Order Hemiptera: Family Pseudococcidae
Pest description and damage Mealybugs are small (less than 0.125 inch) oblong insects that are often dusted with a coarse white flour-like substance or powdery wax. The insect body color under the white wax may vary from yellowish or clear to pink, even striped, depending on species. They may have long or short filaments on the hind end and/or around the sides. Some species are completely covered with clear filaments like fiberglass. Mealybugs are most commonly encountered in greenhouses, but do occur in landscape plantings. Plantings from the greenhouse should be inspected for mealybugs hiding in branch angles, or even tucked in buds. Infested plants may look chlorotic, stunted or have tightly curled leaves. Plants may wilt or die before natural enemies can gain affect control. Mealybugs may feed on various plant parts; some species even feed on root hairs and roots. Wilting perennials should also be inspected above and below the soil surface for traces of mealybugs.
Biology and life cycle This insect has a quick turn-around and can grow from egg to adult in as little as two months under the right conditions. The duration of the life cycle may fluctuate with higher or lower the temperatures, and should be factored into timing of any pesticide applications. Hosts include foliage of greenhouse plants, herbaceous shrubs and perennials, grapes, fruit trees and some landscape trees.
Pest monitoring Mealybugs suck plant sap, and then excrete the excess sugars and water that become a nutritious substrate for sooty mold fungi. Look for shiny, sticky, honeydew or sooty mold, as well as the presence of natural enemies or ants.
Remove mealybugs by gloved hand or use Q-tips to scrape them off; control ants that move them around, or remove heavily infested and damaged twigs. Ensure good cultural care of the plants.
There are several predators and parasitoids that prey on this pest and some such as the mealybug destroyer can be purchased and released. The larvae of this beetle are also covered in wax. Selection of pesticides that are less toxic to these beneficial insects is advisable.
For more information
Osborne, L.S. 2010. "Mealybugs." Mid-Florida Research and Extension Center (http://mrec.ifas.ufl.edu/lso/Mealybugs.htm)