How to get rid of mealybugs on succulents

Mealybugs are one of the most common pests that infect succulents. Learn a simple way to get rid of them that is safe for the succulents!

This page contains affiliate links, but I love all the products I link to!

If you’re growing succulents indoors (and possibly if you’re growing succulents outdoors), you are likely to encounter mealybugs at some point. If not, lucky you! Mealybugs are like a plague. They spread quickly from plant to plant and it can be difficult to get rid of them. Fortunately, I’ve discovered a simple way to kill them that also keeps your succulents safe from burning or other problems normal pesticides may cause.

Find out how to get rid of mealybugs from your succulents without damaging the plant
Graptoveria ‘Debbie’

What are mealybugs?

Mealybugs are nasty little bugs that like to eat new growth on succulents. It’s difficult to say exactly what causes them to show up, but overwatering is a common cause, as well as over fertilizing. They tend to show up on indoor plants the most as the temperatures are more temperate, but they can show up on succulents outdoors too! These little guys usually hang out in a white web-like substance in the nooks and crannies of your succulent. Their favorite place to hide is right where the leaves meet up with the stem. This makes them hard to see and hard to kill.

If they aren’t treated quickly, mealybugs will spread all over a succulent and to nearby succulents as well. It’s impressive how quickly they move, and frustrating too. As they move, they eat away at the succulent. Often, this will stunt the growth of the plant and cause the new growth to look mis-shaped or smaller than usual. They may also leave some dents in the leaves if they are left for too long.

How can I get rid of mealybugs?

While many plant pesticides will kill mealybugs, the best solution I’ve found to kill them is 70% isopropyl alcohol. Many people recommend using q-tips to dab on the alcohol, but I’ve found that a spray bottle is much more effective and easier to use. I actually keep a little travel sized spray bottle next to my plants so I can kill the nasty things as soon as they show up. I do use a larger one if the infestation gets out of hand or affects very many plants.

When you first notice the mealybugs, move your infected plants away from everything else. Mealybugs spread quickly and you don’t want to risk other plants getting infected. To kill the mealybugs with the alcohol, simply spray the alcohol directly on the mealybugs, wherever they are on the succulent. Be sure to check those hard to see places near the stem. Spray them really well with the alcohol. You’ll notice the web-like substance will almost disappear as soon as you spray them and a little brownish/black bug, the size of a crumb will be left.

Learn the best way to eliminate mealybugs from your succulents!
Graptoveria ‘Debbie’

Generally, if you catch the mealybugs early just one round of alcohol spray will be enough to kill them. If you didn’t quite get them all though, they may come back in a day or two. Continue to spray them until they don’t come back.

If you’ve had a large infestation, it may be a good idea to pour alcohol over the soil the next time you water. This will kill any bugs or eggs that are hiding out in the soil.

Get this great ebook about caring for succulents indoors and solve your succulent growing cares!

Doesn’t the alcohol damage the succulent?

Nope! The great thing about alcohol, as opposed to other pesticides, is it’s completely safe for succulents. I’ve had a few plants with a really bad mealy bug problem that I have pretty much soaked with alcohol a few days in a row. They didn’t show any signs of burn or damage from the alcohol. The alcohol itself evaporates quickly, so it’s just water that remains. If you use the spray bottle, it won’t get too much on the leaves so it evaporates before any damage may occur.

Mealybugs are the most common pest to infect succulents - find out how to get rid of them!
Graptoveria ‘Debbie’

Are there other ways to kill mealybugs?

Yep! I’ve had people suggest adding a little bit of dish soap to water and spraying or dabbing that on. You can also use systemic pesticides for house plants. Lady bugs also keep mealybugs away! The best solution, and cheapest, I’ve found though, is the rubbing alcohol. It is the only one I’m confident will eliminate the mealybug problem and won’t damage your succulents.

My friend Jacki at Drought Smart Plants has put together an ebook about plant pests and how to treat them. If you’re looking for more information about bugs that may be infecting your succulents, I’d highly recommend checking it out!

If you’ve found other safe ways to conquer mealybugs, or other pests, feel free to leave a comment below and let me know!

174 Responses to How to get rid of mealybugs on succulents

  1. I loved your post on using alcohol – I don’t like using pesticides, so I tried spraying an infected plant with alcohol. Unfortunately I didn’t have the success you did. I’ve since turned back to using q-tips dipped in soapy water to remove any mealy bugs I can see and then spraying the plant and dirt thoroughly with pesticide.

    • I’m sorry that you weren’t successful with that! I hope that the soap and pesticide combination works for you!

