Facts, Identification & Control
Mealybugs are very small, soft-bodied, oval-shaped insects that are covered with a white, powdery wax coating. In addition, many mealybug species have projections extending from their body, giving them the appearance of having many legs on the side and rear of the body. When seen on plants, they look like very small spots of cotton. Mealybugs move slowly, but when they find a suitable location on the plant, they often become immobile and form clusters on the plant.
Behavior, Diet & Habits
Mealybugs are plant feeders and will infest most parts of their host plant. They normally are located on the underside of plant leaves and stems, and populate many outdoor plants such annuals, bushes and shrubs. Mealybugs will heavily infest almost any plants in greenhouses, homes or businesses. They feed by forcing their needle-like piercing mouthparts into the plant and use a sucking action to remove the plant juices. Mealybugs attract ants by excreting honeydew, a sticky, sweet substance that the ants feed on. Plants infested with mealybugs usually have leaves that turn yellow and wilt, and if the infestation is not eliminated, the plant may eventually die.
Mealybug control for commercial greenhouse and crop growers costs millions of dollars each year. For the homeowner, mealybug control may not be expensive, but can be very time consuming since success depends upon a very careful inspection process. The easiest solution for the homeowner may simply be tossing out infested plants. If disposal is not an option, the homeowner can “quarantine” plants for 10-14 days as a way to ensure infested plants are not brought home. Also, there are many types of insecticidal soaps that will control mealybugs via direct application. Since ants may move mealybugs from one plant to another, an insecticide may be needed for ant control. If using insecticides, always follow the product label and seek the advice and expertise of your pest management professional before using any insecticide products.