How to Get Rid of Mealybugs on Plants

Gardening expert Melinda Myers shares her sure-fire tips on how to get rid of mealybugs. Also learn how to get rid of scale insects on plants.

White Aphids (Mealybugs) on jasmine leavesBosca78/Getty Images
Mealybugs on jasmine leaves

How to Get Rid of Mealybugs

“I want to get rid of mealybugs on my 20-year-old ponytail palms. Is there any way to save the plants?” asks Deborah McCullough of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Mealybugs are a soft scale and, like all scale insects, can be challenging to control. Their waxy white covering protects them from most pesticides. But there are effective treatments to get rid of mealybugs. Touch each insect with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol to dissolve this protective coat and kill the insect beneath. Insecticidal soap will kill immature, translucent mealybugs before they form their cottony covering. Organic lightweight horticulture oils, like Summit Year-Round Spray Oil will also kill all stages of mealybugs with several applications. Another option includes using a systemic insecticide that is applied to the soil and absorbed by the plant through the roots. When mealybugs feed on the treated plant, they ingest some of the insecticide as well. Always read and follow label directions carefully. I choose not to use this for the safety of my curious grandkids and plant-eating cats.

Outdoors, ladybugs will eat mealybugs. Check out beneficial insects you want to see in your garden.

How to Get Rid of Scale Insects on Plants

Umbrella TreeM.photostock/Getty Images
Umbrella tree

“What’s the best way to get rid of scale insects on a large indoor umbrella tree?” asks Boni Trombetta of West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Scale insects on plants, as you discovered, are difficult to eliminate because of their hard protective shells. Immature scale are susceptible to insecticides, but it often takes several applications for adequate control. As with mealybugs, Summit Year-Round Spray Oil can kill all stages of scale insects. You can also use systemic insecticides.

What are hammerhead worms, and are they harmful?

Indoor lemon trees are often afflicted with several types of insect pests including scale and spider mites, so keep an eye on the trees. To get rid of scale insects on these plants, treat them with insecticidal soap and horticultural oil before bringing them indoors in early autumn.

Having issues with another pesky garden bug? Learn more tips to get rid of indoor plant bugs.

Melinda Myers
Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author and columnist Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books. She hosts the nationally syndicated “Melinda’s Garden Moment” TV and radio segments and is the instructor for The Great Courses How to Grow Anything DVD and Instant Video series.
Melinda is a dynamic presenter, appearing at many events throughout the country each year. She has received recognition and numerous awards, including the American Horticultural Society’s B.Y. Morrison Communication Award and was inducted into The Association for Garden Communicators Hall of Fame.