Ask a Question forum: Cactus white balls like cotton

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Cambridge, MA
weaverswigglers
Feb 22, 2018 9:39 AM CST
I have a cactus that has started showing some white balls or growths, almost like cotton. I wonder if they could be eggs sacs but I don't notice any critters besides cobwebs. They are all towards the bottom of the cactus, it's winter and a little darker. That's the only differences I can think of.

Anyone have an idea what this can be and if I should be concerned?
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Name: Philip Becker
Fresno California (Zone 8a)
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Philipwonel
Feb 22, 2018 9:48 AM CST
Scale or mealy bugs. Remove with alcohol on Q-tips.
Catus is firm, right ? Not rotting.
Anything i say, could be misrepresented, or wrong.
Cambridge, MA
weaverswigglers
Feb 22, 2018 10:03 AM CST
I've had that before on a different cactus. Neem oil will work as well then right? Or a combination of both?

Cactus is still firm yes.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Feb 22, 2018 10:40 AM CST
Mealybug nurseries. Alcohol and Q-tips added to some perseverance will get them under control.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Feb 22, 2018 1:23 PM CST
Yes, I would use 70% alcohol and Qtips to remove them from the plant wherever you can reach, and maybe an alcohol spray into the crevices where you can't. These monstrose cacti tend to be a little difficult to clean up entirely because of the nooks and crannies. Follow up a week or two afterwards to be sure you got them all. If you want you can remove one of those cottony things from your plant with your finger and then crush it between two fingers, to feel and see the adult insect lurking inside.

They can spread to your other plants (often accompanied by ant activity) so try to be vigilant. Sometimes you can adjust the care of the plant to improve its resistance to bugs. Try to provide as much light as possible indoors during winter for all your succulents. Like right by your sunniest south-facing window.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Feb 22, 2018 1:25 PM (+)]
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Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Feb 22, 2018 3:34 PM CST
That looks like a pretty extensive infestation. Attempting to reach them all with a cotton swab will be a major undertaking and probably an exercise in futility. I suggest that you use a spray bottle to apply a fine mist into areas that a swab will miss. Wiping is not necessary as long as the spray solution makes direct contact with each mealybug.
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Name: Philip Becker
Fresno California (Zone 8a)
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Philipwonel
Feb 23, 2018 7:53 AM CST
Wiggler 😀
How's that for advice ?😀???
Neem oil, or anything you have on hand for mealybugs will be fine.

Wiggles ON !
Hilarious! 😀
Go, Get them booger's
😎😎😎
Anything i say, could be misrepresented, or wrong.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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DaisyI
Feb 23, 2018 12:26 PM CST
I would skip the Neem oil on cactus. I would be hesitant to use anything with oil on cactus but Neem is a special case. Stick with the alcohol or use insecticidal soap. Remember to rinse the cactus after treatment.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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Name: Karen
NM (Zone 7b)
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plantmanager
Feb 23, 2018 12:31 PM CST
I agree I don't use any oil on the cacti. The alcohol spray or an insecticidal soap spray will work. There are too many to try to touch them with a swab.
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Name: Anna Z.
Monroe, WI
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AnnaZ
Feb 25, 2018 7:17 AM CST
Spray bottle with straight alcohol. I have been doing this for years when needed and I never rinse it off.
Cambridge, MA
weaverswigglers
Feb 25, 2018 9:53 AM CST
Thanks everyone! Really glad to get so much advise.

So it WAS a big undertaking but much deserved love for this cactus. There was just too many spider webs and dust and well it just needed the love. I spent probably an hour getting into all these bugs in all crevasses and ended up using a tiny bottle brush becase of it's durability over the qtips and also the length to get those hard to reach spots without getting poked.

I didn't rinse after but will give it a spary today and will report back in a week and/or two to show the progress. Thank You!

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