How to Identify and Treat Mealy Bugs on Plants

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What is the white sticky stuff all over my dracaena? How do I get rid of it?


Hi Ursula:   Your dracaena marginata plant has Mealy Bugs. Mealy bugs are one of the most annoying and destructive pests that attack houseplants. These tiny sucking insects look like small pieces of sticky cotton. When young, mealy bugs have legs and can crawl. This is the best time to treat an infestation. A female mealy bug can lay over 500 eggs within a 1-2 week period. Mealy bugs suck the sap out of a plant, concentrating on the tender new growth; this causes spots on the leaves, yellow leaves, leaf drop, slow growth, and weak stems. While feeding on the plant, mealy bugs secrete a sticky substance called “honeydew” which acts as a breeding ground for “sooty mold.” This mold covers leaves and stems ruining the plant’s appearance and interfering with photosynthesis. When mealy bugs are immature and crawling, use Yellow Sticky Cards to trap them. You are way past that stage! Once they mature, mealy bugs should be sprayed with what I call the Green Solution. Be sure the plant is well-watered and not in the sun when you spray. Repeat this treatment every 10 days for a month to catch any further eggs that might hatch.

How to Make the Green Solution

If you don’t want to use a commercial, chemical insecticide (which is toxic)  to treat plant pest problems like mealy bugs, try making the “Green Solution.” This is a mixture of water, alcohol, biodegradable liquid soap, and mineral oil. This mixture is for leathery leafed plants like your dracaena and never for palms or velvety leafed plant like an African Violet. Depending upon how severe the infestation is, you can use these ingredients in varying proportions. You have a very serious infestation. Make a solution using 8oz. water & 8oz. rubbing alcohol, add two tablespoons of biodegradable liquid soap (like ivory), and two tablespoons of mineral oil. Spray all areas of the plant, every side of every leaf and every stem. Repeat the spraying every 10 days for a month.

Neem Oil: Another non-toxic way to treat mealy bugs is to spray your plant with Neem Oil.