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!

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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.

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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.

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.

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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!


2017-10-10T15:41:23+00:00

188 Comments

  1. DORLIS GROTE October 6, 2017 at 10:32 am - Reply

    This year I had heart surgery and was unable to treat my plants before bringing them inside so I know I will be battling mealies all sinter. Any special tips for Hoya, especially the curly one? My plants are so large that I have trouble getting to all the leaves.

    • Chantile -- Succulents and Sunshine Success Team October 6, 2017 at 3:42 pm - Reply

      Sorry to hear about your surgery! Hopefully you’re healing up nicely. If you get a spray bottle and spray the whole plant with isopropyl alcohol, and spray the leaves thoroughly, you should be able to get rid of them. If it doesn’t work the first time, you can spray again.

  2. Meghan October 7, 2017 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    I believe I had the mealy bug issue, so followed your instructions and sprayed with 70% alcohol.
    They did turn brownish – but now what? Having dead little bugs hanging out on my plant isn’t good either. They obviously aren’t going to crawl away… haha. Do I have to pick them off one by one?

    • Chantile -- Succulents and Sunshine Success Team October 9, 2017 at 9:14 am - Reply

      You can pick them off (that seems like a lot of time!!), or you could get a damp, soft cloth and wipe them away. You could also spray (VERY gently) with a hose.

    • Donna Manning October 10, 2017 at 4:14 pm - Reply

      You can also use a Qtip to clear them off.

      • Chantile -- Succulents and Sunshine Success Team October 11, 2017 at 8:30 am - Reply

        Good idea!

  3. Yifang October 17, 2017 at 4:34 pm - Reply

    I’ve recently noticed that one of my succulent plant has been affected by mealybugs, but not long after, my succulent turned brown and it looks like it’s not going very well at all. Is there any way where I can still save my plant? I have previously used alcohol to attempt to get rid of the mealybugs, but it seems that I am a bit too late.

    • Chantile -- Succulents and Sunshine Success Team October 18, 2017 at 8:37 am - Reply

      If the plant has started to deform, I would cut anything healthy from it and replant it in new soil, as mealybugys will nest in the soil of your plant. Spray the roots of your plant with alcohol before you pot it again. You can also pour alcohol straight into the soil to kill any eggs that may have been laid there. If you think the plant can be saved, try spraying with alcohol again, wait 2 or 3 days, and spray again. You may have to do this several times. Good luck!

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