The Minty Scent You Need To Kick Mealybugs To The Curb, According To House Digest’s Master Gardener

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The Minty Scent You Need To Kick Mealybugs To The Curb, According To House Digest's Master Gardener

If you have noticed a white, fuzzy growth on your plants, it is likely that you have a mealybug infestation. These tiny insects are only a fraction of a centimeter in size, but they can cause a range of problems. Mealybugs feed on the sap produced by plants using their sucking mouthparts. Their digestion process results in honeydew which can attract ants, lead to fungal growth, and make your plants sickly.

However, you can save your plants by taking action as soon as you see the fuzzy clusters of mealybugs. Peppermint is a natural repellent that works against mealybugs due to its strong aroma. While we find peppermint’s scent refreshing and clean, it is unpleasant to many pests. If you keep peppermint essential oil at home for cleaning or other purposes, you can use that powerful scent to repel mealybugs.

Peppermint essential oil for mealybug control

person spraying houseplants

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Essential oils are distilled compounds that result in a condensed, liquid version of the plant from which they are derived. These oils can be so strong that they can actually damage delicate plant tissues if used undiluted, so even though you may want to get rid of your mealybug infestation as soon as possible, avoid the temptation of creating a stronger concoction with more peppermint oil than what is suggested.

For this homemade pest control, all you need is peppermint essential oil, water, and a spray bottle. Use a funnel to mix your water and oil with a ratio of 10 drops of oil for every 3 ounces of water. Since oil and water don’t mix well, you’ll need to shake the bottle frequently between applications. Soak the entire plant with the essential oil mixture, and make sure to get the undersides of leaves where pests often hide. Since this is a natural control option and not a synthetic product specifically made for these pests, it may take a few applications before you notice your mealybug infestation is gone.

Peppermint oil and pets

cat sitting with houseplants

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If you are treating a mealybug infestation on your houseplants, you will need to take extra precautions if you have pets. Peppermint essential oil is toxic to cats when inhaled or eaten, per the American College of Veterinary Pharmacists. So, if you have a kitty who likes to nibble on your pet-safe houseplants, they can still be seriously harmed if they ingest peppermint oil on those leaves. Likewise, just the scent on the plant or in the air can cause your cat to show signs of distress. The American Kennel Club states that ingesting peppermint oil is poisonous for dogs as well.

To use this peppermint oil mixture on your houseplants, you can move them to a shady spot outside if the weather cooperates. You could also spray them in your garage or shed — anywhere your furry friend cannot access them or inhale the overwhelming fumes.

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.