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Mealy Bug Treatment and Description

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Common Name: Mealybug, Long Tailed Mealy
Latin Name: Ferrisia virgata, Phenacoccus solani, Planococcus citri, Pseudoccous longispinus
Size: Between 1/8th and 1/5th of an inche or between 2mm and 5mm.
Colour: Mealybugs bodies can be white to an off pink colour, they usually excrete a pinkish fluid when squashed.
Transfer: Mealy Bugs find their way to other plants by hitching rides with humans or animals. Juvenile mealybugs can crawl from an infected plant to another plant.

Mealybug Description:

One of the most common pests to occur in succulent, amateur and enthusiast alike, collections.  These pests can do severe damage to your plants if they are left unchecked.  Mealybugs can be quite difficult to control as they have a waxy coating over their bodies and they tend to infest the more hard to reach areas of plants.

Mealy bugs are soft-bodied, wingless insects up to 4mm in length, they are white to pink in colour.  Adult mealy bugs are covered in white waxy threads and a waxy coating which makes them so difficult to eradicate.   They can be found on leaves (esp. the axil), stems and roots (root mealy bug).

Mealy bugs have sucking mouthparts that they use to extract large amount of sap from the host plant.  These insects extract a large amount of sap in order to obtain enough proteins, the excess sap is excreted as honeydew.  The excreted honeydew attracts ants and sooty mould which inhibits the plants ability to manufacture food.

Mealy Bug Infestation

Signs Of Mealybug Infestation:

Non-infected plants can be infected from infected plats as mealy bugs can crawl from plant to plant.  Humans and animals may infect non-infected plants as they may be carried from one plant to the other.

Examine the foliage for individual bugs by looking at the upper and lower areas of the leaves, the axis (where the leaves join the stem), look between leaves especially tightly packed leaves and rosettes.  Severe infestations resemble patches of cotton all over the plant.  Look for honeydew and sooty mould. Another sign is the presence of ants, ants are attracted to the honeydew that is excreted by the mealy bugs.

Damage Done by Mealybug:

Plants will seldom die of these pests due to heavy infestations being unsightly (you just can't miss it).  Mealy bugs excrete a honeydew that attracts ants and possibly black sooty mould.  The ants and the sooty mould do not do much damage but rather makes the plant look unsightly. Mealy Bugs will kill off leaves and if left unchecked they will kill the plant. Mealy bugs also effect the development of flowers and stems (especially in succulents with fleshy stems).

Treatment of Mealybug:

Environmentally friendly alternatives to poison:

Biological control - Introduce Hypoaspis and/or Cryptolaemus (Australian Ladybird)  to the infected plants.  Hypoaspis is a small mite that feeds on small insects, especially mealy bug.

Manual removal - You can pick the bugs off manually in plants that are not severely infested or use a strong jet of water (be careful not to damage plants).

Manual Removal - Use a 50/50 mix of water and methylated spirits to wipe away the bugs, the spirits should kill any remaining pests.

Chemical Poisons:
  • Tokuthion - 5ml/10l water
  • Chlorpirifos - 100ml/10l
  • Confidor - 10ml/10l
  • Malathion - 25ml/10l
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