IDENTIFICATION – Mealybugs are common pests of house plants and greenhouse crops. They will feed on a wide range of species. If mealybugs are present you will see cottony masses in the crooks of branches and you may see sticky sap on the leaf surface. Mealybugs pierce the plant tissue and suck out sap. This feeding can cause distortion of new growth on the plant.
LIFE CYCLE – Adult females lays eggs inside waxy filaments. When the young hatch, they are mobile and begin feeding. They can move from one infested plant to another healthy one easily, so quarantine infested plants until they are under control. Four to six generations of mealybugs can develop in a year on house plants if they are not controlled.
CONTROL – Preventing mealybugs from becoming a problem is much easier than trying to control a major infestation. Before you bring new plants into the house, check them over to make sure there aren’t any hitchhikers. If you have an existing mealybug problem, there are several things you can try. First, remove the pests from the plant. A cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol will do the trick. Then spray the plant with insecticidal oil, available at your local garden center. The oil suffocates any remaining insects. Be sure to cover any furniture before you spray, or do it outside. Since mealybugs can lay up to 600 eggs at a time, so you may have to treat once a week for several weeks.