Root MealyBug Control

Uprooting and winning the war on this garden insect pests


The flip side of the coin

Before we jump into the discussion of the root mealybugs there is also a family of mealybugs that live above ground. These mealybugs can often be found clinging to the foliage of garden plants, especially on the undersides. The reason for these mealybugs clinging to the undersides is to be protected from the elements such as the wind, rain, sun and also predator insects.

In extreme cases, these bugs infest not only the undersides of the plant foliage but the leaves surface and the stems as well. I have treated these garden insect pest on numerous occasions both in the landscape and garden areas and also on the interior. Quick action must be taken because if left unchecked mealybugs will cause serious damage such as.

  • Producing a fluffy white waxy substance on the plant’s leaves
  • The plant loses its vigor and becomes stunted
  • A sticky substance will be found on the leaves surface, this substance is known as honeydew
  • You will also notice a black mass which resembles dirt that forms on the honeydew reducing the beauty of your plant. This black  mass which is known as sooty mold will cover the leaves and the stems
  • Your plant leaves will turn yellow
  • Your plant will experience premature leaf drop
  • As you remove this fluffy white waxy substance you will discover pink eggs

These signs are symptoms which shows that mealybugs are feeding on your plant causing serious injury. Mealybugs have piercing-sucking mouthparts which they use to inject into the plant’s foliage and ingest the plant’s fluids which is not good for plant life.

My personal story of success by treating and controlling the root mealybug

There is another family of mealybugs that inhabit the soil, these mealybugs can go undetected leaving the home gardener confused as to what is going on in his garden. This was my experience many years ago as a foreman working on a 2-acre estate which is located at Lyford Cay which is an upscale community.

This particular garden plant had no visual signs of being attacked by insects, I did not physically see any insects but yet the symptoms showed that something was wrong because of the plant deteriorating. This garden plant did not have a disease nor was there any environmental factor which was influencing these symptoms. I did my best each day to preserve that plant trying everything that I had learned both in the classroom and on the field but yet to no avail, then the thought came to me to uproot this plant and to my amazement I discovered lots of tiny snow-white insects attached to the plant’s root and hence was my discovery of the root mealybugs. I did my research took the proper measure and guess what I was all smiles because I got to the root of the problem uprooted it and WON!

You live and you learn

In all my former years both in the classroom and on the field I would have never imagined that there was a family or group of mealybugs which lived below ground, this was new to me, earth-shaking if I can use that word. This was a new discovery to me something that my instructors never taught me.

Signs that you have root mealybugs

The root mealybugs feed on the plant roots causing server injury, this feeding of the roots will cause your plant to become stunted, the leaves will turn a pale color, turning yellow then brown followed by leaf drop, if your plant is a flowering plant there will be bud drop and bloom failure.

Container grown plants

Root mealybugs are much easier to spot when growing plants from containers vs growing plants directly from the soil. Once the plant is removed from the container and inspection is done if the issue is root mealybugs you will see them gathered around the root ball. Control measures involve removing the plant from the container, placing the plant’s root ball in a plastic bag and removing the infested soil.

Once all of the soil is removed from the root ball into the plastic bag tie or seal the bag very tightly and properly dispose of it in a garbage container, this soil should not be reused especially if seeking to build a compost pile. Bring a pot of water to a boil the water temperature should be about 120 degrees F, pour this water very carefully into a bucket. Let the plant roots sit in the hot water for about 10 minutes, this will further kill off any remaining root mealybugs along with their eggs. Remove your plant from the bucket of hot water then repot with fresh soil the container should be sterilized however before adding fresh soil.

Field grown plants

Field grown plants or plants which are growing directly in the ground can be a bit of a challenge, small plants can be removed and the root ball should be inspected. Once it is discovered that the issue is root mealybugs a soil drench can be applied such as organophosphates or Imidacloprid. Before Applying chemicals read and follow the manufacturer’s label because the label is the law.

