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Common Cacti Pests

Mealybugs

Identification

mealybug1        mealy2      mealy3       

Mealybugs secrete a white waxy substance that envelopes their entire pink-colored bodies. Their sap-sucking activity weakens and eventually kills severely infected plants. If not controlled, mealy bugs will very soon form large colonies in protected corners of cluster-forming cacti like rebutia, mammillaria, and echinopsis. They will thrive in the axils where they are particularly indistinguishable from the axil hairs of some species like mammillaria. They will also locate themselves at the apex or on the stem base of species like echevera, crassula, and other succulents.

Root mealybugs are among the worst pests of cacti and other succulents. They live almost exclusively on roots and the parts of the stem that are below the surface. They are similar to mealybugs in that they also secrete whitish, woolly, or powdery wax. Root mealybugs prefer dry substrates. They multiply particularly rapidly during the dry winter dormancy period. Affected plants look pale, become sickly, and gradually die. Plants damaged and weakened by root mealybugs are especially susceptible to fungal diseases.

Prevention

Plants may look clean, but only need to have just one mealy bug egg on them to start an infestation. in which case,if seen,  remove immediately to a quarrantine area
With large collections, a preventative spray with a suitable insecticide, may be carried out, in spring and again in the autumn.
A drench twice a year is the best, and sometimes the only way to combat root mealy bugs.

Cure

Cacti should be continually inspected for signs of this pest's attack. Upon inspection, if only a few mealybugs are found, it is sufficient to dab them directly with surgical spirit on a brush or cotton swab.

Some success has been achieved using distilled vinegar, again using a brush or swab

The use of chemical control methods is unavoidable in an advanced stage of infestation. Use a preparation specifically for scale insects or mealybugs because these insecticides adhere more readily to the water-repellent wax secretions. If you use a spray, thoroughly spray concealed places on the plant. The treatment must be repeated several times at weekly intervals.

Biological Control, using the predatory ladybird (at 5 beetles per sq. m. ) can be effective in greenhouses, but temperatures must remain above 20 deg. C. for good control. (Use only between April and September)

 

Red Spider Mite

Identification

spidermite1     spidermite2

The mites suck sap from cells , in the early stages characteristic white speckles can be seen on the upper plant surface.
As the population builds,webs and aggregations of mites will be seen, usually at the growing points of the plant.

Prevention

High humidities can reduce the egg laying rate of the mites. Overhead watering will discourage them.
If you feed your plants with a liquid tomato fertiliser, (made from seaweed) this will prevent red spider attack.

Cure

Spray with a contact insecticide such as rotenone. Several sprays should be made at 2 week intervals.

A green method is to use Neem Oil with Pyrethrin, can be safely used in vegetable gardens, fruit & nut trees & ornamentals. It provides immediate control of ants, aphids, mealy bugs and spider mites. For a plant spray or drench; to each litre of warm water mix 5 ml neem oil with 5 ml  Horticultural  Liquid Soap (to emulsify oil) . Apply every 5-7 days.