Little White Bugs on Plants

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Little White Bugs on Plants

Short Answer: Little white bugs on plants are often a sign of a common pest infestation, typically mealybugs or whiteflies. Mealybugs appear as small, white, cottony masses on leaves, stems, and fruit, feeding on the plant’s sap and weakening it. Whiteflies, on the other hand, are tiny white flying insects that cluster underneath leaves, also sapping nutrients. These pests not only damage the plant by feeding on it but can also introduce harmful diseases. Effective control methods include regularly inspecting plants for early signs of infestation, isolating affected plants, and using insecticidal soaps or neem oil treatments to eliminate these pests.


From time to time, your houseplants may encounter some bugs, and one of the most common pests is a mealybug. These insects look like small pieces of cotton, with a waxy or fuzzy white appearance, and they can stick to stems and leaves. Despite their seemingly harmless appearance, mealybugs can cause a triple threat to your houseplants. Firstly, they feed on plant juices, which can weaken and damage growth. Secondly, they leave a sugary, sticky residue called honeydew, which can attract a fungus called sooty mold. This fungus can reduce the amount of sunlight that a plant can access, and ultimately harm its growth. If you want to get rid of mealybugs on your houseplants and prevent them from coming back, here’s what you can do.

mealy bug

What Are Mealybugs?

Mealybugs are small insects that are oval in shape and are similar to scale pests, although they have soft bodies instead of hard shell-like scales. They tend to hide in difficult-to-reach areas, such as the spots where leaves meet stems and the undersides of leaves. Some mealybugs can also be found in soil and on roots, making them harder to detect. These bugs are most commonly found on citrus trees and tropical plants such as fiddle leaf figs and hibiscus, but they can also infest other plants nearby.

How to Get Rid of Mealybugs

If you have mealybugs on your houseplants, don’t worry. There are several options available to get rid of them. It’s important to be patient and persistent if you want to successfully remove these pests. First, separate the infested plants from the healthy ones to prevent the bugs from spreading. Then, examine the problem closely to determine the extent of the infestation. This will help you choose the best method to eliminate the mealybugs.

Rubbing Alcohol

If the infested plant is small or there aren’t many mealybugs, dab the insects with a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol. This will kill and wipe off the bugs and clean away the honeydew. The alcohol will dry quickly without hurting your plant, but it’s always a good idea to test a leaf and wait a day to see how each plant responds.

Jet of Water

You can also remove mealybugs from your houseplants with a strong water jet. Take your potted plants outside (if temperatures are above 50˚F) and use your hose to spray them down. Don’t forget to hit the undersides of the leaves. In addition to blasting off the bugs, you’ll also be rinsing away any sticky residue plus cleaning off dust and dirt on your plants at the same time. However, this method isn’t a good choice for delicate plants or those that don’t like a lot of water.

Insecticide

For the most stubborn mealybug infestations, using insecticidal soap or neem oil on them should do the trick. Spray thoroughly over all the white patches on your plant, making sure to get into the stem crevices and under the leaves. As with any pesticide, always read and follow all instructions on the label to use these products effectively and safely.

Repeat the treatment of choice every few days until there are no signs of pests. Sometimes, mealybugs will infest your plants’ roots, and it’s nearly impossible to eliminate the pests then. In this case, the easiest thing to do would be to toss the plant to keep the pests from spreading to your other plants.

Tips for Preventing Mealybug Infestations

  • Mealybugs can hitchhike inside when you buy a new plant or move your houseplants indoors for the winter. These are both excellent times to carefully check the plants before you bring them into your home.
  • It’s a good idea to quarantine new plants away from your other plants for a week or two. That way, if bugs or diseases sneak in, you’ll keep them from spreading out of control.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are mealybugs harmful to pets or people?

    Mealybugs aren’t harmful to pets, but the products used to eliminate them can be, so keep pets away from plants treated with insecticide to get rid of mealybugs. Likewise, mealybugs aren’t harmful to humans, though some people may experience skin irritation if they come in contact with them.

