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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - April 19, 2005

From: orlando, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Diseases and Disorders
Title: Treatment of mealy bugs on house plants
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I have some house plants that have a "fungi" that has appeared and spread from one to the others. I believe it is killing the plants. It is a white fuzz the is sticky to the touch. when i whip it off the leaves it comes right back. I lost one plant and another is on its way out. It is also on my ponytail plant it weights down the leaves. could you help me get rid of the "fungi" before it kills all my house plants. thank you

ANSWER:

I suspect that the problem you are seeing on your Ponytail Palm and other house plants is actually an insect called mealybugs. Mealybugs are among the very few problems affecting Ponytail Palms. They are small insects that look like tiny, flattened roly-polies or pillbugs when not covered by a large mass of white, waxy "cotton". The waxy coating they exude helps to protect them from predators. Mealybugs may be killed by wiping them with cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol. More than one treatment may be required to get them all as they are quite adept at finding places to hide. Also, eggs and nymphs (juveniles) are so tiny that they sometimes avoid the alcohol treatment on the first pass.
 

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