Mealybugs are a common pest of orchids, particularly Phalaenopsis. When you see them for the first time, you may think your plant has some sort of cottony white fluffy mass on its leaves. On closer scrutiny, you will see wingless insects feeding on the plant’s tissue.
You need to get rid of Mealybugs on orchids as quickly as possible. Once they are established, they become harder to get rid of. They can be active and quickly infest nearby plants. Therefore, you need to act quickly to minimize their damage to your plants.
This article will find some of the most effective ways of getting rid of mealybugs on an orchid. You will also get to learn more about how to take care of your orchid.
Let’s get started!
How to Get Rid of Mealybugs on Orchids
Using insecticides may not be healthy since they may also end up killing beneficial insects. Additionally, the chemical insecticides may harm the plants if you are not keen on the amount you will be using.
However, you can use them if you have a heavy infestation of mealybugs. Ensure you use chemicals that are labeled for ornamental plants. Otherwise, it will increase the phytotoxicity in your orchid plants and kill them.
The following chemical insecticides are some of the most commonly used: diazinon, carbaryl, malathion, and acephate. Ensure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the amount and frequency of use when using these chemicals.
Additionally, you may need to rotate the use of the insecticides and other methods if you have frequent mealybug infestations. This will aid in preventing the mealybug population from becoming resistant to them.
2. Oil and Soaps
You can use oils such as neem oil or horticultural oil and organic soaps such as insecticidal to eliminate mealybugs. The most straightforward method is to add a teaspoon of soap and oil to a liter of water.
Then add some of the solutions to a spray bottle and spray the branches, leaves, stem, and soil of the orchid plant.
Before using this solution on the entire plant, ensure to spray it on a couple of leaves and observe after 24 hours. If there is no reaction on the leaves, you can spray it on the entire plant.
Be keen when selecting the oils since some of them may burn the plant. It is good to test them on a few leaves before using them.
The safest option is neem oil which you can use along with insecticidal soap. The soap coats the waxy surface of the mealybugs and dissolves it. The neem oil will be absorbed by the mealybugs and disrupt their growth cycle, causing them to die out slowly.
Since neem oil works slowly in killing the mealybug, you need to spray it every week until you notice the mealybugs are no longer on your orchid plants.
3. Rubbing Alcohol
The simplest method of eliminating mealybugs from your orchids is by rubbing alcohol, also known as isopropyl alcohol. You can purchase the one available at your local chemist – with an alcohol concentration of 70%.
The best mix is to use 50% of this rubbing alcohol with 50% of clean water and put it in a spray bottle. You can then spray it on all the leaves and plant parts you see infested with mealybugs.
Also, you can use a cotton swab to dip in the solution and then gently rub the leaves to get rid of all the mealybugs and their residue.
Additionally, you can add a teaspoon of organic liquid soap, which will help the solution spread on the leaves and coat it on the mealybugs.
You will need to keep spraying or applying this solution to your orchid plants every week until the mealybugs disappear.
4. Use of Beneficial Insects
This is an organic, natural method that nature has in place to balance the cycle of life. However, using this method will reduce the population of mealybugs but may not get rid of them completely.
You may consider drawing any of the following insects to your garden since they can feed on mealybugs:
• Lady beetles
• Green lacewings
• Brown lacewings
Also, you can buy these insects and release them in the garden instead of attracting them by growing native plants in your garden, close to the orchids.
5. Growth Regulators
You can use growth regulators to reduce and get rid of mealybugs on your orchid plants. One such growth regulator is kinoprene – a juvenile hormone. Kinoprene will interfere with the growing cycles of the mealybugs and reduce their population. You need to use the right amount of this growth regulator. It does not have any harmful effects on pets or humans.
Another chemical you can use is azadiractin – a chitin inhibitor. Insects use chitin to develop their exoskeleton. Therefore, a chitin inhibitor will cause poor development of the exoskeleton. This will cause the mealybugs to begin dying since their bodies will not be able to survive long with such poor development.
6. Till the Ground
Mealybugs may infest the orchid plant and the roots and potting soil. In such a case, the best thing to do is repot the plant to different locations in the garden where mealybugs are yet to infest.
After repotting, you can use a tiller to till several inches of the infested soil. This will expose the mealybugs to the surface, where insects and birds feast on them.
Additionally, you can spray the rubbing alcohol and soap solution on the mealybugs until you notice they have disappeared from the soil.
7. Hand-Pick Them
Plucking the mealybugs by hand is a simple, natural, and effective method of getting rid of them. After hand-picking them, you can put them in a bucket with soapy water to kill them. Alternatively, you can squish them using your fingers. If you feel icky picking them by hand or you do not want the waxy coating on your hand, you can use gloves.
The mealybugs can infest your plant on the stems, branches, leaves, roots, and soil. You may use most methods to get them out of the foliage, but it may be difficult to get them out of the roots and soil.
A better solution would be to repot your orchid with new soil. If you are growing them in a pot, this is simpler since you can use a new pot with a fresh batch of potting soil.
To repot, take your orchid root ball out of the existing pot by gently tapping on it. Alternatively, you can cut open the pot if it is plastic.
Ensure you remove all the mealybugs on the roots by pulling them out with your hand and using rubbing Alcohol to clear them out. Then you can add fresh potting soil to the new pot and put the root ball into it.
If you are growing your orchid in an outdoor garden, you can transplant it from one location to another free from mealybugs.
9. Use of Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth refers to a fine, white, powdery material that has microscopic pieces of shells from the ocean. These fine particles have sharp edges to them.
You can dust diatomaceous earth all over your orchid plants with a mealybug infestation. The mealybug’s soft bodies get cut when they move over the diatomaceous earth – making them survive for a short period.
The good news is that diatomaceous earth is organic and will not harm humans or pets. All you need is to take care when spraying the powder since it can get in your lungs and cause irritation. Therefore, wear eye protection, gloves, masks, and thick clothes when spraying them over the orchids.
You can mix the diatomaceous earth with water before spraying it over the orchids. When the water dries out, the diatomaceous earth will stick to the plant’s parts and start doing its work.
You can apply a layer of diatomaceous earth at least once every week to get the best results since it will take some time to affect the mealybugs.
Also, you need to apply it again if it rains in the garden and the earlier coating gets washed away.
10. Prune the Infested Parts
If the mealybug infestation has just begun on your orchid, you can prune the affected parts such as the roots, branches, and leaves. Pruning implies that you cut away the parts of the infested plant.
After cutting the infested parts, dispose of them far away from your plants to prevent the mealybugs from moving to other plants in your garden. Preferably, you can burn the plant parts just to be safe. Also, you can use a bypass pruner to clip away the infested parts. This will enable you to prune the plant with minimal damage.
Additionally, you can clean the bypass pruner with rubbing Alcohol before and after using it on each orchid, you are pruning.
Is Beer Good for Orchids?
Beer has plenty of vitamin B, which aids in proper root development. As a result, your plants will grow stronger, healthier, and have good immunity to withstand diseases or pests.
Watering Orchids with beer is mainly practiced by Asians. To water your plants in the Asian way, use a solution of light beer (lager is recommended) and water at a proportion of 1:30. You can limit watering your plant using beer to not more than once a month. Additionally, do not do it during the winter (between December and March).
Is Hydrogen Peroxide Good for Orchids?
As much as hydrogen peroxide is well known for its antimicrobial properties, it is not ideal for orchid care. The oxidizing properties of Hydrogen Peroxide on your orchid roots will burn and destroy the healthy velamen that protects the roots, obstructing their absorption characteristics.