Mealybugs are a serious pest of orchids and many other plants. They suck the juices from leaves and roots, causing the plants to have sticky, honeydew-covered foliage. In the worse cases, an infestation can also cause stem and root rot.
Mealybugs can become a problem once they are established in an indoor environment. They are tiny, about the size of the head of a pin, but noticeable on plants with white or light-colored leaves.
Mealybugs live their entire life on the plant and, if left to multiply unchecked, can do considerable damage to orchids by sucking the sap out of the plant. When an infestation occurs, your plant will begin to wilt and turn yellow. Let’s look at how to deal with mealybugs on orchids.
Mealybugs on orchids, what to do?
Any products made from diluted essential oils or insecticidal soap are only effective at killing adults mealybugs. Be aware that there may still be eggs on your orchid plant. The best time to use these sprays is at night when they are coming out of their hiding places onto your plants.
Mealybugs can also cause fungus infections to occur on orchids. Here are some tips to help you get rid of mealybugs on orchids.
Wash the plant
Wash the mealybugs off the plant with a strong jet of water. You can put the plant under the shower to wash off insects and eggs.
Wipe the orchid’s leaves
The easiest way is to use a cotton swab with alcohol to wipe mealybugs of the orchid’s foliage. This job will need to be done every day until you’ve eliminated the insects. Neem oil is also very effective against mealybugs.
If you see that some mealybugs have reappeared a few days later, it probably means you have a mealybug infestation. You can repeat the above steps until you get rid of the insects.
Continue treating the plant
Spray with Neem oil or insecticidal soap, including the undersides of the leaves, every ten days to catch any stragglers. If you see small web-like cocoons on the plant, wipe them off carefully with a damp cloth before they hatch. You might also find mealybugs inside those cocoons.
- Use a yellow sticky trap near the plant to catch some of those flying adults as they fall off the infested plant.
- Treat the soil
- Change the potting mix to get rid of the mealybugs hiding there.
- Clean up any plant debris around your orchid, as this will reduce the number of hiding places for mealybugs.
- Create an inhospitable environment
- Mealybugs thrive in warm, moist environments. If you leave your orchid in a slightly colder place and let the soil dry out, this will kill off the mealybugs.
To prevent future infestations, spray with insecticidal spray at 10- to 14-day intervals during the warm months of the year when mealybugs are active, and wash up any fallen adults you see around the plant, or grow your orchid in an enclosed terrarium or greenhouse with good air circulation.
Mealybugs can be a problem on orchids. The use of systemic insecticides has been shown to be effective but can sometimes weaken orchids. Insecticidal soaps work by breaking down the protective covering of insects exposed to them, which causes their death. It is a very safe pesticide when used as directed. The active ingredient in insecticidal soap is potassium salts of fatty acids, which is the same or similar to what is found in many kitchen soaps but much more concentrated.
Safer Insecticidal Soap contains approximately 60% potassium salts of fatty acids and has an extremely low toxicity rating. When it is used to treat insects, the soap penetrates their waxy outer shell and kills them. It works best on soft-bodied insects such as whiteflies, thrips, mealybugs, and aphids.
The above tips will help you get rid of mealybugs on orchids. Safer insecticidal soap is the best product for orchids, as its low toxicity. You can also wipe the plant’s leaves with neem oil or rubbing alcohol. Change the plant’s soil if you think there are any insects hiding in the earth.
If you have had a problem with your orchid collection before, consider keeping a watchful eye on your plants and wipe them all down daily. This will kill any adults before they can lay more eggs and reduce the population to manageable levels.