The Q&A Archives: Mealybugs on Houseplants

Question: I have some house plants that has a white cotton like substance alll over them and it is killing my plants. It started on one plant and now on all of my plants. I got some advice from some website that said that I should wipe them down with alcohol, but that did not help and now it is getting worse. Any suggestions as to what i should do?

Answer: What you describe sounds like an infestation of mealybugs. These critters are especially hard to control because their waxy coating prevents many insecticides from penetrating and killing the pests. Rubbing alcohol dabbed on the pests usually dissolves the waxy coating. If you've been unsuccessful with applications of rubbing alcohol, you might try using insecticidal soap against the pests. If the infestation is quite large, you may not be able to control it and may have to resort to disposing of the plants. To avoid the problem in the future, carefully inspect each new houseplant your bring into your home, and put each one into isolation for a few weeks before placing it with your other houseplants. This way, if insects hatch on the new plant you can control them before they spread to your other plants.

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