Monday, January 27, 2014

Cactus Mealybugs

Last week, I posted some pictures of my cactus collection with their little plastic animals.

What I didn't show is that occasionally my cute cactus have unwanted live bug friends that need to be dealt with.

My favorite solution is a cheap and easy one. It costs a few dollars and is non-toxic.

I keep a bottle of isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, a small measuring glass and an arts and crafts paintbrush at the ready for just such an occasion.

Lobivia wrightiana

The pictured Lobivia wrightiana has had a few mealybugs recently.

Generally, I prefer to squish them with my finger when I can (instead of using insecticide), but like most cactus, the spines make it hard to remove them easily and certainly not with my finger.

On a sunny day (easier to see the offending bugs in the daylight), I pour a small amount of alcohol into the glass and then dip my paint brush into the alcohol. The thin point of the paintbrush makes it easy to get the alcohol through the spines directly onto the mealybug.

Sometimes there are tiny baby mealybugs in the crown of the cactus, and I will spread a drop of alcohol in the crown and down the ridges of the cactus.

Look for white fluffy patches.

The alcohol kills the mealybug and quickly evaporates and does not harm the plant. The bristles of the brush can also be used to squish the bugs or to flick them off the plant. 

Every few months, I pick each plant up in their pot and give them a good once over visually for bugs. It's a good time to water and rotate them too.

Happy bug hunting!


  1. Ugh. Only once have I had an outbreak and ended up tossing the plant because it was too far gone. Sad thing is I bought it infected and I didn't realize it. I will file this post away under the heading "if it ever happens again..."

    1. I have bought new plants only to find out they had bugs later on. There are some plants I seem to never be able to cure of their pests (scale on lime tree, mites on Plumeria) no matter how many times I spray or treat or use systemic. I think the key is to check often and keep on top of it if they are infected.

  2. Second time I've heard this. It is beginning to sink in.

  3. Alcohol is the answer to so many of life's problems isn't it?