Alternatives to Pesticides?

Has anyone had any success using alternatives to blanket pesticides? Ask because I have tried granules and sprays to attempt to get rid of mealybugs with marginal success. I seemed to have a greater success spending dozens of hours each week painstakingly going through every branch/bud on my junipers and bougainvillea woth a pair of fine point tweezers (and diluted rubbing alcohol) killing every mealybug I can find.

Fortunately I don’t have a ton of plants and I have them “under control” for the time being, but it is not something I can realistically continue to do. I have read that ladybugs are quite effective (or even “mealybug destroyers”), but all of my local nurseries are saying they have been unable to get them in stock. I have read mixed reviews about mail-order ladybugs (several reviews mention that most arrived dead).

I’m also trying to migrate from granules and sprays because I have 2 cats that like to lay on the patio where my plants are. So, I have to constantly clean the patio tile due to the overspray or water overflowing the drip trays on occasion.

So if anyone has any “cat friendly” methods for controlling pest (common ones I have see are: mealybugs, spidermites and loopers) I would be happy to hear them!

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I feel ya, I have a cat and a dog so I try to stay away from pesticides as much as I can, since they use nerve agents to kill bugs.
You could try neem oil, potassium based plant soap, for aphids and spider mites a strong jet of water might work, or soaking stinging nettle for a day or two then spraying that- for aphids it does the trick. I got this product for the same reason.
It works on mites and a few other bugs.
Just be carefull with these things, test it out before applying it on the whole tree.
Last year it almost killed my betula, burnt all it’s leaves to a crisp, lost the apex and a few branches. On crabapples and a few other decidious it works well without h any issues.
Best thing you could do is do a quick search for organic pesticides, the ones that bio farms use in your area. The regulations are pretty strict in these matters so those products should be safe for pets.


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You can spray your infected trees with a 5% dilution of black soap. That will normally take care of the mealybugs. First, test the dilution on a leaf and wait a few days to see if it gets damaged. If the treatment doesn’t damage the leaf, you can then spray the whole tree.

Some ladybugs are effective against mealybugs, but they create their own issues down the line… they’ve become invasive after massive use in Europe and now create issues in wineries. Coccophagus spp are also good insects to manage mealybugs, but I don’t know if they’re available to you. They lay eggs in live mealybugs, which then get eaten from the inside as the larva grows. The larva emerges, and the new parasitic wasp searches for new hosts to lay eggs in. Coccophagus target young mealybugs to lay eggs and feed on mealybug larva.


I have a decent sized collection, and while manual control is very effective it is also extremely time consuming. I also refrain from spraying as much as possible and have turned to biological measures (don’t know the correct English term here). But I have had great results buying predatory insects specifically for certain pests.

Ladybug larva are very effective against mealybugs and aphids and are kind of a wide-effect control to my knowledge.

I’ve also found the Anthocoris nemorum or nemoralis (possibly ‘pirate bug’ in English?) to be extremely effective. I buy a double dose of the bugs in the spring and spread them throughout my collection, focusing on where I see pests and where I know they usually are a problem.

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@Michael_P I didn’t know about the issues with ladybug larvae you mention. Is that something you have a source on I can have a look at?

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Oh, forgot that asian ladybugs are poisonous to cats and dogs The rest just leave a bad taste.

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I do have a fair amount of those ladybirds, without ever releasing any… they overwinter close to my entrance door, in the attic, in the basement and in my workshop.

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