How to Manage Pests

Pests in Gardens and Landscapes

Mealybugs

Most adult female mealybugs are wingless, soft-bodied, grayish insects about 0.05 to 0.2 inch long. They are usually elongate and segmented, and may have wax filaments radiating from the body, especially at the tail. Most females can move slowly and are covered with whitish, mealy or cottony wax. This waxy covering is similar to that produced by cottony cushion scales. Colonies occur as white, sticky clusters among leaves and fruit. Larvae are mobile. Don't confuse mealybugs with woolly aphids.  

Identification of species | Life cycle

Damage

Mealybugs tend to congregate in large numbers, forming white, cottony masses on plants. They feed on stems and leaves of fruit trees and ornamentals. High populations slow plant growth and cause premature leaf or fruit drop and twig dieback. Mealybugs can lower fruit quality by covering it with wax or sticky honeydew upon which black sooty mold grows.

Solutions

Provide proper cultural control so that plants are vigorous and can tolerate moderate mealybug feeding without being damaged. Naturally occurring predators and parasites provide good control of many mealybug species, unless these beneficials are disrupted. Manage ants, which are attracted to honeydew and inhibit the activities of natural enemies. Removal of overwintering sites, such as loose bark, can reduce mealybug numbers. Populations often drop in summer. Mealybugs are difficult to control with insecticides and systemic materials may be required. On ornamentals, insecticidal soap, narrow-range oil, or a forceful stream of water can be applied to reduce exposed populations with minimal harm to natural enemies that may migrate in later. Mealybugs are sensitive to heat and their waxy coat protects them from insecticides. Treatments are usually not justified or effective on home fruit trees.

citrusmealy
Citrus mealybug adults

Mealybugs covering stems
Mealybugs covering stems

Longtailed mealybug
Longtailed mealybug


Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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