How to fight mealybugs on the lemon tree

What we have in common with mealybugs? We love citrus trees! While we are after the delicious fruit, the little crawlers prefer the juice from the leaves of the plant. There they pierce with their tiny proboscises and can cause great damage. Therefore, we want to get rid of them as soon as possible.

Lesson for today: Fighting mealybugs on the lemon tree made easy!

This is what they look like: Recognize mealybugs

Mealybugs are also called smear lice and owe their name to their appearance: Their bodies are covered with a white to grayish layer of wool or wax. The pests also lay their eggs in woolly, sticky webs.

Woolly aphids have a pronounced preference for the hard foliage of orchids, succulents or cacti – but unfortunately also of lemon and olive trees. Depending on their sex and stage of development, they are busy crawling over the plants, reproducing, sucking the cell sap from the leaves or laying eggs. We do not even notice this busy activity and often only recognize an infestation by the webs, which look a bit like foam on the branches of the plants. But also single, larger animals are sometimes to be discovered.

Unfortunately, very small specimens can hide very well in inaccessible places such as branch forks or leaf axils, which makes control difficult.

How to fight mealybugs on the lemon tree
Woolly aphids also like to infest olive trees

Combating a light infestation of mealybugs early on

It is best to treat your lemon tree as soon as you have discovered the first mealybug or the first webs. Then the chances are good that the pests will not spread further and you will get rid of them permanently.

The best way is to proceed in 3 steps:

  • Wipe off mealybugs
  • Use a gentle pest control agent
  • Check after one week and repeat if necessary
  1. wipe off mealybugs on the lemon tree

You can also control the pests directly with an agent without removing them first. But we recommend you to remove the webs at least roughly before the treatment, because then the agents can work even better. You do not have to touch the mealybugs, but can wipe the affected areas with damp kitchen paper or cotton swabs. It is also possible to shower the plant or spray it with a garden hose – depending on the season or the size of your bathroom.

Allow the lemon tree to dry before proceeding to step 2.

How to fight mealybugs on the lemon tree
You can also reach hard-to-reach places with a cotton swab
  1. fight mealybugs with oil

In the case of a light infestation, we recommend that you first use a gentle oil-based home remedy so as not to damage the plant. You also want to harvest and enjoy the lemons – so for now, stay away from toxic insecticides. There are also organic products to buy, mostly based on neem oil or orange oil. These are of course a bit more expensive than a home-mixed product, but also not harmful to the plant or your health. The oil forms a thin layer under which the pests can’t reach air and they die.

You can easily mix your own “mealybug spray”. You probably have everything for it in the house. If not, the ingredients are cheap and available in any supermarket.

For half a liter you need

  • 400 ml water
  • 100 ml oil
  • 2 – 3 squirts of dishwashing liquid

The mixing ratio is: 4 parts water and 1 part oil. This way you can also mix smaller quantities. The dishwashing liquid serves as an emulsifier so that oil and water can combine. It is best to use an ecological product without fragrances and dyes. You can also use curd soap or soft soap, whereby the solid curd soap must first be dissolved in warm water.

Pour this mixture into a spray bottle and spray the entire plant with it. It’s important that you really wet the whole lemon tree so that you really get all the hidden mealybugs. It’s best to put some newspaper under the plant so that the oily mixture doesn’t drip onto the floor.

If an oily layer remains on the leaves of the lemon tree after the treatment, you need to wipe it off. The oil could “clog” the leaves and interfere with the evaporation of water and photosynthesis of the plant.

  1. check success

After a week or so, you can check if the mealybugs have completely disappeared or if they have returned. If you find new webs, you will have to repeat the procedure. In any case, we recommend that you spray the lemon tree again – better safe than sorry.

Mealybugs: Heavy infestation and no rescue in sight?

Sometimes it’s like bewitched: the nasty pests just won’t go away and keep spreading. No home remedy seems to help. Before you reach for the chemical mace, consider a few other ways to control mealybugs on your lemon tree.

Try a different spray-on remedy.

There are a variety of other recipes for sprays to control mealybugs. We find that our presented recipe is super convenient, since you usually have everything for it in the house and it works well. Of course, each plant is different and if you do not have success, then check out our article “Successfully fight mealybugs”. There we present other possible measures.

Change the site conditions

A simple and effective step is to take a closer look at the plant’s location. Are the temperature and humidity right? Mealybugs often colonize lemon trees when they are weakened by unfavorable site conditions. The healthier and stronger a plant, the less attractive it is to pests. The plant is then more resistant and better able to defend itself against the little crawlers, as well as diseases. To stay healthy, the lemon tree needs sufficient light, water and nutrients. So be sure to find a suitable location and a suitable supply of water, good soil and fertilizer. Especially too warm and too dry air in the winter quarters is like an invitation for aphids & Co to make themselves comfortable on your plant.

Repot the lemon tree

Repotting a plant always involves a bit of work. The lemon tree does not need to be repotted that often, but if there is a heavy infestation of mealybugs or other pests, replacing the soil is a good idea. This is because there may be eggs or larvae of the aphids in the soil or on the roots.

In case of an infestation in the winter quarters, it is best to wait until early spring before repotting. You should proceed especially “radically”: Remove all the soil from the pot and rinse it thoroughly or wipe it out. Remove as much of the old soil as possible from the root ball of the lemon tree. Of course, the roots must not be damaged in the process. If you discover dead roots, you can cut them off. You can also put the root ball in a bucket of water for a few hours to loosen the soil.

Cut the lemon tree

If the infestation is really severe, it can sometimes be useful to cut away particularly affected parts of the plant. Note, however, that the lemon tree does not like heavy pruning, so you should only cut off the upper parts of the branches. Dispose of the cut parts of the plant in the household waste and not in the compost.

In an emergency: insecticides against mealybugs.

If you’ve given it your all, but your lemon tree is still suffering from a mealybug infestation, you can consider using a pesticide. Pay close attention to the instructions on the package and put on gloves to avoid coming into contact with the product.

Make sure that neither pets nor small children can reach the treated plant or the product.

Fighting mealybugs on the lemon tree: everything at a glance.

An infestation of mealybugs can be easily controlled if detected early. The little animals are stubborn, but if you stay on the ball, you have a good chance of getting rid of them with plant-friendly home remedies.

If you have a heavy infestation, don’t wait too long and use more effective, ecological products from the specialist trade.

Very important: prevention! If you know why your lemon tree is weakened or stressed and can determine the cause of the infestation, then change the site conditions so that your tree is more comfortable there. For example, find it a cooler, brighter location in its winter quarters.

Honeydew: The sticky legacy of mealybugs

Unfortunately, an infestation of mealybugs or even scale insects is often associated with discovering a sticky film on the leaves of your lemon tree. The aphids suck the sugary sap from the plant and excrete some of it back. This residue is called honeydew.

Honeydew can close off the cells of leaves, disrupting photosynthesis and evaporation. In addition, the sugary stuff is a breeding ground for fungi, bacteria and viruses. So when controlling mealybugs, you should also always make sure to wipe the honeydew off the leaves.