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Mealybug infestation on hibiscus.

Mealybugs are also commonly called woolly Aphids and include many species with a wide range of host plants. They are a type of unarmored Scale coated with a woolly, waxy secretion that provides protections and decreases the effects of contact insecticides. Like many other soft-bodied insects, mealybugs damage plants by feeding on sap and other cell contents.

How To Identify A Mealybug Infestation:

  • The plant is covered with small, white-to-grey insects with a cottony/wooly covering clustering close to the soil or near the growing tips.
  • Honeydew is present on plant surfaces, with or without sooty mold.
  • Infested plants may have a distorted stem and/or new growth.
  • Reduced plant vigor and health overall after mealybugs have been identified.
  • Due to damage leaves may wilt, drop off easily, be discolored or reduced in size.
  • Ant presence near new growth. Ants breed and protect mealybugs for the honeydew they produce.

Controlling Mealybugs:

Mealybugs and other types of soft scale can be difficult to control once populations have ballooned to large numbers. Small populations and immature stages of mealybugs are usually easy to control with regular monitoring and treatment.

  • Closely inspect plants for mealybugs or signs of damage. Pay close attention to areas of new growth.
  • Isolate plants infested from plants that are not, if possible.
  • Spray a sharp blast of water or Insecticidal Soap directly onto visible mealybugs for control. The insecticidal soap serves as a contact insecticide and does not have residual effects, so repeated applications are necessary for continued control.
  • Neem Oil can be applied directly to active infestations. It will kill all stages of mealybugs on contact. Use caution applying neem oil when pollinators are present.
  • Horticultural Oil applications will kill overwintering eggs and smother immature and adult mealybugs.
  • Generalist Predators can be introduced early in the growing season to help control mealybug eggs, larvae and adults. Generalists include Green Lacewing, Ladybugs and Assassin Bugs.
  • Mealybug Destroyers (Cryptolaemus montrozeuri) can be released to control mealybug infestations ranging from mild to severe. C. montrozeuri are small dark brown ladybugs with orange heads whose preferred food sources are the various life stages of mealybugs. They are opportunistic and will feed on other soft-bodied insects, but should not be relied upon to control other pest infestations.
  • If mealybug issues persist after Beneficial Insects have been released, use a Beauveria bassiana product like Mycotrol so that the beneficials are not harmed.
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