Cactus and Succulents forum→Mealybugs and Succulents

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Name: TK
Ontario, Canada (Zone 6b)
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Macrocentra
Jun 2, 2020 12:14 PM CST
I was debating whether to post this in the Pests forum or here. I decided to post here because the majority of my plant collection is cactuses and other succulents.

I've been battling a case of mealybugs over the last while. I believe they came from a new Calathea I'd purchased. The plant was quarantined for a few weeks, given new soil and a new pot before being moved to the rest of the collection, but I found a couple mealybugs on it around a week later. Since then, the plant went back into quarantine and I was treating it with diluted 70% isopropyl alcohol (q-tip swabbing any live bugs found, then thoroughly spraying the plant). I did this multiple times, including a few precautionary sprays. So far, the plant is at about 2 weeks bug-free.

Getting to succulents: in the time I'd missed the mealys on the Calathea, they had spread to two nearby cactuses. I only spotted two bugs on one, and a single cotton spot on the other. I isolated these plants and followed a similar treatment routine. They're currently still isolated and monitored daily, but I havent found any bugs on them lately either. They also received precautionary treatments. The two cactuses are also approaching two weeks bug-free. I intend to keep the three plants in isolation for a few more weeks as a precaution.

I found one more cactus with a couple juvenile mealys on it yesterday. This one was originally near the previously mentioned plants, and had since been moved to another location where it's been alone. I hadn't found anything on it till yesterday. I'm hoping given it's been alone, that nothing spread to anyone else. I moved it from that location to further isolate it for treatment. I've been inspecting all my plants regularly since the Calathea infestation, and other than this cactus, so far so good. Everything in the area of the previously infested plants were disinfected as a precaution as well (the shelf and windowsill they were sitting on, the window itself, and nearby objects).

Here's my current situation and question: This is the first mealy situation I've ever had to deal with. The isopropyl treatments seem to be working well, and I've had no damage to the plants as a result of the treatments. Unfortunately, my isopropyl alcohol supply is beginning to run low, and with the pandemic, I've been unable to find it anywhere. I was hoping to give all my plants a few precautionary treatments in case anything else might be sneaking around. Any suggestions for a succulent-safe treatment other than the isopropyl?

I do keep a bottle of insect treatment on hand at all times in case of problems. I haven't had to use it before though. It's active ingredients are as follows:
"Potassium Salts of Fatty Acids 1%, Pyrethrins 0.01%"

I would apply a small test spot to each plant before spraying, but I was wondering if anyone knew if this would generally be safe as a precautionary treatment on the plants, or if there's something else I should use?

(Also, lesson learned, I'll be increasing the length of time new plants are quararantined from now on)
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Jun 2, 2020 3:52 PM CST
Potassium Salts of Fatty Acids 1%, Pyrethrins 0.01% is Insecticidal Soap. You can use it as much as you want without the bugs becoming resistant as it works similar to alcohol (dehydrates them). I buy Insecticidal Soap in concentrate as it gets pretty expensive if you buy it ready-made.

The problem with alcohol and Insecticidal Soap is they are both contact sprays so, my other line of defense if Bonide granules. After I think I have gotten rid of all the bugs, I put a layer of Bonide granules on the soil. It is a systemic so only sucky-bugs will be killed.
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Name: TK
Ontario, Canada (Zone 6b)
Cactus and Succulents Sempervivums Bromeliad Tropicals Aroids Hibiscus
Sedums Container Gardener
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Macrocentra
Jun 2, 2020 8:55 PM CST
Perfect, thank you. I'll look into that. Thumbs up
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Jun 2, 2020 10:00 PM CST

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I usually hit them with insecticidal soap (minus the pyrethrins) and return once or twice a week to spray the same general area until I'm confident they're gone. Usually it's not the whole plant but the area of most active growth, at least on my succulents. Near the apex, at the base of young leaves. If a plant has repeated mealybug problems (which happens seasonally here to a very small minority of my succulents) then I will dose it in advance with imidacloprid (same thing that's in Daisy's granules), drenching the soil with the product diluted in the water. If you go this route you have to be careful to water well, to saturation, for best results, and don't expect anything to really happen for a couple of weeks minimum as the plant takes the product up and distributes it.

And as always with bug problems I try to consider how I might adjust how I care for any affected plant in order to allow it to be more resistant.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Jun 2, 2020 10:02 PM (+)]
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Name: TK
Ontario, Canada (Zone 6b)
Cactus and Succulents Sempervivums Bromeliad Tropicals Aroids Hibiscus
Sedums Container Gardener
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Macrocentra
Jun 3, 2020 9:39 AM CST
Sounds like those granules would be worth keeping on hand. I have to hit a garden center today for supplies for some tropicals. I'll see if they have something like that available. Might be nice to have especially for some of my larger plants.
Southwest U.S. (Zone 7a)
MsDoe
Jun 4, 2020 11:44 AM CST
Dinotefuran is another neonicotinoid that is closely related to imidacloprid. It works equally well on mealybugs, and actually works a lot better than imidacloprid against armored scale.
I totally recommend using the less toxic alternatives first.
One product that contains dinotefuran is Ortho Tree and Shrub Insect Control Granules. I've used it (sparingly) on cactus, succulents and houseplants with good results.
I've had plants die after being treated with neem oil, so I'm not a big fan of neem. It does seem to work well for some.
Name: TK
Ontario, Canada (Zone 6b)
Cactus and Succulents Sempervivums Bromeliad Tropicals Aroids Hibiscus
Sedums Container Gardener
Image
Macrocentra
Jun 4, 2020 12:23 PM CST
I definitely prefer less toxic wherever possible. Some of my plants are outside now, and I want to minimize harmful effects to surrounding wildlife wherever possible. I also have a lot of pets in the house. While they can't access the rooms where plants are kept, I still prefer to eliminate risks when possible.

I'm not entirely certain, but it looks like neem oil might be banned here. I was looking for it a while ago, but nobody seems to sell it. I tried garden centers and health stores. Someone told me it's been banned by Health Canada. Looking it up, I'm getting mixed opinions on whether it's not banned, banned, or banned for sale as an insecticide but still allowed for "human use". I wouldn't entirely be surprised though. Health Canada's been banning a lot of things lately, many being considered more natural products.

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