Mealybugs on My String of Hearts?

val1(z4 UT)February 8, 2014

I am pretty sure that this is mealybugs but I wanted a second opinion before I decide what to do. This is one of my favorite plants! I know that I will at least have to cut it heavily but am thinking on tossing the whole thing. I have never seen these plants in the stores here and ordered this one three years ago online. I am so sad. It blooms all of the time and is even blooming now. It has been isolated and neighboring plants show no signs of mealys yet. However, they have all been washed and will be sprayed with insecticide. I do not like to use insecticides and rarely do so. I would love advice on what to do.

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Val, I'm truly sorry.

Isolate your SOH.

My vision isn't 20/20, but looks like mealy.

Mealy resemble cotton, and often leave sticky residue. Does the description fit?

I don't use chemical insecticides either...After cleaning foliage with soapy water, spray foliage, 'upper and lower,' stems, every part with rubbing alcohol. Half-strength.

Most use a lower ratio, but mealy are difficult. I've even used full-strength on Hoyas..

I can your String was well-cared for, but mealy creep up when climate is just right.

Can you remove foliage with mealy..toss outside away from other plants, burn if possible, then wipe and spray plant with rubbing alcohol?

Have you seen ants?

Good luck, Val. Toni

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 1:54PM
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val1(z4 UT)

Toni, Thanks for the advice. The plant is very compact and on a trellis. I think I will need to drastically cut the plant if I keep it. Upon close examination, it looks like a widespread infestation of the plant. Last year, I did take some cuttings and have a start of this plant. I am sad because I love the way the parent plant has filled out in the pot. I just do not want to have my whole collection infected. Here is a full picture of the plant.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 2:33PM
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val1(z4 UT)

Toni, the description you stated does fit. It looks like cotton and I can see some shiny residue on some leaves.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 2:35PM
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Val, my God, your String is gorgeous!!! Absolutely Gorgeous!

I'm sorry.

Before cutting back, why not try rubbing alcohol? It may or may not work, but your Sting it too beautiful to cut up.
I've honestly never seen a better specimen.

Val, as I stated, I do NOT use chemicals, but some people swear by Bayer systemic.

If it was mites or scale, I'd give you my home-made insecticide recipe, but it doesn't work for mealy, and so far, I haven't figured a way to rid mealy using organic or house hold foods.

Do you have a large tub you can soak the entire plant? An old pot without drainage? Basement sink? Something you can submerge the entire plant?

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 2:45PM
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Just keep an eye on neighboring plants. I know you mentioned you've treated them already, but just keep an eye anyway. My Mother ordered a plant online last year and the mealies took a little while to show up. Before I knew the culprit had mealies, the rest of the neighboring plants were covered.


    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 4:06PM
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val1(z4 UT)

Toni, thanks I think it is beautiful too. If I need to get rid of this one or cut it way down, I will train one on the trellis (after thoroughly cleaning it with bleach) again. They do grow very fast for me. I just kept draping it back over or swirling it around and then over.

Planto, I will definitely be on the look out for them now. I purchased an orchid from Walmart about a week and a half ago. I check plants very carefully before I bring them home. It is the only plant that I can think of that could have been carrying them. It still looks clean. Even then I think the infestation on the SOH is quite widespread for the amount of time.

How hard are mealies to eradicate? That is what I need to know before trying to save the SOH. I still am thinking of tossing it or cutting it way down, even though I love it. I have others I love too.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 5:37PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I second Toni's recommendation for an alcohol spray. Do a small area first then check in a day or so to make sure that your plants tolerate it. I've used alcohol for years on a wide variety of plants with no problems but it pays to be cautious.

The spray bottle will enable you to really get to the interior of the plant. Don't think for one minute that you just have to spray the mealies and that's it. Spray the heck out of the whole plant....three or four times a week.

I guess you can't get a nice close-up of some of these things, right? Be sure to look into Google Images to compare for yourself.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 5:41PM
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That's really crummy. :( It's a beautiful plant. With a plant that has so many small leaves where bugs can hide from the alcohol spray, I would consider using a systemic insecticide to try to get the ones that the alcohol spray might not reach.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 6:00PM
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I'm not sure how difficult it is to eradicate mealy bugs (sorry). We just ended up tossing the plants. Perhaps that was drastic or to some, but my Mom didn't exactly have the time to consistently check and treat all the plants that were infected.


    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 6:52PM
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The problem is mealy and other pests hide.

I tossed my 15+ year-old Hoya Hindu Rope. That particular Hoya has hiding places galore.

Think we need to bring a magnifying glass when shopping for plants.
To top that off, there's another mealy called soil mealy.

I Googled mealy..something I didn't know..egg sacs can hold 200-600 eggs in the ovisac...Gross!

Hey Rhizo..

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 6:58PM
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val1(z4 UT)

I am seriously considering tossing the plant because the leaves are so small and there are layers of leaves. I can find multiple areas on the plant that have white including under leaves and wrapped around nodules. I feel I would need to spray with an insecticide and treat with a systemic. My daughter asked me if I really wanted to risk spreading it if I couldn't easily get it under control.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 7:12PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Gosh that IS a gorgeous plant, VERY nicely grown.