  • How big do mealybugs get?

    Mealybugs can range in size from 1/20 of an inch to 1/5 of an inch long.

  • Can mealybugs fly or jump to other plants?

    Mealybugs make their way onto outdoor and indoor plants through other plants brought into the landscape or the home. They can’t fly, and they don’t jump, so if you check new plants and find and remove mealybugs quickly, you can keep them from infesting other plants around them.

Most Popular Flowers & Plants in the USA

RegionPopular FlowersPopular Plants
Northeast (e.g., New York, Massachusetts)Rose, Purple Lilac, Mountain LaurelSugar Maple, American Elm, White Pine
Southeast (e.g., Florida, Georgia)Orange Blossom, Cherokee Rose, Southern MagnoliaLive Oak, Spanish Moss, Saw Palmetto
Midwest (e.g., Ohio, Illinois)Carnation, Violet, Purple ConeflowerBur Oak, Prairie Grasses, Wild Bergamot
Southwest (e.g., Texas, Arizona)Bluebonnet, Saguaro Cactus Flower, Indian PaintbrushJoshua Tree, Agave, Mesquite
West (e.g., California, Washington)California Poppy, Coast Rhododendron, BitterrootGiant Sequoia, Redwood, Manzanita
Rocky Mountain (e.g., Colorado, Montana)Rocky Mountain Columbine, Bitterroot, Indian PaintbrushBlue Spruce, Aspen, Sagebrush
Great Plains (e.g., Kansas, Nebraska)Sunflower, Goldenrod, Purple ConeflowerCottonwood, Bluestem Grasses, Buffalo Grass
Pacific Northwest (e.g., Oregon, Alaska)Oregon Grape, Forget-me-not, Pacific RhododendronDouglas Fir, Western Hemlock, Ferns

This table includes the most popular flowers and plants in the USA by region, which considers a range of botanical species, including native and widely cultivated varieties.

Most Popular Flowers & Plants in Australia

RegionPopular FlowersPopular Plants
New South WalesWaratah, Bottlebrush, Flannel FlowerEucalyptus, Acacia, Banksia
VictoriaCommon Heath, Waxflower, Pink HeathMountain Ash, Silver Wattle, Victorian Blue Gum
QueenslandCooktown Orchid, Golden Penda, Umbrella Tree FlowerMoreton Bay Fig, Macadamia Nut, Queensland Bottle Tree
South AustraliaSturt's Desert Pea, Kangaroo Paw, Eucalyptus BlossomAdelaide Blue Gum, South Australian Blue Gum, Saltbush
Western AustraliaRed and Green Kangaroo Paw, Mangles Kangaroo Paw, Swan River DaisyJarrah, Marri, Karri
TasmaniaTasmanian Blue Gum, Leatherwood Flower, Tasmanian WaratahHuon Pine, Tasmanian Oak, Myrtle Beech
Northern TerritorySturt's Desert Rose, Frangipani, Desert RoseBoab, Gidgee, Spinifex
Australian Capital TerritoryRoyal Bluebell, Australian Daisy, CorreaSnow Gum, River Red Gum, Black Mountain

This table offers a basic overview of popular flowers and plants in each Australian region, focusing on a combination of state flowers, native species, and other characteristic plants. It's important to note that specific species' popularity and prevalence can vary. This table is a simplified representation. Consulting local botanical gardens or regional horticultural societies in Australia would be ideal for more detailed and accurate information.

Charlotte Gammon

By Charlotte Gammon

Meet Charlotte Gammon, our expert and author. She's our true treasure, as she has got 20+ years of experience in gardening, winery and house design. In early 2000s, she worked for today.com magazine and was in charge of the gaardening section. Later on, Charlotte opened her own designer agency and worked as a designer and decorator. We are happy to have Charlotte with us, as she is our good friend. We value her experience and we're sure you will love the articles she created for our blog.