Magazine article Sunset

Invasion of the Cotton Tufts?

Magazine article Sunset

Invasion of the Cotton Tufts?

Article excerpt

An invasion of cotton tufts? That's what mealybugs look like when they take up residence on your house plants. For many gardeners, the first line of defense is to swab these invaders with rubbing alcohol--but does this really work?

Yes, if you start soon enough and follow through with repeat applications. You also have to launch an attack on the egg cases lurking on or beneath the pot. If infestation is severe, you may have to resort to more potent controls.

Your best chance: nab them early. When you see the first small specks, wash off the plant with plain water to dislodge as many as possible. At this stage, a swab dipped in rubbing alcohol and daubed on each speck is effective. Tufts won't disappear right away, but after a few weeks will look dried up and the insect will be destroyed.

These white masses are actually waxy secretions produced by clusters of female mealybugs. The females spend their days sucking plant sap while hiding under their cottony umbrellas. They excrete excess sap as a sticky, clear honeydew, coating the leaves and providing a growing ground for unsightly sooty mold.

Checks for egg cases. Their other favorite activity is depositing egg cases that can lead to new invasions in other parts of the plant. …

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