Prior to controlling this garden pest, one must know what to look for. The mealybugs themselves form white or pinkish fuzzy clumps that attach to stems and at the base of leaves. These clumps are also sticky to the touch. While in small numbers, this pest does not cause a lot of damage but there is a cascade effect that comes from mealybugs.
This pest has a mouthpart called a stylet, which they force into the plant so that they can harvest plant juices. As this pest feeds, it produces a waste product called “honeydew,” which is sticky. This “honeydew” is a favorite food for ants. Once this substance is discovered by ants, you will then have an additional problem. Also, this “honeydew” attracts a fungus called sooty mold.
As you can see, it is better to get rid of mealybugs regardless of how few to prevent this cascade effect.
The first approach deals with a small infestation. This can be taken care of by first cutting away any area that has the sticky clumps. If this is going to cause an issue with the shape of your plant, you can also dip a cotton swab or cotton ball with rubbing alcohol and apply to the infested areas.
The second approach is to make sure that you are inviting beneficial insects into your garden space. While if you have the proper plants, they will come. You can also order some insects such as ladybugs and lacewings.
The next approach is tied into the second technique. As stated before, mealybugs produce a waste product called “honeydew.” This is a favorite food of ants. In exchange for the “honeydew,” the ants protect the mealybugs. Getting rid of the ants allows the beneficial insects to really take hold on this garden pest.
To make the environment less inviting is the fourth approach. What I mean by this is not overwatering and/or over fertilizing. Mealybugs love new soft growth, which is easier to pierce. Both overwatering and/or over fertilizing with a high nitrogen fertilizer will roll out the welcome mat to mealybugs.
While overwatering can cause a problem, spraying off the foliage of the infected plant is another technique. This simple process dislodges the mealybugs and washes them away. It will also reduce the number of ants, which will give other approaches discussed above a chance to work more efficiently.
Finally, if you cannot get a hold on this pest, remove the infected plant material and throw away. Do not compost.