University of Maryland Extension

Mealybugs - Houseplants

close up of mealybugs
Mealybugs on potted cycad

Back to Common Problems - Houseplants

Mealybugs are covered with a powdery wax and the body tapers towards the tail. They may have waxy tufts around the body margin and several tails at the rear end. Mealybugs may be found at rest or slowly crawling on the undersides of leaves, on stems in flowers or even on the outside of the pot. Cottony white wax is usually the first sign of their presence. Mealybugs damage plants by sucking say and their feeding can result in yellowing leaves, stunting, dieback or death of the plants. They secrete honeydew that supports the growth of black sooty mold.


Management: Check plants on a regular basis for the presence of mealybugs. Mealybugs that have been parasitized will be darker in color and exit holes may be visible where the parasite emerged. Dipping a cotton swab in household alcohol and dabbing it on the individual mealybugs can control light infestations. Mealybugs treated with alcohol will turn light brown in color. Be careful not to get the alcohol on the leaves of the plants as they may be damaged. For heavy infestations spray the plants thoroughly with insecticidal soap for houseplants or a registered houseplant spray. Be sure to follow all directions carefully and make sure that the plant or pest are on the label.

Photo Gallery

mealybugs infesting a cactus

Mealybugs on cactus
mealybugs on creeping fig
Symptoms on creeping fig
dieback on orchid with mealybugs
Dieback on Paphiopedilum (slipper) orchid
mealybugs on shrimp plant flower
Mealybugs on flower of shrimp plant
close-up of a mealybug
Close-up of mealybug
mealybugs on coleus stem
Mealybugs on coleus
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