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There is an odd Cotton Substance on the base/crown/underside of my clivia plant (Mealy Bugs)

Don't panic, but that cotton is actually a bug nest. You have Mealy Bugs.

While not panicking, remember these little fluffy devils are literally suckling the very life out of your plant. However you decide to deal with them-they must go!

Mealy bugs come in 2 varieties, Root and Leaf. You most likely have Leaf Mealy Bugs.

This site Had great pictures of Mealybugs. Go take a quick look and then come back.

Mealies are VERY difficult to remove, because they cannot be killed easily in their egg form. The only way to permanently get rid of Mealy Bugs is to break their breeding cycle. A single adult female can lay between 300-600 eggs a day, so it is important to treat your WHOLE collection.

The first few directions should be followed regardless of what method you chose to control or destroy your problem.

1: First things first, go through your collection and quarantine any plant that has mealies on it. mealy nymphs (males) spread via air currents. Figure out how the wind is blowing in your collection, check downwind and upwind of your plant. If the plants are crowded together they can also crawl from plant to plant as adults.

2: Now it is important to WASH OFF the cotton and any bugs you see. This is a control as it physically lowers the amount of bugs that can breed and hatch. This in and of itself is nowhere near enough to control your infestation, but its a start. You can assume if ou have been diligent that you have removed around 50% of your infestation in this way. Mealies like the flowers, they like the crowns and they like the underside of the leaves. You can alteratively use a cotton swab dipped in 70% alcohol./ Just touch the mean little critter with the swab and she is dead. Alcohol on the flowers will prematurely wilt them by causing them to get cold. Make sure to check those areas.

Chemical Destruction

This is the only way in my opinion to save a collection.

A: Imidacloprid (Found in bayer tree and shrub systemic insecticide) This works fairly well. Its cheap and it lasts through the breeding cycle so it will kill off your infestation over about a 2 month period.

We suggest a soil drench with Imidacloprid and spraying the leaves of the plant with Cyflutherin, an enhanced pyrethrerin. It is important that you spray deep into the crown of the plant, and that you wait until the plants dry from your washing. The Cyflutherin is an "Enhanced Pyretherin". It is very safe and can be used on everything from mealies to scorpions, its just a question of concentration. This can also be gotten as a Bayer product called Tempo. Just use the reccomended dose for the product you buy, they come in all different concentrations and in liquid and wettable powder form.

However we have come across mealies that are RESISTANT to Imidacloprid, as it is the most popular control for these bugs. This is our current method of removal:

B: Enstar II And Cyflutherin Cocktail

Cyflutherin as mentioned above is a very safe Enhanced Pyretherin. It works by creating sharp crystals on the surface of your plant and puncturing a bugs exoskeleton. These crystals are too small to harm humans. It also acts as a stomach poison. It has an EPA level of 4, meaning it only takes 4 hours to dry to safety for pets and children. It will last on your plants anywhere from 48 hours to a few weeks depending on the level of sunlight or bright light hitting your collection. The less light the longer it lasts.

Enstar is a product that is around 5 years old now, its a mutagen. It actually sterilizes the females and if it hits the eggs it causes the babies to hatch without an exoskeleton. Its extremely effective but ONLY IF IT COMES IN CONTACT WITH THE BUGS. It has no staying power, it only works on the day you spray. It has an EPA level of 12 I believe. ( I always wear rubber gloves and a mask when utilizing this.)

This coctail needs to be used 5+ times, once a week, The key is to break that breeding cycle which is every 13 days.

Organic Controls 

I want to stress that these methods (with the exception of the last one) will NOT remove the mealies from your collection. The first one is a working control. The others are not tried by us at all. 

1: Put your plants outside.

Seems simple right? Mealies are fat, slow, bugs. They make great meals for faster, bigger bugs. Put your plants outside and only the mealies that burrow deep into the crowns of your plants will survive. This is why generally outdoor collections do not seem to have these problems, and also why we recieve the MOST mealy infestations from outdoor collections when we buy. This is the ONLY method that is purely organic that we consider an effective control. Again, your plants are still infected, but the levels should be naturally lowered to a level acceptable for plant growth.


If this just is not working, you may have to give mother nature a boost. There are many stores out there that sell parasitic wasp eggs.  they are a natural predator of Mealies and you may want to look into purchasing some. There are more than one type of mealy bug, so you will need to try to identify your bug so you can get the right wasp. If you cant tell (And hey they all look like fuzzy blobs really) The majority of mealies in the US are either Citrus or Hibiscus mealy bugs. 

2: Diatomaceous Earth

You can get this in most fish stores. It is used as a filtration media.

Diatoms are single cell organisms that grow a silica shell. Diatomaceous earth is the shell husks. Diatom shells are VERY sharp on the microscopic level. Ever walk on a shell driveway barefooted? The idea here is the same. The diatoms cut up the feet of the bugs and they dont like walking on it.

What you want to do is sprinkle some of this on the top of your soil mix. Problem is if they are already there...they have no need to cross your barrier. Also as stated above the larvae can float on air currents.

3: Coffee Rinds???

I have heard it said amongst organic farmers that they dont like cofee rinds. I have no idea if this is true.

4: Cyflutherin alone

Can you stretch your organic senses to consider a pyretherin as purely organic? The first pyretherins were found in nature after all. Think of it as using a Crysanthenum's big brother on the bugs. Crysanthenums naturally excrete these as a defense.

If you were to spray every couple of days, even without the other chemicals, you could probably break the egg cycle. I have not tried this.

5: Throw away your infected plants.

Many organic greenhouses just mulch any plant that gets mealy bugs. You wont see us using this method.