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Common Succulent Pests and Treatment Part 1

1) Mealybugs

Mealybugs are sap-sucking scale insects that can do a lot of damage to your succulents. Mealybugs are small white bugs that may appear as white fuzzy stuff on the leaves and stems.

Mealybugs in the leaf crevices of an Echeveria

A mealybug infestation will cause the leaves to lose colour and wilt. If you don’t get rid of mealybugs, they can end up killing your plants.

You can identify a mealybug houseplant infestation by the cotton-like residue they leave on the leaves and stems. Other signs of mealybug damage on plants include a sweet, sticky sap secreted by the mealybugs. Ants are attracted to this sweet sap and you may notice an ant infestation too. You may also notice black mould on the leaves as the sap can encourage the mould to spread.

Sooty black mould on the leaves

Some species of mealybugs also live in plant soil and attack roots. In these cases, the only way to identify root mealybugs is by the plant damage such as yellowing leaves and wilting growth.

To get rid of soil mealybugs, you need to completely replace the soil. Before planting the succulents in fresh sterile soil also sterilize the container.

Root mealybugs

Firstly, getting rid of mealybugs on the leaves and stem is to isolate the plant and prevent the spread of mealybugs to other plants. Secondly, dislodge the little white bugs by spraying or washing them with a hose or jet spray. Thirdly, dab the affected areas with rubbing alcohol. The alcohol helps to dissolve the protective layer of the mealybugs and their eggs and kill them, without harming the plant at all. Make sure to dilute the rubbing alcohol with water, use a cotton swab to dab the affected areas.

Mealybugs turn dark orange when sprayed with isopropyl alcohol

For preventive measures, always re-pot newly bought succulents and sterilise the soil before reusing it. Neem oil is a natural pesticide to kill mealybugs and other indoor plant pests. Neem oil is also excellent for preventing mealybugs. Neem oil takes time to work. Spray your succulents every 2 weeks with neem oil for it to be effective.

To prevent mealybugs from reproducing, do not overfertilize your succulents. Mealybugs thrive in nitrogen-rich soil, and too much nitrogen creates the perfect situation for root mealybugs to multiply.

2) Aphids

Aphids on plants are tiny, soft-bodied pests. They are usually pale green, but some aphids come in yellow, black or even pink. Most species of aphids are wingless and crawl slowly over plants. Occasionally, there may be winged aphids, or whiteflies if an infestation spirals out of control. This is because when the population becomes too dense, aphids grow wings to fly away and find new food sources. In addition to the shrivelled leaves and stunted growth caused by aphids, they also spread viruses from one plant to another while migrating.

Commonly seen aphids on succulents

Similar to mealybugs, aphids leave a sticky residue substance known as honeydew, which encourages the growth of the sooty mould and attracts ants.

There are many methods to remove aphids. Dilute neem oil or other horticultural sprays with water, combine these ingredients in a spray bottle, shake vigorously, and spray the entire plant. Ensure that all cracks or crevices are sprayed thoroughly with the solution as aphids usually hide in these locations. The oil clogs their airway and suffocates them.

You can manually remove aphids by spraying them with a garden hose. This method may not be suitable for younger or more delicate plants, but it works well on plants where you can use higher water pressure. Aphids are attracted to flower stems, prune these flower stems and discard them appropriately.

Aphids and mealybugs on the flower stem of an Echeveria

You may also choose to dust the stems and leaves with diatomaceous earth powder. The compound is made from the ground-up bodies of prehistoric diatomic fossils. The powder damages the respiratory systems of any smaller insect or bug that inhales it. It also causes drying of the mucous membranes of breathing holes and lungs in bugs.

Diatomaceous Earth

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