Mealybugs are unarmored scale insects commonly occurred in warmer and moist regions but can be found all throughout the world. They feed on juices and tissues of indoor and outdoor plants, therefore, are considered pest in greenhouse and gardens. This type of insect is not particular to their host, making all flowers and plants vulnerable to their infestation. Mealybugs will not definitely live in areas with a cold climate and will do everything to move to a warmer place. There are already more than 270 mealybug species that exists in the United States.
Mealybugs are oval-shaped soft insects covered in white or grayish wax. Adults measure 1/10 – 1/4 inch long. Most mealybug species possess projections that give them the appearance of having many legs. When found on plants, they are like a small piece of cotton attached. They move slowly but when they discover a place to feed, they will not move and create a group on the plant.
In order to feed, mealybugs stick their pointed mouthparts called stylets into the plant to begin extracting juices. Their favorite part of the plant to stay is the underside of the leaves and stems. Bushes and shrubs are also susceptible to the infestation of this insect.
Mature female mealybugs can lay a large number of eggs ranging from 300-600 within a wax coated egg sac in the underside part of the leaves. After 10 days, eggs will hatch and nymphs emerge which are called “crawlers” light yellow in color without wax. From what they called them, nymphs can actively move from one host plant to another searching for a feeding site. Female nymphs pass through 3 stages that may take around a month depending on the temperature before becoming an adult while male nymphs take longer with 5 stages. Several generations can occur on warm greenhouse each year.
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At a low infestation level, damages caused by mealybugs are not significant but for a highly infested plant, the symptoms include yellowish leaves, curling and loss of flowers. Weakening and loss of vigor can also be apparent as well. Mealybugs commonly infest ornamental plants, house plants, avocado and other fruits though they don’t have a specific choice of host plant.
How to Control
The most popular home remedy against mealybugs is using a cotton swab with rubbing alcohol with 70% isopropyl content. Neem oil, insecticidal soap or natural insecticides can also be used as other options. Heavy mealybug infestation might require an effective method and solution that only a professional pest controller can provide.