Friday, August 31, 2018

DIY: How to get rid of mealybugs by using natural methods.

The most common yet most terrifying problem that a home gardener faces is an infestation of mealy bugs. They often attack ornamental plants like Hibiscus, Cacti, Succulents, ferns, Croton, lilies etc. They also appear on fruiting trees like lemon and vegetable crops like Tomato and Brinjal. The white woolly mass of mealybugs may appear like fungal infection to amateur gardener.

Mealybugs are sucking and crawling insects who can kill your plants if unattended. The first onset in usually pretty slow and you won’t even notice your plants going bad until one day when they do, and you wouldn’t have even seen it coming. Spraying chemical pesticides is not a good idea. Let's have a look how you can naturally save your plants from dangerous mealybugs:

Remember the following points to protect your plants form getting heavily infested by mealybugs:

  • Sooner your are able to detect the infestation, the better it is for your plants. You have to regularly observe your garden plants, particularly their leaves, flowering buds, fruits and so on.
  • Always check the hiding spots of mealybugs on plants viz. under-surface of leaves, all the corners and the angles in the stem branches and also in the potting soil.
  • If you notice few stray mealybugs, remove them physically from plant by using cotton-buds (Q-tips). Cotton buds should be dipped in spirit before using.
  • Regularly clean (wipe) the leaves of your indoor foliage plants with the help of sponge.
  • Ants help the spread of mealybugs, so fix the ant problem first. Sprinkle Haldi powder, wood-ash, or custard apple seed powder on the soil surface around the plants to ward off ants.
  • Re-potting: Change the pot of your house-plants once a year. Every year if new pot and new soil is used, there will be no place to hide for mealybugs.
  • Do not use any chemical pesticides or insecticides under any circumstances.

Some organic home remedies to control mealybugs:

Water force:
Surprisingly, regular plain water can be used as a weapon against mealybugs. Due to their soft body and loose grip, mealybugs can easily get washed away by a powerful force of water. A regular hand sprayer can be used to generate a forceful waterjet flow by adjusting its nozzle. For a bigger garden, you can wash the foliage of your plants; give them a nice bath by using a hosepipe.

However, this much is not enough. To control the mealybugs effectively, following spraying should be done:

DIY: Neem oil spray: 

  • Take 1 liter plain water in a bottle.
  • Add 2 drops of liquid soap in it. You can use plant shampoo for this; if not, liquid dishwash will do.
  • Add 10 ml (1 tsp) of Neem oil in it.
  • Shake the bottle thoroughly till the milky white solution is formed.
  • Spraying: This medicine can be sprayed on your garden plants once a month by using fine mist of regular hand sprayer.
  • This method is very useful in controlling mealybugs in your garden.
  • This medicine becomes more effective if 3-4 tsp of alcohol (ethanol) is added in above solution.

Biological methods of controlling mealybugs: 

Mealybugs have many natural enemies, we can be friends with them. How? Let's have a look:

Ladybird beetle: These cute looking insects are predators of mealybugs. They hunt down, kill and feast on mealybugs. The species Cryptolaemus montrouzieri has developed a reputation of being a mealybug destroyer.

Leptomastidea abnormis: These are small wasps that lay eggs inside mealybugs bodies. The larvey start eating mealybugs from inside, eventually killing them.
Lecanicillium lecanii: This is a kind of fungus that infects mealybugs, and they die of sickness in the end. There are many such pathogenic fungi that can be used to infect mealybugs.

There are many products/traps available in market that can be used to introduce natural enemies in your garden or farm. Usually such biological control methods are useful in organic farmlands, yard gardens, greenhouses etc.

‘Neem-Astra’: The ultimate weapon to eradicate mealybugs:

In zero budget natural farming (ZBNF) method, invented by Padma Shri  Mr. Subhash Palekar has created a powerful medicine called ‘Neemastra’. It is a natural pesticide made from Neem (Azadirachta indica) leaves. Using this pesticide will have no harmful effects on nature, environment and your health.

Procedure of making Neemastra for home garden:

  • Take 10 lit water in a bucket & add 500 ml gomutra (cow-urine) of Desi cow.
  • In this add 100 gm fresh cow dung of Desi cow & mix it thoroughly with your hand.
  • In this add 500 gm of Neem leaf paste (crushed Neem leaves) & stir this mixture thoroughly.
  • Keep this solution in shade for 24 hours for fermentation.
  • Stir the solution in clockwise direction twice a day.
  • After 24 hours strain this solution through white cloth, and a medicine ‘Neemastra’ is ready.

Spraying: Make 1:1 solution of Neemastra in water & spray it on plants that are infested by mealybugs. Single round of spray is good enough to fix the mealybugs in your garden. Two to three rounds of spraying at interval of 15-15 days will more or less completely wipe out mealybugs from your garden.

According to the principles of Natural farming, farmers are encouraged to make their own Neemastra by using local material. This rule is applied to gardeners as well. However there are many reasons why urban gardeners are not able to make Neemastra at their home. We feel that just because of inconvenience your garden should not miss out on a precious medicine like Neemastra. Therefore you can buy ready to use Neemastra from us.

500 ml can of Neem Astra

Click here to buy Neemastra for your plants. On this facebook link, send your name, address and contact details on messenger. (*Currently Neemastra is only available in Mumbai and the suburbs.)

Click here to buy natural plant care products for organic gardening.

Click here to read this blog in marathi.

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-Harshad Ainapure ( Botany, SET), Director at Nature First Horticultures.



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