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How I saved my Areca palm from Mealybugs

I had a pest problem shortly after I got my Areca. The tips of the leaf started to become grey. Like death itself started spreading throughout the plant. It would start from the tip of the leaf and in a couple of days or weeks, the whole leaf would become grey, dry and would eventually fall off. Here’s my story of how I managed to save it without using pesticides.

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the Mealybug Infestation

About a month after I got my Areca palm, the leaves started to get brown tips.

areca palm brown tips

The first thing I thought to myself was that I was under watering it and not providing enough humidity.

So I started misting it and watering it more often than before, but the leaves kept on getting brown tips that would turn grey and eventually dry out completely.

Watering and humidity weren’t an issue.

After a few days on the “new regime”, I saw a few small white spots underneath the leaves, I cleaned them off and continued with my life.

areca palm grey tips

As days went by, I started to see more and more of this white spots. They also started to appear at the base of the palm, so I started researching…

I had previously heard of some white fuzzy pests and with a simple search “white pests” I found their name – Mealybugs..

As buying a pesticide wasn’t an option for me, I took some alcohol and cotton pads, rolled up my sleeves and started to clean leaf by leaf.

I also sprayed the base with alcohol and rinsed it in the shower a few times over a few weeks.

But leaves continued to go grey, dry and eventually just fall off.

The most efficient way to treat mealybugs naturally

Cleaning my mealybug and scale infested plants exclusively with alcohol wasn’t a success. They would eventually appear out of nowhere, again and again.

While you can get rid of most of them just by cleaning the leaves with alcohol, I found it’s most effective to spray the plant with a mixture of water, dish soap and neem oil.

The thing with neem oil is that it doesn’t necessarily kill the pest on contact, but it is poisonous to them. So as they continue to eat your plant, they inevitably eat the oil as well.

How I stopped the leaves from dying

My fight with the Mealy bugs without using pesticides seamed in vain.

I didn’t want to look at those grey tips any more, especially when the biggest, most lush leaf got grey tips. Knowing the whole leaf will turn grey and fall off in a week or two – I took my pruners and I gave my palm a “haircut”.

can you cut tips on areca palm

Do you know what happened after that?

I stopped the “grey disease” to spread along the leaf by cutting the tips off.

Those leaves are still alive today. All the other leaves that I haven’t cut the tips off dried out, but the leaves with the haircut survived.

I cut it under the dry parts – so I cut a few millimeters of the green part of the leaf, too.

Eventually, I found Mealybugs at the base of my palm – in the cracks of the leaves (see pics below).

I didn’t had a major Mealybug infestation which seamed really odd. This meant that just a few small groups of white spots did such a big damage and almost killed my palm!

I’m happy I haven’t used any pesticide, although it was way more time consuming doing it this way.

If you start to get the same problem – I would wholeheartedly recommend to cut the tips of the leaves. I lost many leaves because I haven’t cut the tips in time. If I had only cut the tips before it was too late my Areca palm would look fuller that it does now.

If you are interested to know more about general care for the Areca palm – check out the article: How to care for an Areca Palm | indoor care tips!

How Mealybugs and Scale pests look on the Areca palm

Mealybugs are tiny white dots you can see on the first three pictures. They are so small that are actually difficult to notice if you don’t look up close.

What I actually find even hard to notice are Scale pests. They have more of an earthy color, a light tan color which is more difficult to notice. But – once you notice one, you’ll suddenly notice all of them!

Since I didn’t want to use pesticides, I made my own mixture of rubbing alcohol, dish soap and water. You don’t have to use dish soap if you’ll have trouble rinsing the leaves later.

The thing with all types of scale insect is that they hold on tight to the leaves and stems. Only spraying and rinsing won’t get rid of them! You need to take a cotton pad and clean leaf by leaf.

You’ll probably even have to scrub some of them off. I would recommend using waterproof gloves while doing this.

After you’re done with this, you can take your palm to the bathroom and rinse the leaves.

You’ll need to repeat this process a couple of times (every 7-10 days) because you’ll probably miss some of the pests and they’ll continue to reproduce. The good thing is, you’ll slow the process each time you clean the palm and after a couple of times you’ll get rid of them.

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