QUESTION: What is a tiny white bug that looks like cotton? I have these on my houseplants, and I am concerned. What should I do about them? – Elisabeth M
GARDENING CHANNEL REPLIES: The white plant lice that look like cotton on houseplants are probably mealybugs. Mealybugs give the appearance of lint due to a waxy outer residue that they secrete for camouflage and protection. Underneath that coat the mealybug looks a lot like an ancient trilobite that you might have seen in fossils, but they are obviously much smaller.
There are several ways to get rid of mealybugs on houseplants.
You can try neem oil, a natural product from the neem tree that can fight insects. Insecticidal soap also helps with mealybugs. Some people like to get a cotton ball and soak it with isopropyl alcohol and wipe it on all the mealybugs they can find on the plant, which kills them immediately. (Test first on just a small part of your plant to make sure the alcohol doesn’t burn the plant.) Chemical insecticides made specifically for houseplants will also work to kill them. Once again, be careful and do not over apply.