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Infestations of white, waxy insects on indoor and greenhouse plants, along with sticky honeydew on the leaves.

Find it on: cacti, succulents,greenhouse and house plants
Time to act: summer, autumn, winter


Soft-bodied, 4mm-long mealybugs are often found on greenhouse plants and house plants such as cacti and succulents, feeding on their sap. They are covered by a white, waxy secretion, and congregate in leaf axils and other inaccessible parts of plants. They debilitate the plants and secrete a sticky, sugary honeydew that covers the leaves, which often results in further problems, such as sooty moulds.


Infestations of white, waxy insects on indoor and greenhouse plants, along with sticky honeydew on the leaves.


Dispose of fallen leaves that might have the bugs or eggs attached. Use the predatory ladybird Cryptolaemus montrouzieri when temperatures rise in summer. Also try spraying plants with fatty acids or plant oils. You may need to do this a few times, but it's a suitable treatment for edible plants. Inspect new plants before bringing them indoors. Severely affected plants might have to be destroyed.


Fatty acid-based organic sprays can be used on edibles.

Discuss this problem

Talkback: Mealybugs
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Bladesman30 24/11/2011 at 15:28

It's useful because from the information about 'Mealy Bugs',I now deduce that my 'Cotoneaster'is NOT infected by THIS pest. I think that the problem is 'Wooly Aphid'.Thanks,so far.

welshdaffodil 24/11/2011 at 15:28

If you notice mealy bug early enough on your plant, you can use a cotton bud dipped in rubbing alcohol to kill each one. Can be laborious though if there are many.

maggie-1 10/02/2012 at 14:02

I completely changed the compost and repotted my aloe vera last year after finding these in the compost. I have now found the plant is infested and the base rotted. Can I save the plant and should I give the damaged roots to the birds to feast off them?

Dave Wood 09/05/2013 at 19:59

So, Gardener's World, you first teach us to attract bees into our gardens and then teach us to KILL THEM by recommending neonicotinoid pesticides to kill mealybugs on our garden plants? Shame on you. The sooner the EU bans these pesticides the better, because we can't rely on this website to act responsibly. And please don't excuse yourselves by saying you're offering a 'choice' to gardeners. You are not informing the gardeners of the proven hazards of neonics, so you are not giving them an informed choice.

Bentham Bees 09/05/2013 at 20:15

Gardeners World, I'm shocked that you are diametrically opposite Monty Don's (and the majority of the UK's) opinion of neonicotinoids. Should we really attract pollinators with flowers then kill them with pesticides? I hope you are also pointing out that when applied to food crops these pesticides have a negative effect on brain development in children and the unborn!

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