Things You'll Need
Power sprayer attachment
If your palm tree or plant has yellowed or withered fronds, and small white insects are visible at the base of the fronds, your palm likely has a whitefly or white mealybug infestation. Both pests, which are found on indoor and outdoor palms, belong to the Hempitera order that includes aphids and scales. Whitefly adults have wings, but their nymphs are stationary, attaching to a leaf base to drain sap. White mealybugs have soft, fiber-coated bodies. Both pests, if left unchecked, will eventually compromise the health of your palms and infect other plants in your home or landscape. Prompt treatment is essential.
Identify your pests. White mealybugs lurk on the underside of leaves and leaf joints. They are small (1/10 to 1/8 of an inch) insects that resemble little balls of cotton. Their damage often leaves a sticky residue on leaves and stems. Adult whiteflies look like small, waxy moths, and their nymphs resemble scale insects -- flat layers with hard shells.
Spray a strong blast of water directly onto the infested area. Attach a power sprayer nozzle to your garden hose. Adjust the nozzle until the water pressure forms a forceful jet stream. Aim the water flow to the undersides of the palm fronds. Repeat daily, in the morning and late afternoon, to dislodge the pests. For indoor palms, move them outside while power spraying them, then bring them back inside after they've dried.
Release predatory insects that enjoy snacking on whiteflies and mealybugs. Natural predators include ladybugs and the mealybug destroyer (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri). Place the predators directly on the infested plant.
Clean smaller palm trees by hand. Dip a cotton swab into rubbing alcohol and apply it directly to the mealy bugs and whitefly nymphs, coating them completely. Repeat this for several days until the bugs drop off the palm. Wipe down the entire palm leaf with a soft rag.
Remove fallen fronds from beneath your palm tree to reduce habitats for pests.
Resist the urge to spray pesticides on your palms. Pesticides will not only kill whiteflies and mealy bugs, but they also kill beneficial insects and other predators that naturally control pests.
Colleen De Koning
Colleen De Koning is a certified professional herbalist and nutritionist, a consultant for organic gardening and pond design, and has been published in books, magazines, journals, newspapers, cookbooks and on various websites. She volunteers in local community gardening projects, animal rescue organizations, and has contributed to several vegetarian cookbooks.