That's definitely Mealy bugs I'm sorry to say. I grow this (Ceropegia woodii), but have never seen it w/ Mealy, nor do I know how it will react to alcohol treatment.

I DO know this is also an Asclepiad (like a Hoya, so they're sort of cousins) & Hoyas tolerate alcohol treatment well in fighting mealy.

I think I might try alcohol spray before tossing it. Maybe segregate it to another room & spray PART of it & see how it reacts.

If by cutting it back, you mean all the way back to the soil, like to save just its tubers? I wonder about that myself, I wonder if the tubers could be saved -- maybe change their pot & their mix (wiping all the old mix off completely -- just wondering out loud here).

Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 7:48PM
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Val, a very difficult decision. I know, I've tossed some of my favorite plants because of mealy.

It's sad though. Did you find more since you last posted?

Do you have a cool/chilly spare room? Perhaps you can wash the entire plant in soapy water, rinse then add systemic?

Aside from its beauty and your personal attachment, the cost of your plant would be incredibly high.

Very difficult decision.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 7:51PM
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Because my son has been sick I've neglected my plants this year.

This morning, I decided to inspect plants that were terribly dry. My S. actinophylla. Every leaf has mealy! Sh8t!!!

I'd rather not toss this plant, it's been with the family a long time, and they're very hard to find..

I dread inspecting neighboring plants, but it's gotta be done.
As I type my Schefflera is sitting in the kitchen sink soaking in water..then it'll get a dose of full-strength rubbing alcohol. I'm not going to play around with less.

Can't believe it..the room is so chilly I didn't think anything could live..

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 12:00PM
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val1(z4 UT)

Toni, I am so sorry to hear about your schefflera. My plants were neglected during Christmas and I think that played into my troubles. I wish you the best in your efforts to get rid of them.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 12:50PM
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Val, thank you..The same goes for you.

Did you inspect neighboring plants?

Yeah, in one way neglect is helpful, (over-watering) on the other hand, bugs move in. I notice mealy and mites like direct sun...Make sense? Perhaps the heat induces egg hatching???

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 1:51PM
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val1(z4 UT)

Toni, I did inspect the neighbor plants and washed them off. I took the SOH outside today and sprayed it with Bayer insecticide for Roses (and Houseplants). It contains imidacloprid. I will treat it with a systemic (Bayer 3 in 1) when I bring it inside. Luckily it is a beautiful day well above freezing and no bees to worry about.being affected. I placed it in a garbage bag and rolled it down so I could contain the spray and any runoff. It makes me crazy.

On my way in I saw a huge black widow next to my bedroom window, so I took a shovel and smashed her. I have never seen a black widow around my house before.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 4:37PM
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Val, OMG, which is worse? Mealy or the Black Widow!!

I have goose bumps. I DETEST spiders..I can't express the hatred when it comes to poisonous spiders!
Oh, did I mention they terrify me???

I also saw a black widow when I worked at a plant store..I didn't know those creepy-crawlers were here in IL, so when an employee said he saw them in his bushes, I phoned the Chicago Public Library for information. 'Pre-computer days.' Sure enough black widows live here..

What's the temp, Val?

Please don't apply too much insecticide. When I first read your post, I Googled insecticides that would rid mealy.
Imidacloprid popped up with a W, meaning, Warning, no matter how safe some claim it is.

The nursery I worked for gave me a tree Gardenia. 'Not my current plant.'
Gave me a Gardenia with scale bug. Not knowing better, I purchased a poison...Can't recall which, but it started with M...Malathian or something.
I followed directions to a T. The following day the Gardenia died. I never saw anything like it before.
That was the last time I purchased chemical insecticides..If it kills a plant that fast, I thought, what would it do to a person?

I know what you mean when you say it drives you crazy..Double goose bumps. :(

Hope you wore disposable gloves, and protective face and eye gear.

I hope the first dose of poison works..Your SOH's is so impressive, I mentioned it to my dh 50 times. lol. Darn mealy!

You said Strings grow fast for you..That's also impressive. The few I've had took years to grow a few inches. lol. Then during winter, ka poot.

Since they're closely related to Hoyas, I treated Strings the same..they still died..I've given up.
They're beautiful plants, yours is exceptional. I pray it survives, Val.

I meant to ask..did you buy your String locally?

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 5:37PM
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val1(z4 UT)

Toni, it is a balmy 41 degrees today. I did take precautions when spraying the insecticide. I need to read more about the lifecycle of mealybugs but I am sure I will need to reapply.

SOH do grow very fast for me. I am continually wrapping the strings around the trellis when they spill out over the table. It blooms all of the time too, so I feel very lucky. My start was probably 4 feet long (multiple strings) but it got a little dry over Christmas and I cut off 2 feet. Both of mine are in south windows year round.

I purchased my SOH off of etsy and it came from California. I ordered in during the middle of February about 3 years ago. I have never seen one in any of the stores here.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 5:59PM
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