Fighting mealybugs on orchids - home remedies and other tricks


A white coating on your orchids is an indication of mealybugs and signals immediate action. Simple home remedies can save the plant.

© Piman Khrutmuang -

Mealybugs, also known as mealybugs, are a type of scale insect. They are one of the types of pests most commonly found in orchids (Orchidaceae), although this pest can also spread to other plants, especially cacti. These lice visually live up to their name. They look as if they are wrapped in cotton wool. The white web that envelops the lice is an excretion secretion.

The big problem is that these lice suck on the roots, stems or leaves of the plant. This is how they take their juice from the plant. At the same time, mealybugs give off a poison, which limits the growth of the plant. The lice also produce a substance called honeydew. It sticks accordingly and eventually covers the entire orchid. This makes the plant more susceptible to further pests. Mealybugs are problematic for orchids in three ways. Because mealybugs can ultimately result in the death of an orchid, it is all the more important to fight them in good time. But how? We reveal which natural and chemical agents can help!

How do you recognize mealybugs?

If you are not sure whether it is really mealybugs, you can confirm your suspicion with the following symptoms:

  • White mini cotton balls, which can be found under and on the leaves.
  • The buds and leaves of the infected orchid only grow stunted.
  • White, extremely fine webs in the area of ​​the leaf axils.
  • The plant is covered with brown-yellow speckles in the area of ​​the leaves.
  • The flowers and leaves appear withered.

Don't bring in mealybugs at all

If your orchids suddenly get mealybugs, it may well be that this pest was introduced into the apartment. Because many plants from the hardware store or garden center are already infected with mealybugs. Therefore, when buying, it is imperative to ensure that no white webs are visible on the plants. Stay away from plants that are already infected! Because otherwise chances are goodthat the native orchids will soon be affected by the mealybug plague.

In addition, warm and dry heating air is a problem. Because under these conditions, the pests can spread particularly well. Accordingly, it is important that there is sufficient ventilation during the cold season and that the orchids are not placed directly above or near the heater. This helps to minimize the spread of mealybugs. It is also important not to over-fertilize houseplants with nitrogen.

Orchids infested with mealybugs - what to do?

If an orchid is already infected by mealybugs, the first thing to do is to limit the damage. It is important to isolate the plant from the other houseplants first so that the mealybugs cannot spread any further. If there is even the slightest suspicion that other plants may also be affected, they should also be separated from the pest-free plants.

In the quarantine room, it is important to ensure that the room is as cool as possible. Ideally as cool as the orchids can handle. High humidity should also be ensured if possible. Because mealybugs prefer it to be dry and warm, so the reverse environmental conditions are an advantage when fighting mealybugs.

Fighting mealybugs on orchids - without chemicals

The next step is to put an end to these pests. However, this is only possible if it is not too late for the orchid. If the plant sheds its leaves, the fight is unfortunately already lost. It is therefore important to eliminate the mealybugs at an early stage, ideally shortly after the infestation. In the specialist trade there are also insecticides that can be used to control mealybugs, but their ingredients are sometimes harmful to health. Therefore, these aids are available on a purely natural basis:

  • alcohol
  • soft soap
  • rapeseed oil
  • water
  • paraffin oil
  • neem oil
1 essential. Neem oil with emulsifier 500ml - done… 42 reviews19,95 €To the shop

Control mealybugs with water and alcohol

Mealybugs hate moisture. Water is therefore a potent means of combating pests. It is therefore advisable to wash off the entire plant several times with lukewarm water. Before that, you should protect the roots and all the air roots from the water with a bag. After all, the pests should not be able to spread to the roots. Very hard water is also not recommended. It may therefore be better to decalcify the water and apply it to the orchid with a pressure sprayer. Otherwise, the moisture protection should only be removed from the orchids when they are almost dry. Because the roots don't get too much moisture.

Mealybugs below the orchid flower - © Mike -

Before the water treatment can be successful, alcohol may have to be used. This is because the adult lice have a “protective shield” that is covered with wax. They can therefore be difficult to rinse off the plant. For this reason, it makes sense to wipe the leaves from both sides with a cloth soaked in alcohol.

A cotton swab that has previously been soaked in alcohol is ideal for hard-to-reach places. Then the mealybugs can be rinsed off much more easily. The plant can also be sprayed with lemon balm to target the lice. The method mentioned may have to be repeated every few days so that the plant is really lice-free in the end.

Control mealybugs with soft soap

A solution of soft soap has proven to be particularly effective against mealybugs. This home remedy can even trump various finished pesticides. To prepare a soft soap solution, proceed as follows:

  1. Warm 1 liter of stale water, decalcify if necessary beforehand.
  2. Add between 20 and 40 grams of pure soap or curd soap.
  3. Dissolve the soap completely in the water.
  4. Add a few dashes of alcohol to the mixture.
  5. Let the mixture cool.
  6. Then apply the liquid to the plant with a hand sprayer.
  7. Repeat the treatment every two to three days.
  8. The treatment is only complete when the orchid has been completely removed from the pests.
Expert tip:
It takes around one to two weeks for mice to hatch from their eggs. It is therefore advisable to re-treat every two weeks in order to catch the last lice. As long as the lice have not hatched, they are particularly resistant to the pest control mentioned.

Even if beneficial organisms can also tackle mealybugs, this procedure is not suitable for indoor plants. Whether hatching wasps, lacewings or ladybugs, since a large number of beneficial organisms are required for successful pest control, this solution is not really practical in your own four walls. The situation is different, however, when orchids are in a greenhouse and are infected with lice.

Combat mealybugs on orchids with oil

Mealybugs on the orchid leaf - © Mike - As already mentioned, various types of oil can also be used to control mealybugs in orchids.

❶ rapeseed oil

Rapeseed oil is best mixed with water before the oil-water emulsion is then applied to the plants. It is important to spray this mixture very gently on the flower. The ratio of water to rapeseed oil should be seven to three. Only hard-leaved orchids can tolerate this type of treatment. A little soft soap should also be used as an emulsifier with this solution. The solution is best used in the evening and in the shade. Because it attacks the wax layer of the orchids. Therefore, this potent home remedy should only be used a maximum of two to three times in order not to cause any further damage to the plant.

❷ paraffin oil

These tips also apply to the treatment with paraffin oil. Twelve grams of oil should be mixed with a liter of water. It is also important to ensure that the water is lime-free.

1 1 liter (1000ml) paraffin oil thin, corresponds to ... 6 reviews12,90 €To the shop

❸ Neem oil

Neem oil is also recommended because it stops the development of the mealybug larvae. Finished products with neem oil are commercially available on a natural basis. These are recommended because the right neem oil mixture is difficult to produce on your own. Although this type of oil is non-toxic, skin contact can cause irritation and skin irritation. It is therefore better to use gloves and wear a long-sleeved top when spraying the plants.

Buy finished pest control products

Various means of targeted pest control are also offered in gardening stores. On the basis of soft soap or the oil types mentioned, various products are available there with which mealybugs can be waged on an ecological basis. Some of these remedies also contain orange oil, which dissolves the lice's shell and thus works particularly quickly.

If you prefer to use chemical agents to control mealybugs, you will also find them in specialist shops. There are special plant sticks or granules that are to be sprinkled on the substrate of the orchids. The mealybugs then take up a deadly active ingredient in the juice of the orchids and die from it.

Even if the chemical club is used, the treatment must be repeated every 14 days so that lice that may have just hatched can also be removed. If this procedure does not ensure the desired success, then there is unfortunately no hope for the plant. In order to protect other orchids and cacti in the apartment from mealybugs, the orchid, which can no longer be saved, must be finally disposed of.