How to Identify, Treat and Kill Mealybugs on Succulents

kill mealybugs on succulents

If you’ve been in the plant game for a while there’s a good chance you’ve come across mealybugs.  

If you’re new to plants you probably didn’t even notice them the first time around.

Why would you assume that white cottony looking stuff in your succulent garden was anything but… cotton?  

How could you believe there was actually a quiet pest infestation taking over your precious succulents?

You wouldn’t - because you’re a plant person and plant people tend to be optimists.

We believe in planting today for tomorrow... and all that jazz.  

What are Mealybugs?

You hear mealybugs and you automatically picture little tiny bugs crawling around.

At least I was the first time - but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

It actually looks like a cotton-candy looking substance. They’re sticky, white and look like white cotton candy got into a vicious food fight and some of it sprinkled onto your succulents.

Mealybugs are unarmored scale insects from the family Pseudococcidae.

How do Mealybugs Affect Succulents?

Mealybugs are tiny insects that live off a plant’s juices.

They eat through the leaf to get to a succulent’s storage reserves - these open wounds expose the succulent to bacterial and fungal disease.

If you zoom in on the image at the very top of this article, you can see the succulent leaves remain plump, but they do start to take on a bumpy look.  They end up looking a bit distorted, especially in the center of the plant.

Where do Mealybugs Live?

Mealybugs thrive in warm and moist environments - think greenhouse, cozy indoor areas and outdoor plants in warm climates.

They will usually hide deep in-between your rosette succulent leaves.

If you have a favorite plant, it usually goes after that one.

Can Mealybugs Spread?

Mealybugs can spread like wildfire.

If it’s on one plant you can be sure it’s spread to neighboring plants or an entire section of the garden.

Treatment Care for Succulents with Mealybugs

It's important to first move your infected plants away from healthy plants.

Depending on your collection and garden, this could be easy or tedious.  The point is to minimize the amount of plants infected.    

You have many options to choose from to treat your succulent - mealybug situation.

Let’s go over them:

Household Chemicals

  • Windex - Simply spray on the the plants

Dilute these with water and put in spray bottle

  • Dish soap
  • Rubbing alcohol

Standard Insecticidal Spray

Some need to be diluted with water so make sure to check the bottle

Any Other Steps I need to Take?

You can literally spray the plants and walk away.

If you want bonus points - you can do these 2 extra steps:

  1. Spray the neighboring plants
  2. Grab some Q-tips and get between the succulent leaves to wipe off the mealybugs

What if You Don’t Have these Chemicals?

You can go to any store or order them online.

When to Spray Your Mealybug-Infested Succulents?

You should treat your succulents in the late afternoon when it gets cooler OR when your plants are no longer in direct sunlight.

Watering or spraying liquids to your plants when it’s exposed to the sun can lead to scorch marks and water spots.

Fun Fact: You might’ve been surprised to see Windex as an option to treat mealybugs, but many people swear it works, and it doesn’t leave water / streak marks on your plants. :)

My Succulent Bloom Stalk has Mealybugs

Oh no! Sad to say it, but it’s best to remove it.

Blooms take so much energy to produce for a succulent, and although it’s pretty, you’re better off removing the whole thing if it’s not healthy.

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