How to Get Rid of Mealybugs on Birds of Paradise

Birds of Paradise plants are highly valued for their exotic, large, colorful blossoms. They do not suffer serious problems apart from mealybugs, root rot, or scale. Mealybugs are scaly insects with soft bodies covered with white waxy powder. Mealybugs can spread to other plants. 

Using isopropyl or rubbing alcohol are the easiest ways to get rid of mealybugs on your bird of paradise plant. Dip cotton swabs in rubbing alcohol and wipe the white powder off the plant. Mix the rubbing alcohol with dish soap in a spray bottle and spray the plant to prevent infestation.

If the infestation is on a large scale, I’d recommend you use an insecticide to kill mealybugs on your bird of paradise plants. 

Do birds of paradise plants attract mealybugs?

Birds of paradise plants attract mealybugs because of their soft growth and high nitrogen levels. Mealybugs feed on these plants by sucking their sap, excreting a sticky fluid called honeydew. If the mealybugs damage is not treated, it can kill your plant. The sooty black mold is always a clear indication that mealybugs are feeding on your plant.

Signs and symptoms of mealybugs on strelitzia

Mealybugs on Bird of Paradise

Here are the main signs and symptoms that your bird of paradise plant is infested with mealybugs:

White fuzz

White patches on the bird of paradise plant’s underside is the most obvious sign of mealybugs. The white fuzz might be mealybug egg sacs or hatched mealybugs. You’ll find the sticky substances on the underside of the leaves, at the bottom of stems, or between crevices. 

Stunted growth

Your bird of paradise plant will have stunted growth because mealybugs suck out all the essential fluids in the plant.

Leaves will turn yellow

The bird of paradise leaves will yellow due to large-scale infestation, and mealybugs will stimulate the growth of black sooty mold by leaving ooze honeydew.

How to get rid of the mealybugs

When mealybugs infest your bird of paradise plant, immediately isolate the affected houseplant. Isolation helps prevent the bugs from jumping onto a healthy plant. Treating light to moderate mealybug infestation is quicker, while heavy infestation requires more effort.

Consider removing the heavily infested plant entirely and replacing it with a new one. Use these solutions to get rid of mealybugs on birds of paradise plants. 

Rubbing alcohol

Dip cotton balls and swabs in alcohol, then remove all visible mealybugs. Use the swabs to clean inside the gaps and the balls to clean the leaves. The rubbing alcohol will go through the waxy coating and destroy the bugs.

Use neem oil

Neem oil is a natural substance produced from the neem tree. It acts as a repellant by affecting the normal feeding abilities of the mealybugs on your plant. Neem oil works like insecticidal soap, but it has more benefits, such as being a fungicide.

Neem oil will suffocate pests firmly attached to your plant. However, it may kill other insects good for your bird of paradise plant, such as ladybugs.

Follow this 5-step procedure to remove mealybugs from bird of paradise using neem:

  1. Mix two to four tablespoons of neem oil with one gallon of water in a spray bottle.
  2. Apply the oil away from direct sunlight to prevent your plant’s leaves from burning. Then leave it for around 24 hours on one leaf to test the spray.
  3. After testing, apply the oil to the whole plant, including underneath the leaves.
  4. Move your plant to a shaded area to dry. If it is an outdoor plant rooted in the ground, wait for when there is no direct sun, about below 85ºF out.
  5. Repeat the process after a week or two if the first application isn’t effective.

Dish soap and water

Dish soap and water is another way to get rid of mealybugs. 

To use dish soap to control and eliminate mealybugs, use soft water to dilute the soap and avoid dry dish soap. Dry dish soap has chemicals that will harm your plant.

  1. Mix 1 tablespoon of liquid soap with a gallon of water. 
  2. Shake well, then test the spray on one leaf first before spraying the entire bird of paradise plant. 

Soapy water will suffocate and kill the mealybugs. Repeat that process after every few days if the first application isn’t effective.

Horticultural oil

Horticultural oil is a vegetable or petroleum-based insecticide used to suffocate mealybugs and protect your plant. This treatment option is the best to get rid of mealybugs without harming your bird of paradise plant.

  1. Pour horticultural oil into a spray bottle following the label’s instructions. 
  2. Mist your plant thoroughly, then spray under the leaves of the infested plant. 

Reapply the horticultural oil after about every 2-3 weeks for a month to completely kill any mealybug eggs that hatch.

Never apply horticultural oil if the temperature is hotter than 80ºF or cooler than 40ºF.

Using ladybirds

You can use the larvae of ladybird beetles to feed on the mealybugs and remove them. You can also use the tiny parasitic wasp, Leptomastix dactylic, alongside the ladybirds to feed on the mealybugs.

Using Isopropyl alcohol

Soak a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol, then wipe it on the mealybugs on your plant to remove and kill them. Test it first on one leaf before applying it to the entire plant to ensure the alcohol does not burn it. Do not use more than 70% of the isopropyl alcohol. 

Cover the surface on which you are treating your plant to avoid any damage. Wash your tools and hands thoroughly after working on your plant with mealybugs infestation before touching other healthy plants.

Prevention tips

Healthy and vigorous birds of paradise plants are less prone to infestation. However, mealybugs can infest healthy plants. They often attack new plants.

Check your bird of paradise plant carefully before plant before bringing them home.

Here are some strategies that help prevent mealybugs from infesting your birds of paradise plants.

  • Wipe the leaves regularly using a leaf shine solution containing neem oil to remove mealybugs from susceptible plant species.
  • Check any tools, pots, stakes, or other equipment harboring adult mealybugs, nymphs, and eggs.
  • Regularly spraying with hard water pressure can prevent the mealybugs from taking hold of your plant and re-establish feeding sites. Mealybugs cannot last more than one day without feeding. Therefore, repeat spraying with hard pressure water for maximum effectiveness.
  • Dropping the temperature to 60ºF will help discourage mealybugs for indoor plants that can tolerate it.
  • Carefully plant attractive flowers like rosemary and marigolds to encourage mealybug-eating insects. These predator insects include lacewings, parasitic wasps, and ladybugs.
  • Inspect your bird of paradise plants regularly for any mealybugs.
  • Do not use insecticides that can kill beneficial predatory insects.
  • Avoid using nitrogen-rich fertilizers. They encourage mealybug population growth and stimulate the green growth of your plant.
  • Remove infected plants and replace them with plants more immune to mealybugs invasion.

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