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

If you have noticed what appears to be a white, fuzzy growth on your plants, you probably have a mealybug infestation. These tiny buggers are only a fraction of a centimeter, but once they arrive, they cause a cascade of problems. Mealybugs use their sucking mouthparts to feast on the sap produced by plants. Their digestion process results in something called honeydew, which attracts ants. At this point, you have sickly plants and an infestation of two pests. As if that isn't enough, this sweet honeydew also leads to fungal growth. By taking action as soon as you see those fuzzy collections of mealybugs, you can save your plants by using peppermint.

This minty herb works to repel mealybugs because of its strong aroma. What to us smells bright and clean is an unpleasant pungent odor to many pests. If you keep peppermint essential oil around the house to freshen the trash can or other stinky spots, for cleaning, or for other purposes, you can put that powerful scent to use against mealybugs. 

Peppermint essential oil for mealybug control

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

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.