less visible areas of the plants it attacks.
It is a pest that can cause great economic damage in plantations, since its secretions greatly devalue the affected fruits or plants. In addition, in the long term it can cause the death of the plant due to the weakening caused by the predation of its sap.
How to get rid of the cottony mealybug
If your plants show yellowish leaves or fruit and flower drop, they may be affected by the cottony mealybug. Look at the backs of the leaves, that is, below them, and in the most hidden areas of the plant, and if the pest is still present in a small number, you can treat it manually with a little cotton or a cotton swab soaked in methyl alcohol , also called burning alcohol or wood alcohol.
If the pest is more advanced, it will be necessary to use a specific insecticide from a specialized trade, or make your own natural insecticide against the cottony mealybug yourself .
Home remedies to eliminate the cottony mealybug
There are several mixtures and products that can be used to treat this pest, here we are going to list the most common:
- Liquid soap and burning alcohol: you can prepare a mixture of liquid soap diluted in water and burning alcohol, in equal parts, to sprinkle the affected areas of our plants with greater comfort.
- Alcohol in irrigation: you can also mix alcohol with the irrigation water of your plants, but you must be very careful when doing so, since it can damage some plants. If in doubt, apply this remedy only to affected succulents.
- Neem or Nim oil: add half a spoon of this essential oil to a bottle of water, along with a few drops of soap to wash the dishes. You can spray it directly with a spray on your diseased plants that suffer from this pest.
With any of these solutions, it is recommended to apply it weekly or every fifteen days, until the plague has completely disappeared.
As a last detail, the cottony mealybug has an easy-to-find natural predator that can help you eliminate them without a single chemical: ladybugs . You can buy these beautiful insects in a specialized store, and introduce them in your garden. You will see that in a relatively short time you will have managed to fight the plague in an ecological way .
How to prevent cottony mealybug on plants
Other than introducing some of the predatory species of the cottony mealybug , there is not much you can do to prevent the appearance of this pest in your garden. However, it is a species of insect that requires high levels of dryness and temperature, so regularly moistening the plant and the substrate (especially in pots and indoor plants) will help make its appearance less likely.