Additional Information

  • Before purchasing plants from your garden nursery inspect the soil and the root ball to ensure that it is root mealybug free
  • Once you have taken your plant or plants home ensure that the containers are sterilized if it was used on previous occasions to pot plants
  • The use of warm water and dish liquid can get the job done. Wash the container thoroughly
  • Infested plants should be removed from healthy plants when treating and returned after the treatment process

The Final Word

If your home garden or house plant is showing these symptoms and you have ruled out everything else then it is time to do further inspection of looking for signs for this garden insect pest that lives below the ground. Why should your garden plants have to suffer or be at the mercy of these pests when you can fight back giving your plant a fighting chance to survive? Your garden plant is depending on you to get them through this time so they can regain their bloom and luster so go for it as we continue to win the war on garden insect pests.


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About the author

+ posts

Norman loves being in the garden, both at home and for his job....
he is 'Natures Little helper' being outdoors, growing his vegetables and flowers from an early age.
Now having spent over 22 years in the profession he want to give some of his knowledge to others...
his vast array of hints and tips you will find scattered over this site will help you no end growing plants in your garden.

8 thoughts on “Root MealyBug Control”

  1. Thank you so much for this insightful, informative and educative post. How can I possibly thank you enough for the piece of techniques you have shared here for me to put this mealybugs under control from hampering my garden plants. Since the past one month, all my garden plant leaves have been turning very yellow and it has caused very high concern for me. Thanks for this post, now I know the mealybugs are the reason and I will definitely engage in how to curb and control them. Thanks

    • So good to see you again. Mealybugs can cause so much damage to plant life destroying a beautiful garden. So happy that I could help and wishing you all the best on winning the war on these garden insect pests.

  2. Yet another great article from you, I know each time I drop by, I am always bound to learn new things, and learning about this root Mealybugs is like winning a good medal.

    Though I am not experiencing any of the signs mentioned above, it is a lesson worth knowing, as you never can tell when such things can occur

    At least this will save me lots of trial and errors and even sleepless nights if it ever happens, because now, I  will know what I am dealing with.

    If I may ask though, do you think there is anything that can be done to keep them away in the first place?


    • Hello Queen my dear lady thanks so much for your kind words you make me feel so good, it lets me know that my hard work is paying off. These bugs can really do a lot of damage and having knowledge of them can save you from lots of headaches. To answer you’re questioning it is a challenge to keep them away, what you can do is to keep your garden plants growing as healthy as ever may help, your plant will be able to bounce back much quicker from an attack if they are kept healthy. Hope this help and thanks again for those kind words.

  3. Yes another garden pest to think about.  We  had our first garden last year.  We cleared a plot of land, took out all the vegetation, tilled the soil, and then we brought a sample of the soil to our local nursery and they tested it for us.  We took a class at a local shop on how to garden (which ended up being a parade of products for sale with less than satisfactory instruction lol), but we got some things out of it.  We were lucky.  We learned about pests, but we didn’t actually experience any.  I will definitely keep an eye out for these little critters.  Yuck.

    • Yuck is the right word and they can cause so much damage. It is so good to know about them and how to keep your garden clear of them. You seem to have a great interest in gardening and that is so great. How wonderful it is to connect with nature in the great outdoors. Keep up the good works.

  4. Thank you very much for this article. I have been vegetable gardening for many years and the mealybug is one that I am not familiar with. But from past experiences I can see that this was a problem that I was having spring of 2018 when I lived in Panama City area. Especially with my tomatoes which were in pots. Premature leaf drop, discoloration of the leaves. But I did not know what to do, nor did the gardeners that I talked to. 

    I have used Ladybugs in the past for pests, may be the reason I never had a problem. 

    I will remember this now and will check out more of your site. 


    • Hello Sonny so good to meet you and I am so happy to help. Mealybugs are a common garden insect pests that can cause much damage. So sorry to hear about your experience but happy to know that you got it resolved. Wishing you the best of success and have a good day.


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