Probably you have noticed some tiny soft bodied insects that have a fuzzy like surrounding while you are working your garden. This is a common sight on the stem and leaf nodes of the plant. The most common type of mealy bugs is the Pseudococcus longispinus commonly called the long-tailed mealy bugs. However we also have another type the citrus mealy bugs scientifically called the
Whatever you see are the more visible female mealy bugs that measure about one over ten of an inch in length. The males are tinier and are very rare and these do not reside on plants often. The females have fringes that cover their bodies and can either have a single or double tail depending on the species.
The female of the mealy bugs will carefully tuck away their eggs in a whitish excretion that has a fluffy texture. These eggs stay for 10 days before the nymph emerges. These nymphs will migrate to a different part of the plant where they camp for the next eight weeks until they have matured. All these time they feed on the plant sap and render the host plant weaker.
If you have seen how scale insects behave then you must also be aware that in the same way mealy bugs tap into the plant and drain the plant sap by sucking. Once the sap has been exhausted the leaf will dry shrivel and fall off the plant. These insects prefer new growing plants and are as such a threat to any indoor gardening activity that you may want to undertake. Certainly they affect the fruiting cycle of your plants when they attack the flowers of these plants and cause the buds to fall off prematurely.
It is not just the sucking effect and the falling off that is bad, the mealy bug also excretes a waxy substance called honeydew that encourages the infestation of the sooty mold fungus. This means that having mealy bugs on your plants poses a double risk for the plant because the sooty mold fungus also has detrimental effects on the plant.
Generally good gardening practice like proper tiling, weeding or mulching can help to alleviate or control the infestation of most of these insect pests. While there are different options to eradicating the menace some using chemicals and others natural, it may be worthwhile to consider the best and safest option. This is likely to eradicate the insect menace while preserving your plants and ensuring your health.
A careful evaluation of your plants is also very important. You can easily do this when you are on the routine garden maintenance procedures like weeding or mulching. At the earliest opportunity whenever you detect unusual plant health which often comes across as yellowing, you may need to do a closer check to ascertain the probably. Often you will notice the culprit- mealy bugs.
After they have been identified, you can then think of and prepare your plan on how to control and eradicate this insect menace. It is important to note that after you ascertain that your garden is infested, you should act quickly to avoid extensive damage to the plants. Furthermore quick action might just help you to at least see some of the surviving plants bearing fruit if their flower buds have not been destroyed by the mealy bugs.
Getting rid of the mealy bugs
Generally most pests can be overcome when you take a defensive position. In much the same way you can be able to control the mealy bugs. When you carry out routine weeding and mulching you are likely to have healthy plants and these are less susceptible to attack. Mealy bugs will often target the weaker plants and completely devastate them. As a general line of action the following are some of the ways that you can use to control mealy bug infestation.
Use kitchen insect sprayers
These are sprays that have natural ingredients. They may be your best bet especially if the plants you have are edibles. These sprays are composed of ingredients like garlic, cayenne pepper, and onion. These are mixed and blended into some thick paste. The paste will be mixed with a measure of liquid dish soap and the concoction can be refrigerated for one week.
Use natural parasitic insects
Apart from this natural option of a sprayer, it may also suffice if you used other natural methods like the Cryptolaemus montrouzieri a kind of beetle. Alternatively you can also apply the Leptomastix dactylopi, which is a parasitic wasp.
Using Neem oil
The neem oil from the neem tree is also an effective control for mealy bugs. Whereas it has fungicide properties, neem oil remains a good option because it is also absorbed by the plant and deters other direct contact insects. The Environmental Protection Association recommends neem oil because you can safely use it on fruits and vegetables
Using insecticidal soap
Depending on the level of infestation you can still wash the mealy bugs off your plants by using the insecticidal soap. A good example here may be the Safer insecticidal soap that you can get from a store near you.
While you may wish to control or eliminate an infestation completely, it may sometimes be difficult to eradicate the mealy bug especially if you detected the infestation late. In this case should the insecticides and other methods not work, it may be advisable to destroy the plants so as to prevent the mealy bugs from spreading.