Characteristically mealybugs are covered in white granular or cotton-like wax. Mealy bug bodies are always soft and the females are oval and flat with distinct segmentation often visible in the wax. Eggs are usually laid in a white cottony material underneath the female. Widespread in greenhouses and indoor plants; not an outdoor problem. Depending on temperature, one generation can develop every 1-3 months.
Mealybugs produce honeydew, which is one of the first signs of feeding by these insects. Another sign is ants feeding on the honeydew. Common plant symptoms include distorted growth and premature leaf drop.
Inspect new plant material and return infested plants to supplier. Destroy heavily infested greenhouse plants. Remove excess soil and compost piles from growing areas to prevent alternative infestation sites. Mealybug destroyers (beneficial beetles) can be effective in controlling populations in some situations. For this to work, growers must be willing to tolerate a low level infestation of both pests and beneficial insects on plants.
Chemical control can be difficult because of the protective wax covering these insects. Insecticidal soaps in contact sprays are affective against the mealybug crawler stage with thorough coverage. Use insect growth regulators when beneficial insects are present. You will need 2-3 treatments at 10-14 day intervals to get good control, as eggs and adult stages are protected from most insecticides.
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