Root Mealybug


Planococcus ssp.


Top Tips & Info

  • Eradication Difficulty - Easy
  • Life Cycle - Up to fifty-five days.
  • The female can lay up to fifteen eggs a day - two hundred in total.
  • Root mealybugs, as the name suggests, will attack the plant's lower portion, sucking out its sap and stored nutrients.
  • Symptoms include wilting or yellowing leaves, and white colonies developing in the soil (pictured above).
  • They can be brought into the home by contaminated soil and will stay localised to the specific pot they're infesting. 
  • Remove as many bugs as possible with your fingers, avoiding transplant shock by not tinkering with the healthy roots.
  • Water the plant using near-hot water when it's time for another hydration. If it burns your feet, it's too hot for the plant!
  • For those needing something more substantial, try pouring pure hydrogen peroxide into the water (diluted at the manufacturer's recommendation); this will oxygenate the soil (highly beneficial) along with killing off any bugs that inhabit in the compost.




Symptoms

Although there are little signs to an infestation above the soil line, the plant will begin to wilt and turn yellow after a while. Root mealybugs thrive off healthy plant tissue, so it's vital to catch it early. When investigating the compost, an infestation can easily be spotted; the mother bugs will secrete a white cottony substance to cover her, and the surrounding soil for the protection of her eggs. The larvae, which are located in the cotton, will hatch within forty-eight hours of being released. Root mealybugs look mostly similar to its above-soil counterparts, just a lot smaller.




Susceptible Plant Parts

Within the soil, they'll attack the roots and other organic matter (i.e. bark, coir) in the compost. All species are susceptible to Root Mealybugs.




Actions Needed

Before sifting through the soil, the first thing to do is hydrate the plant. Fingering the dry root hairs will bring nothing but grief in the form of transplant shock, which will only add to the misery.

A few hours after irrigation, take the plant out of its pot and inspect the perimeter of the soil - crush each bug or colony as they become visible. Gently tease away the bottom third of the compost and carry on the search. As it's essential to respect the roots, refrain from unearthing all of its root system if possible. If you can't remove all of the bugs, don't worry as the hot water or hydrogen peroxide will take care of the rest!



Never remove all of the roots from the soil it may result in transplant shock.

Before placing the plant back into its original container, have a scan over the pot, too. As you can see on the next image, the bugs can attach themselves to the nooks on the inside, potentially bypassing the initial inspection. Wash the pot using warm water and dish soap to destroy any remaining inhabitants.


Root Mealybugs can even attach themselves to the inside of the pot!


Replace the affected soil with a fresh batch of the appropriate potting-mix. Once the plant is back in its pot, don't tinker with the roots again unless the symptoms progressively get worse. The final step to eradicate Root Mealybugs is to choose between using hot water, which of course is free, or spending some money on a chemical pesticide.




Hot Water or Hydrogen Peroxide?

Hot water - 49℃, 120℉

Using near-hot water to scald the pests is an effective and cheap way to control the population. Boil the water and hydrate the soil as you would with regular irrigation. This step will aid plant hydration, so always be careful of over-watering. Repeat every three irrigations, making sure the fluid is slightly on the hotter side, but still cool enough to dip your fingers in it. There was a study conducted by the 'University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture & Human Resources' who found a 100% success rate for the eradication of Root Mealybugs, with little to no damage to the roots.

  • Pro's - Cheap, quick & chemical-free.
  • Cons - May take longer to eradicate & can quickly burn the roots if too hot.



Chemical Pesticides - Hydrogen Peroxide

As the first method will take several weeks to eradicate, you may want to consider spending some money on 'hydrogen peroxide'. Now, before you rush to your local garden centre, this chemical is mostly found online, so have a shop around for the best deal here. For every three irrigations, incorporate a splash of the peroxide into its with to administer the pesticide. You'll have to do this for at least three times to stop the chance of a relapse thoroughly. Always follow the manufacturer's recommended dosages as Hydrogen peroxide can become detrimental to the plant when over-used. If you're worried about killing your plant, use the hot-water trick!

  • Pro's - Works immediately, relatively cheap & available online all the time.
  • Cons - Potentially detrimental if over-used.




Ways to Prevent an Attack in the Future

At the local plant shop or garden centre, inspect the soil of any plants that you wish to buy. Most Root Mealybug infestations come from already-affected plants, so always keep this in mind when increasing your plant-collection.

Regularly check for pests on your plants. Although this may sound patronising, many gardeners forget to inspect their indoor specimens. As soon as you see a symptom in the soil, keep it quarantined and follow the steps above!

For any more questions or queries about Root Mealybugs, be sure to message us via this link or comment in the section below! 




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