Mealybugs are, together with the spider mite, thrips and whitefly, one of the pests that most affect plants. They, like the others, love dry and warm environments; and not only that, but They usually appear when they perceive or detect some weakness. This is not to say otherwise that they are opportunists, and unfortunately if we do nothing they could end up drying up the crops.
But we believe that it is very necessary to identify the different types of mealybugssince although it may be thought that they can be treated in the same way, each and every one of them has their favorite plants and when it comes to eliminating them we will need some products or others.
What are mealybugs?
The mealybugs They are insects that feed on the sap of plants. Specific, cling to the underside of leaves, often near the veins, as well as to the petiole (stem, usually green although it can be other colors, that joins the leaf with the branch or trunk) if there is one.
These animals are small, since in their adult stage they do not usually exceed a centimeter in height or width. Their bodies are rounded or elongated, and most species have a black, brown, or gray shell that protects them.
When are they most active?
They love the heat so we will have to be a little vigilant during the driest and warmest season of the year. If we live in a temperate region, that will be the summer, although depending on the area it will not be too much to inspect the plants in spring and / or autumn.
For example, where I live (Mallorca), both in April / May and in September the maximum temperatures are high, exceeding 20ºC, and that is something that these insects love. In fact, it’s not uncommon for me to come across a cochineal cactus in early fall. Therefore, if the place where you live is hot, it is highly recommended to inspect your plants every day or every two days.
What are the most common types of mealybugs?
Plants can be affected by various pests, and if we talk about mealybugs, the most common are the following:
Corrugated mealybug (Icerya purchasi)
La corrugated mealybug It is an insect similar to the cottony mealybug, but differs from this for having a reddish-brown shell that keeps the body protected. It is oval in shape, and like all mealybugs, it can multiply in large numbers.
- Favorite plants: it is quite common in citrus (orange, lemon, mandarin, etc.).
- Symptoms: the fruits turn yellow and can be spoiled; affected leaves also lose color.
Cottony mealybug or cotonet (Planococcus citri)
This is the easiest to identify. As the name suggests, the cottony mealybug looks like a small white cotton balland if it is pressed even gently it ‘breaks’. Their eggs are reddish-orange in color, and are protected by cottony silks.
- Favorite plants: in general all, but attacks more citrus, ornamentals (including carnivores) and conifers. It will only appear if the plant in question shows any sign of weakness, which may or may not be visible to humans; That is, you may be thirsty, hot, and / or have some deficiency but have not yet manifested it externally.
- Symptoms: the leaves turn yellow and the fruits, if any, will fall off before ripening.
Red palm scale (Phoenicococcus marlatii)
If you have palm trees, you should know that they also “have” their particular cochineal: the red mealybug. It goes through three stages (egg, nymph and adult), and has a red body. Now, the female cannot move since her legs are stunted, so to protect itself secretes a white cottony liquid that is discolored.
- Favorite plants: palms and cycads.
- Symptoms: the leaves first turn yellow and then end up losing color, turning white. If the victim is a young specimen, without a trunk, it can cause death.
California red louse (Aonidiella aurantii)
El California red louse It is a type of mealybug that is nothing like the ones we have seen so far. It is rounded, almost flatand is protected by a reddish shell.
- Favorite plants: citrus, palm trees and cacti, although it can affect others.
- Symptoms: yellowing of leaves and fruits, general weakening of the plant.
San José louse (A destructive asp)
El san jose louse it is similar to the previous one: the female is about 2 millimeters in diameter, which is protected by a shelland always lives attached to the plant. The adult male has two wings.
- Favorite plants: affects many species, but particularly fruit trees.
- Symptoms: the affected parts turn yellow, and may fall. In severe cases, the pest will eventually dry out the plant.
How to eliminate mealybugs from plants?
The fundamental thing is to have them well cared for. This entails watering, and fertilizing whenever necessary (except in the case of carnivorous plants, which do NOT have to be paid). But often, no matter how well we think we take care of them, one day they may show up. For example, if you have cacti or other types of succulents, how many times have you seen a mealybug? Me a few times, every year. I have even seen them in carnivorous plants (sundew and sarracenia).
So what can be done to eliminate them? You can try any of these remedies:
- Remove them by hand. Well, whoever says by hand says with a brush, or a cloth (if you opt for this, soak them with water and a little soap). If the plant is small and the pest is not very widespread, it is the best.
- Spray the plant with distilled or rain water, then sprinkle diatomaceous earth on top (on sale here!). This is a natural insecticide that will dehydrate the mealybugs, killing them. Learn More.
- Apply potassium soap (on sale here!). This is a natural product that will help protect the plant, eliminating the mealybugs that begin to exist. Learn More.
- Treat the plant with an anti-mealybug insecticide (on sale here!). We only advise this as a last option, and only if the plant is severely affected. You must follow the instructions on the container so that no problems arise. Also, you DO NOT have to use chemical insecticides if the affected plant is a carnivore, as you could lose it.
- If you suspect that your plant, for example your cica, has mealybugs on the roots, instead of applying the product to the leaves, pour the dose indicated on the container in water and water.
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