Mealybugs Life Cycle & Control

Adult female mealybugs do not grow past a nymph-like phase and never grow wings. They secrete a waxy material that protects them and their young on the host plant.

Prematurely dropping fruit and stunted plant growth may indicate the presence of the mealybug. This is a result of the mealybugs, in both the nymph and adult stages, sucking the juices of the plant and feeding on any tender young growth.

 
 

So... What's a Mealybug?

Adult female mealybugs have soft bodies which range from 1/10" to 1/4" in length. Their bodies are covered with a waxy material. The secretion of this waxy material helps to protect their eggs and nymphs from the elements.

The male mealybug is an extremely small insect having two wings. Male mealybugs live only a short period of time and do not feed, they exist only to reproduce.

Mealybug nymphs look like an identical, much smaller version of the adults.

 

Reproduction Patterns of Mealybugs

In the citrus mealybug, the male is not necessary for reproduction, while in the long-tailed mealybug, the male is necessary for reproduction to take place.

The female mealybug deposits her eggs in a cotton-like pouch and they hatch in a little over a week. The hatchlings are known as "crawlers" because they crawl to a spot where they can feed and continue to mature. They will develop into adults in about 1-2 months.

There can be several generations in a year, which can be particularly frustrating for greenhouses with infestations of mealybugs.

 

Mealybug's Habitat

Mealybugs can be found throughout North America. Certain species of mealybugs are more prevalent in specific regions of the United States.

Mealybugs can be found on potatoes, fruit crops, ornamental plants, citrus plants and tropical plants. They are more common in warm, moist climates but they seem to be able to flourish in greenhouses in all regions.

Symptoms of Mealybug Damage

Yellowing, withering and falling leaves, prematurely dropping fruit, and stunted plant growth may indicate the presence of the mealybug. This is a result of the mealybugs, in both the nymph and adult stages, sucking the juices of the plant and feeding on any tender young growth.

 

Results of a Mealybug Infestation

Leaves may wither and fall. Fruit that drops prematurely is inedible and unmarketable. Stunted plants will not be able to fully produce fruit or leaves. The honeydew left by the mealybugs may bring sooty mold fungus to the plant. Plants can die if the infestation is large.

What?

Since the mealybug secretes a waxy substance that it uses to protect itself, its eggs, and the young nymphs, it is often difficult to find an effective chemical control that will penetrate the substance.

Safer® Insect Killing Soap may be useful in greenhouses and when control is desired that will not harm the environment. In addition, insecticidal soaps can be very effective when combined with natural predators of the mealybug.

How?

Safer® Insect Killing Soap is made from potassium salt of fatty acids. Insecticidal soaps work at penetrating the mealybug’s outer layer, causing this pest to dehydrate and die.

Safer® Brand offers a variety of mealybug control products to help control and eliminate this garden pest and revive your plants. Please check out our mealybug control products for more details about how they work and how, when, where they should be applied.

Before using any insecticidal soap, it is important that you carefully read and follow all directions on the product label to find out how to use the product safely and effectively.

When?

Since these formulas are contact killers and they do not persist in the environment, several applications may be needed for full control. As a general rule, much like watering, do not use these products in the peak of the day or when temperatures exceed 90 degrees F to avoid wilting or browning of the leaves.

Why Choose a Natural Solution?

Safer® Brand understands your concerns about traditional pesticides and their effects on your family. Our insecticidal soaps and other products don’t contain any synthetic or man-made chemicals, our products are compliant with standards established for Organic Gardening.

Safer® Insect Killing Soap is safe to use around children and pets. They break down into their natural elements within 7-10 days leaving no residual impact on the environment.

They are highly preferable to chemical pesticides with toxins that can kill beneficial insects and cause long-term detrimental effects on the environment. Another negative effect of the chemical pesticides is the mealybug's possible buildup of resistance to the chemicals in the pesticides.

 

Natural Predators

What?

Checking transplants for mealybugs, releasing mealybug destroyers and parasitic wasps, and simply spraying infected plants with strong, steady streams of water are methods that may be helpful in controlling mealybugs. However, since the mealybug is so hard to control, using various types of controls, including both environmental and organic methods may be the best way to eradicate large infestations as much as possible.

How?

Check under transplants' leaves and roots for mealybugs. Release mealybug destroyers in orchards, in greenhouses and on houseplants. The number of mealybug destroyers released depends on the size of the area and location of the area.

These can be bought commercially. Follow directions of the accompanying material if you purchase these insects. Their release may need to be done using a certain procedure.

Parasitic wasps can also be released to control large infestations outdoors. You should be able to attract them naturally by planting pollen or nectar producing flowers.

When?

Since it is very difficult to control mealybugs, it is important to check seedlings or transplants before placing them in your garden or yard. When buying mealybug destroyers, follow directions of the accompanying material to see when to apply the destroyers. There may have to be multiple applications.

Most local greenhouses and garden centers can help you determine the right planting time for nectar and pollen producing plants to ensure that the pollen and nectar will be available when the wasps arrive.

Safer® Brand brings you a variety of effective insect control products that are gentler on the environment! Most of them proudly display the OMRI Listed® organic seal and comply for use in organic gardening!