  2. Hi Cassidy!

    I’m a newbie on succulent world.
    I’m from Indonesia btw, and we only had 2 season (rain and not-rain, LOL)
    it’s hard for me to keep my succulent from dying because of somehow it’s always get mushy and die. any tips for growing succulents on rainy season (like super-rainy season)..?

    just a little while ago, my succulent meet those mealybug and i really hate it.
    but your blog helps me a lot. so, thank you.. :)

    • Hopefully you were able to solve your mealy bug problem! Are your succulents indoors or outdoors? Humidity can definitely be tricky. This post should help you determine what the best schedule for your plant should be.

  3. Hi!
    I seem to have small, quick moving, shiny beige-ish bugs in& around the soil of my Senecio Stapeliiformis. They’re like, at biggest a millimeter long, not even.
    Are these evil mealybugs? (I love the closeup photos, but I can’t get my face that close to a crawling pest to check, and they don’t stand still HA)
    If so, what percentage rubbing alcohol do I use? 70? 90? 99? Do I just liberally pour it on the soil to soak it?
    Thanks. I’m scared, Senecio Stap is very hard to find here, so I’m terrified of hurting it… but more terrified of near invisible fast moving bugs (blergh)

    • Mealybugs are the worst, but the alcohol does stop them! It’s hard to tell from the description, but it does sound like a mealybug problem (although I don’t blame you for not putting your face that close to them to check!). Use 70% isopropyl alcohol . You are totally fine pouring it into the soil. If you’re worried, you can use a spray bottle and spray the leaves and the soil well, but the alcohol evaporates very quickly, leaving the water behind, so your plant is not damaged.

  4. update:
    70% rubbing alcohol spritzed on Senecio Stapeliiformis has made the stalks turn a dusty looking white. It did kill the crawly nasties, mind you.
    Will update again once I know if Burton-Bonham (they look like the director and his wife, don’t ask hahaha) are going to make it.
    Fingers crossed, I think it’s going to need a lot of luck to pull through.
    xx

Let us know what you think!

Buy beautiful colorful succulents online from Mountain Crest Gardens

Many of the posts and pages on this site contain affiliate links. From time to time I receive free product to review and share with you but all opinions are my own and I'll only share products I like! Find out more by clicking here.

Find out more about these 10 easy to grow succulents and add them to your collection!
Find out everything you need to know about watering succulents!

Don't let poor watering techniques kill your succulents! Avoid the number one cause of unhealthy succulents with the tips and techniques in this ebook!

Learn how to grow healthy succulents indoors!

Growing succulents indoors is tricky business if you don’t know the proper soil, sunlight and watering requirements. But you can make succulents work for you, you just need to know the right way to care for them! Follow my step-by-step instructions and watch your worries float away and your succulents thrive, year after year :)

The secrets to propagating succulents successfully!

Would you like to multiply your lonely collection of succulents into dozens—and even hundreds—more? Good news: succulents can be propagated like wild bunnies, as long as you follow a few simple tricks. And best of all, they won't cost you a penny!

If you're looking for simple, quick tips to help you get started with succulents, this is the guide for you! These 30 tips cover the basics from buying and planting succulents to designing beautiful arrangements with them. Easy to read and easy to implement ideas to get you off on the right foot.

You'll find an incredible selection of cold hardy succulents at Mountain Crest Gardens

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Wondering who I am?

Let me introduce myself... My name is Cassidy Tuttle and I’m a professional photographer turned succulent addict. These are my two sweet children and wonderful husband in the photo with me!

My adventure with succulents started with three small plants on the window sill of my basement apartment. Within a year I had propagated them and purchased more, totaling over 100 plants!

It’s been a fun adventure since then as I’ve drowned, burned, frozen, and starved my collection of succulents. This site is where I teach you how to avoid all those mistakes I made or help you recover from them.

While I’ve killed plenty of succulents in the last few years, I’ve also kept hundreds alive and thriving, and I know you can do the same!

Did I mention I wrote the book on succulents?

It’s true! I’m the author of Idiot’s Guides: Succulents which is designed to help those of us who love succulents (but are limited to growing on our window sills and porches) keep our succulents looking great.

You can purchase my book through my Amazon affiliate link here or pick it up at your local Barnes and Noble.

If printed books aren’t your thing, I’ve also written several ebooks about succulents on various topics including indoor growing, watering and propagating. You can check those out on this page.

My goal is to help you not just keep your succulents alive, but help them thrive no matter where you live.

Whew! That’s a lot of stuff!

I’m impressed you’ve made it this far down. You should probably be rewarded for that…

How about some bite sized succulent tips delivered daily to your inbox?

I’m sure you’ll love my 30 Days of Quick Succulent Tips email series. Each day I’ll send you a 2-3 sentence tip about growing succulents along with a photo and link to learn more.

Sound good?

 

Still have a question or need help?

For help identifying your succulent click here.

Need help with an order you placed here or with one of our affiliates? Please email me ([email protected]) with your question.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.