What causes mealybugs on plants and how do they spread infestation? This is the focus of our discussion today.
The origin of a pest problem is often vital to its comprehensive resolution. Identifying how the problem started gives you an idea of how best to contain the problem.
One of these pest issues we’ll be focusing on is the mealybug.
Where do they come from and what type of damage do they cause?
What Causes Mealybugs?
If you’re familiar with plant cultivation you’re likely to have an idea of what mealybugs are about.
These are sap-sucking insects that can cause many problems with symptoms such as wilting or leaf distortion being among visible signs.
Asides from identifying their origins, we’ll be including information on how best to control them.
When a question is asked about the origins of a pest problem, it’s because there’s an existing infestation that has been observed or determined.
Here, the targets for mealybugs are plants. As stated earlier, they feed or suck on plant sap which leads to all sorts of problems relating to proper development.
Plants most impacted by mealybugs include several varieties of ornamental plants, as well as a greenhouse plant.
Fruit plants and houseplants are also among those most vulnerable to mealybug attacks. Having identified the main target as plants, we’re left with the option of finding out where mealybugs originate or come from.
Mealybug Symptoms Are Vital
There’s a need to identify mealy bug issues before seeking to find the origins of the problem. Several conditions will be noticed or will appear on affected plants.
Such conditions include premature leaf drops, wilting of new leaves, as well as sooty mold. Bud drops are also common signs of mealybug presence.
Premature Leaf Drops
Whenever you notice your plant leaves being shed earlier than normal, it’s a clear sign of a problem.
In the case of mealybug infestation, a close look will reveal a dense sooty mold that’s responsible for affecting or blocking photosynthesis which leads to dropped leaves.
Wilting of New Leaves
As mealybugs feed on plant sap, what results is a slow and gradual wilting of leaves. This could worsen in cases of significant mealybug infestations.
The leaves become distorted in addition to wilting. A combination of all these symptoms is a clear sign that you have a problem you need to deal with.
Sooty mold on plants arises from excreted honeydew which mealybugs are known to be responsible for.
When some or all of these symptoms are seen, it’s time to take drastic actions by identifying the sources and providing solutions.
How Do Mealybugs Spread?
In a bid to deal with an existing mealybug problem, you want to also fix the cause as well as the effect.
The appearance of mealy bugs as well as the damage caused is the effect while the cause involves where they came from and what activities accidentally (involving humans) led to their presence.
Mealybugs could be spread from another plant from a nursery, in addition to being carried by ants. Other likely causes of your mealybug problem include overwintering activity, as well as contact with the human hand.
Also, mealy bugs may be spread through the air or may stay in the soil as eggs.
Spreading from Another Plant from Nursery
Do you frequently visit plant nurseries? If you do, you’re likely to unknowingly bring home some mealybugs and have your plants infested by them.
This is often the case when new plants are purchased from the nursery to be grown at home.
Infestation or spread of mealy bugs is more likely when the affected plant(s) is placed among others.
They transfer easily and rapidly increase in numbers, thus causing a significant problem as your entire plants now become infested.
Carried by Ants
Mealybugs have something ants need; the honeydew excreted by them. Ants carry such honeydew about, thus distributing more mealybugs as such bugs cling to honeydew.
Before long, all or most of the plants you have been faced with the same problem.
Watering is an essential part of plant cultivation due to their need for water.
However, excess overwatering activity can result in problems as too much moisture is present in the soil. Mealybugs are attracted to such conditions and lay their eggs within such soils.
Also, mealybugs tend to be found more in over-fertilized soils or land. This, coupled with excess moisture creates the perfect condition for mealybugs to thrive.
Here, the simple action of overwatering and excess soil fertilization becomes the root cause of the problem.
Contact with Human Hand
During gardening, the likely hood of coming in contact with mealy bug-infested flowers is high.
The eggs or mealybugs themselves get attached to your hands and are easily transferred when you attend to other plants. In this case, your actions unknowingly lead to the further spread of mealy bugs.
One way of handling this possibility is having your hands washed every time you come in contact with any plants.
While this is true, it’s quite impractical to have your hands washed before soiling them with the next plant. It’s best to have affected plants treated as it gives the best results.
Spread through Air
Did you know that mealybugs can be spread through the air? Their lightweight eggs laid on plant leaves are easily carried by air and transferred to nearby plants.
This is a natural and efficient way of distributing mealybug eggs which later hatch into mealy bugs.
Stay in Soil as Eggs
When using unsterilized soil in your garden, your chance of dealing with mealybugs increases. This is because they lay their eggs in soil which hatch into mealy bugs after a few weeks.
Mealy Bug Prevention
Having discussed the likely origins of mealy bugs, we’ll need to also discuss ways to contain their presence. It’s important to consider heavy pruning of infested plant foliage and to have such properly disposed of.
Closely inspect plants and cuttings before taking them into your garden.
Other preventive measures include the application of horticultural glue in band format to keep ants from getting to your plants. Have weeds removed or cut and also trim dense foliage.
Your mealybug problems don’t have to be complicated as all you have to do is adopt the above prevention strategies.