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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