Have you seen those white cotton-like coatings on the leaves, stems, flowers or crevices of your succulent plants? They can also be present in your succulent arrangements. Those are mealybugs.
Mealybugs are considered as pests because they can harm the plants. As they feed on the sap of your succulent plants, they can weaken, can cause distorted new growths and bring other diseases.
Adult female mealybugs have no wings and feed on plant sap. They die shortly after all the eggs are laid. Adult males on the other hand have wings but they do not feed on plant sap because they lack the mouth parts. They live only to fertilize the females.
The newly hatched nymphs are called crawlers. They are active and free of wax. They migrate and look for those soft spots where they can feed. As they feed, they form waxy coatings over their body to protect them from predators. They also produce honeydew which can encourage the growth of sooty molds. That is why sometimes you will also notice those black spots at the same time.
You also need to monitor the presence of ants. Ants feed on
the honeydew they produce and protect the bugs from predators to ensure their food supply. They can also transport them to the spots where they can feed on. Their presence sometimes indicate the existence of these bugs.
Since nymphs and eggs are so small, it takes a while for the population to be big enough to be noticeable. Small infestations may not inflict significant damage that is why they are so easy to be overlooked but in large amount they can cause leaf damage like leaf drops, yellowing and curling of the leaves.
What I have noticed is that mealybugs do not affect all succulents even though they are planted close together. They only select certain varieties especially those with soft spots.
To treat mealybugs, fill a spray bottle with undiluted 70% isopropyl alcohol and spray the affected area directly. These bugs are soft-bodied insects. Their white waxy coating is their protection. Alcohol dissolves their coating and kills them instantly.
Alcohol will not harm the plants but can leave a thin white residue on their leaves as it dries off. It is better to schedule your treatment when it is time for them to be watered, so that you can rinse it off. Better yet, make it a habit to inspect the plants before you water.
When mealybugs are treated early, they can be eliminated without causing much damage but if left for a longer period, the damage can become severe and can leave nasty marks on the plant. It might also take a while for their recovery and might need several treatments to completely remove
You can also use Q-tips dipped in alcohol but you might miss the eggs and nymphs. I prefer to use spray bottle.
There is a special gadget that you can use to magnify the problematic areas of your plant. It's the macro lens included in the Universal Clip Lens that you can attach to your iPhone, iPad or Tablet.
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