How to Get Rid of Spider Mites and Mealybugs on Houseplants

How to Get Rid of Spider Mites and Mealybugs on Houseplants

So, you found webbing all over your plant and leaf edges are browning and dying… now what? There are fuzzy little white things all over your plant and new leaves are suffering… now what? Nearly every plant I’ve brought home from Lowe’s has been infested with mealybugs or spider mites, but don’t panic! I have several options that will eliminate soft bodied pests and keep them away.

Identifying the Pest

Spider Mites

Spider Mite Webbing after Misting

Usually spider mites create tiny webbing on the tips of leaves or where the leaf meets the stem. These pests are very, very tiny and are typically on the back of leaves in these locations.

The pests may even create webbing on the pot or basket in which the plant is contained. The photo above shows webbing that appeared after being misted with water.

Mealybugs

📷 credit: Peas and Bees

Mealybugs look like fuzzy little dots on plants and can be found on the underside of leaves and the stem. They sometimes clump on the stem at new leaf growth.

Step 1: Physical Removal

Remove all webbing and spider mites using a damp paper towel or lint roller. Remove a sheet of lint roller sticky tape and gently press it on the back of leaves to remove all spider mites.

Remove mealybugs by soaking a cotton ball with 70% isopropyl alcohol and dabbing each bug. This will kill them in contact.

Wash hands thoroughly after removing pests to ensure no other plants are affected.

Be sure to keep the affected plant(s) away from all other houseplants until all spider mites are eliminated.

Step 2: Elimination and Prevention

There are several methods for this part. I’ll provide the 3 options that seem to work best for me: chemical pesticide, natural soap wash, and alcohol and water wash.

Each method has its pros and cons. While chemical insecticide works well, there are drawbacks as well. It is, after all, a chemical that isn’t safe around pets or children and should be used according to the instructions. When I have used this method, I was able to eliminate the spider mites in one use.

The soap wash and alcohol and water wash are also effective and safe to use around pets and children. These methods do sometimes take several applications if there is a large infestation.

Chemical Insecticide

I have had very good luck with Garden Safe Houseplant and Garden Insect Killer.

Directions

  1. Physically remove any pests with the method described earlier, then apply the Garden Safe product. This should be sprayed outdoors all over the front and back of leaves, on stems, and on the top of the soil to kill any pests.
  2. Move the plant to a spot indoors to fully dry away from the sun, as direct light after application of this product could cause burning of leaves (as me how I know… oops!). Wash hands thoroughly after application.
  3. Check the plant weekly for pests after application and physically remove any pests and follow with insect killer application weekly if any pests are found.
Do not leave plant in direct sunlight as the leaves could burn after product application.

Soap Wash

This happens to be one of my favorite methods, although not as effective as the other two. If it’s not as effective, why is it my favorite, you ask? Well, because it’s easy, has no odor, and I can do it quickly weekly without worrying about chemicals or ruining anything else in the house like rubbing alcohol could if there’s a spill.

I also bring my plants inside and allow them to dry on a potting tarp to avoid leaf burn in direct sunlight outside. This is one of my favorite plant care items and you can find it here on Amazon!

Materials Needed:

  • 1 quart warm water (tap water will work fine, but may spot your plant leaves when dry, so use distilled water if you want to avoid hard water spotting on your plants)
  • 1 Tbsp Castile soap (I prefer Dr. Bronner’s, but any pure Castile soap will work fine as long as it has no dyes or fragrances)
  • Spray bottle
  • Repotting mat (optional)

Directions

  1. Physically remove pests using the previously described method.
  2. Mix ingredients well in a spray bottle.
  3. Move the affected plant outdoors and spray leaves (front and back), stems, and top of soil thoroughly.
  4. Move the plant back inside to dry on a surface that won’t be damaged by drilling soap mix, such as a tarp or repotting mat. Do not leave the plant outside as direct sunlight could burn leaves.
  5. Keep the affected plant away from other plants to endure spider mites do not spread to other houseplants. Wash hands thoroughly after completing this process.
  6. Repeat this process weekly to ensure pests are completely eliminated.

Isopropyl Alcohol as Insecticide

This method works well and kills pests on contact. Namely, mealybugs. If you have fuzzy white bits on your plant, this method may be for you. This will also help eliminate fungus gnats and spider mites.

Materials Needed:

  • 70% Isopropyl alcohol
  • Water
  • Original blue Dawn dish soap
  • Spray bottle
  • Cotton balls
  • Repotting mat (optional)

Directions

  1. Remove any spider mites with the previously described physical removal method. Remove mealybugs by soaking a cotton ball in 70% isopropyl alcohol and dabbing any visible mealybugs. This will kill them in contact.
  2. Mix 50/50 water and 70% isopropyl alcohol in a spray bottle. Add 1 tsp Dawn dish soap and mix well.
  3. Spray entire plant, front and back of leaves, stems, and top of soil with alcohol, water, and soap mixture.
  4. Allow plant to dry inside, away from direct light in an area that won’t be damaged by the dripping alcohol mixture such as a tarp or repotting mat.
  5. Wash hands thoroughly to avoid spreading pests and chemicals to other houseplants.
  6. Inspect plant daily for pests. If mealybugs are found, remove by dabbing with alcohol soaked cotton balls.
  7. Repeat this process weekly until all pests are eliminated.