Mealybugs are one of the most common plumeria pests, and one of the most common houseplant and tropical plants pests in general too. In this article, we’ll look at how to treat mealybugs on plumeria, as well as the root causes of these sap-sucking insects.
Before we get started, let us reassure you that a mealybug infestation is very rarely a sign of poor plumeria care. Mealybugs are attracted to healthy growing tips and leaves, rich in chlorophyll. Both of these important mealybug food sources are signs of a healthy plumeria tree.
What are Mealybugs?
Mealybugs are often mixed up with scale, but are significantly easier to get rid of! Both mealybugs and scale are part of the same family, Homoptera, but mealybugs are a lower class in that same genus.
Mealybugs develop faster, but don’t have the hard outer shell of scale insects, and coat themselves in bitter saliva, rather than the sticky waxy coating used by scale insects. Both are treatable, and if caught early will cause very little damage to plumeria plants.
How do mealybugs damage plumeria?
Mealybugs cover themselves in foamy white saliva, as well as produce a common secretion called honeydew. These waxy secretions are rich in sugar and typically attract other insects like ants and leaf miners, which can often be the cause of a bigger problem.
The immediate damage done by mealybugs is by their piercing mouth parts, which damage leaves, creating tiny holes that can harbor bacteria and fungal spores. Bad infestations can cause leaves to shrivel and leaf curl which prevents photosynthesis. this is often caused by the sheer amount of mealybug on a leaf removing almost all moisture.
Identifying Mealybugs on Plumeria
Mealybug is often mistaken for scale or spider mites on plumeria as all three are similarly sized, and all secrete a natural substance called honeydew. All three insects can cause sooty mold, and all three use a protective coating around themselves and their young.
Scale typically cover themselves in a pale, creamy waxy coating, while mealybugs are covered in white foam making them easy to tell apart.
Spider mites cover their eggs in white silk, so white clumps are often clustered on the undersides of leaves at the base of a stem. Mealybugs are generally on all parts of the plant, covering plumeria stem and leaf material in equal measure.
What causes mealybugs on plumeria?
Mealybug is attractive to other edible plants, not just plumeria, and is typically attracted by healthy rowing tips, and plants high in chlorophyll. The nectar of plumeria is often assumed to be a significant draw for mealybugs too.
Early stages of infestations rarely harm plants, but a bad infestation of mealybug can cover leaves with waxy excretions, and if your plant continues to harbour mealybugs they can eventually cover the entire plant.
Thankfully, as we’ll explore below, treating mealybug is easy, and plumeria almost always recovers from mealybug infections if you catch them before fungal disease take hold.
Treating Mealybugs on Plumeria
There are a few different ways to treat mealybug but all are safe for plumeria plants, whether you’re treating a light infestation or the whole plant.
Home remedies include:
- Wash mealybug away
- Use dish soap to create a spray insecticide
Unlike scale, mealybug can simply be washed off your plant. they will lay eggs on the soil but they are weaker than scale eggs and are easily treated with insecticidal soap.
For severe infestations, there are some truly brilliant insecticidal soaps, and organic insecticides available online. Below, we’ll run through the three best ways to get rid of mealybug on plumeria, including one that might seem a little unusual…
The best products to treat mealybugs on plumeria
1: Monterey Horticultural Oil Concentrate Insecticide
Horticultural oil is an organic insecticidal soap, used against pests on all tropical plants, and is often used to treat light infestations on crops. Horticultura soap is safe and non-toxic to humans once dried, but do not consume it while wet.
The saponins in the mix (usually from Castile) create a coating over invertebrates that suffocates them, while the insecticidal parts (usually Neem) dry their hard shells and kill them instantly.
Monterey are a trusted brand for organic pesticides with a reputation for responsibly sourcing materials and efficient products.
- Can be used on growing and dormant plumeria
- Effective against mealybug infestation
- Not targetted, so can harm beneficial insects
2: Gardner Time Live Ladybugs
Ladybugs are easy to use and easy to control. By releasing ladybugs directly onto your houseplants, or tropical plant collection, they will devour a population of mealybug in a few hours. the following day, just open a window and they will instinctively fly out in search of more food.
- Natural predators
- Doesn’t disturb nutrients on leaves
- Leave when ready
- Requires releases live insects indoors
3: Neem Oil
This ready-to-use neem oil spray is exactly what it says on the tin. Just open this straight for the post and spray directly onto plumeria. Neem oil causes no harm to plumeria when diluted, and is a speedy way to remove mealybug infestations.
The only thing to be careful with when using neem oil is that you never spray it onto pollinators or other insects as it will kill any insects on contact. Once it has dried it’s safe for insects to crawl over and won’t cause harm, so for outdoor pants, either bring them indoors to spray neem oil, or spray them before dawn when there are fewer insects around.
- Effective against mealybug on plumeria
- Easy to use
- Good value
- Not targetted, so can harm beneficial insects
How do I get rid of plumeria bugs?
The easiest way to get rid of bugs on plumeria is to spray pre-mixed neem oil solutions or insecticidal soap. Outdoor infestations are best treated by using predatory insects like ladybugs which can be bought online and are generally beneficial to the wider environment.
What is the best treatment for mealybugs?
Mealybugs can be treated with standard neem oil solutions, horticultural soap, or even pure rubbing alcohol dabbed directly onto their backs. All three methods will kill mealybugs instantly.
How do I get rid of mealy bugs without killing my plants?
Plumerias don’t like pesticides that dry them out, but often this is the only option as the most effective pesticide treatments for plumeria are also fungicides which work by dehydrating spores as well as plant tissue. After any insecticide or pesticide treatment, wait for two hours, then rinse your plumeria plant to remove the dehydrating coating.
How do I get prevent mealybug on plumeria?
Mealybugs are attracted to healthy plumeria plants, and particularly love fresh growing tips and new leaves in spring. There is no effective way to control mealybugs without growing plumeria outdoors, where natural predators keep mealybug populations down. All houseplant growers will be used to mealybugs. they are just one of those things that will always need to be treated!
It really is that simple to treat mealybugs affecting your plumeria, just keep them in check with neem oil, and maintain your regular plumeria care routine. There’s no way to prevent mealybugs without giving plumeria bad conditions, so just find a treatment method that works for you.