Me Vs. Mealybugs

Back on my original website, I wrote up a post of my first encounter with mealybugs and how I dealt with them. It had some great info on treating and getting rid of them, so I’m going to repost it.

I will say that using an Imidacloprid based systemic insecticide is the most effective on ridding yourself of them (works better than orthene on them), and the mealybugs never returned to the plants I treated (it’s been almost 2 years).

Especially when receiving new Sarracenia to your collection, you’re going to want to isolate (CAN’T STRESS THIS ENOUGH) them for 1-3 months, or treat them immediately by repotting them (checking for signs of mealybugs like powdery white stuff in roots or mealybugs themselves) and spraying with Imidacloprid.

Prevent yourself and your collection the pain by taking precautions with new plants. Even recently I received potted Sarrs from a good friend, and just out of habit kept them isolated for 2 months, at the 2 month mark I saw a mealybug crawling around on one of them. BEWARE of all plants, you never know which have pests and which don’t most of the time until it’s too late!

Check out my war on mealybugs 🙂

My first encounter with a mealybug was pretty shocking. My first instinct was to take a picture of it (absolutely ugly bug), and then kill it.

Little mealybug on one of my Sarrs.
Little mealybug on one of my Sarrs.

From that point I knew that if there was one, there were others. I did a quick misting of Neem oil on all my Sarracenias and ran to my laptop to figure out what I should do. *Note: unless you spray the mealybugs directly with Neem oil, it is essentially ineffective to just be sprayed on the plant*

I never imagined I would be a victim of mealybugs, but here I am beating them up. It is mainly my fault for not isolating plants recently ordered. **WHENEVER receiving new plants, ISOLATE THEM** That way if they do happen to have pests, they stay on that plant and you can fight them more easily.

Back to my laptop, I found tons of insecticides that are safe for carnivorous plants and kill mealybugs. Unfortunately, half of them aren’t sold in the United States or aren’t allowed in California. Big bummer. I stocked up on some Bayer Advanced Insect, Disease, and Mite Control for Roses. It contains a little bit of Imidacloprid which happens to be a great chemical for getting rid of mealybugs (a chemical for insecticides not allowed in California). *Note: this ban may be lifted now).

The Bayer product I bought is safe on the plants as far as I can tell, (It’s safe I use it all the time 2016), it is also systemic so the plants absorb the insecticide into themselves and kill bugs that feed on the plant. I would suggest you don’t use systemics in the spring or whenever your carnivorous plants are flowering because it will kill bees or any other beneficial bugs.

Don’t forget to isolate plants infested with mealybugs!

Mini Tip! My good friend Rob Co also told me about coffee killing mealybugs. You can pick up coffee grounds for free at Starbucks, all you have to do is mix it with water and pour the water on your plants. It is safe for Carnivorous plants but not widely tested on effectiveness (I’ll be giving it a go). *Note x3: I didn’t test this out enough to see if it was effective or not, but it certainly didn’t hurt anything and smelled nice.*

The first thing I would tell anyone to do (and Mr. Co super expert on Sarrs suggested) is to unpot all your plants and waterlog them and dump out all the soil they were in, as mealybug larvae/crawlers may be in it. Make sure to run water over the roots of the plant, that flushes out a lot of mealybugs as is. If you are dealing with Sarrs, they will be fine in a bowl of water for a day or two which will drown some mealybugs. You will be pretty surprised at how many hundreds of mealybugs you never knew existed come out of the root system. Most of them will crawl out and float to the top of the water and try crawling up your Sarr, I just sprayed them off when they tried. I’d suggest you changed the water every hour or so for the first few hours because of how many mealybugs there will be floating around. After about a day of this and when you think you’ve gotten the majority of the pests, spray the roots with the insecticide of your choice (also make sure its an insecticide safe for carnivorous plants). Of course after that, repot the plants.

When you look in the water of your waterlogged plant you’ll see many mealybugs trying not to drown.
When you look in the water of your waterlogged plant you’ll see many mealybugs trying not to drown.

mealybug5

Since I had just repotted most my plants a few weeks earlier, I started my war on mealybugs with Bayer systemic insecticide. A lot of times mealybugs hide in the crevice of your plant, so you won’t know you have them until a big outbreak. I set the squirter of Bayer to stream and continuously sprayed the crevices of each plant for about 10 seconds (it will start bubbling). Then I misted all of them with the Bayer.

Here's the bubbling effect I'm talking about.
Here’s the bubbling effect I’m talking about.

This is essentially what the soil will look like when you spray enough to get down to crevice and superficial roots of the plant.

Within an hour, mealybugs were coming out of the crevice and climbing up the plant so I picked them off one by one with Bayer and continued checking them every hour for new bugs. (I was truly surprised at how many there were, although most pretty small in size, I never expected so many were hidden in the roots).

This process may not be reasonable for busy people so I would suggest spraying a layer of a safe systemic (such as the Bayer product I’m using) once every other week, and let it work its magic over time.

Like I mentioned earlier, mealybugs also hide in the soil and root system of the plants, for this I am using the coffee grounds water to get rid of. I pour this water once every 3 days on my Sarrs.

The main goal is to get rid of this infestation as soon as possible and rid them completely. A lot of times you will kill back 98% of the population, and months later the war survivors come hobbling out with a new army of mealybugs behind them. I will do an update in a few months with news of either my success or failure!

UPDATE 2 YEARS LATER:

Remember to keep this freshly treated plant isolated for a few months, there will be pests that don’t die immediately and could still spread to your other plants.

It is pretty obvious that the Imidacloprid was effective, it’s been 2 years, the Sarrs have all been repotted again in the last year, and nothing has shown up or been seen. I can almost without a doubt say there probably ISN’T any mealybugs left.

I want to stress, rinsing the roots with water and letting the root system sit in water is a really important factor in ridding yourself of the majority of your infestation. Mealybugs are probably one of my worst hated pests, but don’t freak out if your plant has them. If you follow the unpot, dunk, rinse, and spray, you’ll clear them from your plants as well.

mealybug3

 

 

2 comments

  1. Chris byers says:

    I’ve had similar experiences with mealies! I bought a bunch of sars from a nursery in Florida and didn’t isolate or treat them right away. It’s taken me a couple years to finally get rid of them….using that same bayer product. Itried to manage them with organic products, but ended up biting the bullet and spraying cemies. Thanks for the info.

    • Lulu Megan says:

      Ugh mealies are the worst! I’m glad you finally got them under control. Getting pests really teaches you how to take preventative measures in the future 🙂

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