Mealybugs are common indoor pests. Mealybug infestations appear on plants as tiny, soft-bodied insects surrounded by a fuzzy, white mess around the stems and leaf nodes.
The visible mealybugs are the females. They are small (about one-tenth of an inch) insects with fringes around their bodies and, depending on the species, twin tails. Male mealybugs are tiny winged insects that are rarely seen on plants.
Mealybugs have needle-like sucking mouthparts. Feeding activity can cause a yellowing of host leaves, distorted growth, premature leaf drop, and, with heavy populations, plant death. Mealybugs also produce large amounts of a sweet, sticky liquid waste product called honeydew. A black fungus called sooty mold may grow on the honeydew.
How to prevent:
This pest is usually brought into the interiorscape on an infested plant. Therefore, one of the best ways to manage mealybugs on houseplants is to carefully check plants being considered for purchase and reject any infested plants. Quarantine new plants for 7-10 days in an isolated spot, and check for signs of mealybugs or other household pests before adding the plants to your interiorscape.
Provide proper cultural control so that the plants are vigorous and can tolerate moderate mealybug feeding without suffering too much damage. Do not over-water or over-fertilise — mealybugs are attracted to plants with high nitrogen levels and soft growth. Removing overwintering sites, such as loose bark, can help to reduce mealybug numbers. Predatory insects, such as lacewings, syrphid flies, ladybirds, and several small parasitic wasps, prey on outdoor mealybugs and can often keep their numbers down. An introduced beetle, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri, the mealybug destroyer, is available commercially for release in greenhouses. Avoid the unnecessary use of insecticide to minimise any adverse effect on these beneficial insects. Manage ants, which are attracted to honeydew produced by the mealybugs and will inhibit the activities of natural enemies.
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