Common Name: Citrus mealybug
Scientific Name: Planococcus citri (Risso)
Description: Female and nymphal mealybugs are 1/8-inch or smaller, soft, oval wingless insects covered with white fluffy wax, ringed with white wax tufts, and have long tails. Males are tiny, gnat-like insects with one pair of wings.
The citrus mealybug is another common species that occurs on a wide variety of greenhouse and nursery crops feeding on above-ground portions of plants at shoot crotches and on foliage. Females lack long waxy tail filaments and produce masses (400 to 600) of tiny eggs that are covered by a “sack” (ovisac) of conspicuous, dense, fluffy, white wax mass and are sometimes called “nests”. Most mealybug species feed on foliage, flowers, fruits and stems, but some, such as ground mealybugs (Rhizoecus sp.), feed on roots of holly, African violet and other plants.
Life Cycle: In warm climates, live longtailed mealybug young are believe to be produced without fir producing eggs. Very young nymphs (crawlers) are flat, oval and yellow. They develop through several stages (instars) over several weeks before reaching sexual maturity. Winged males emerge from a tiny fluffy cocoon and fly to the female mealybug to mate.
Habitat and Food Source(s): Pests of numerous host plants.
Pest Status, Damage: New shoots and leaves of a wide range of greenhouse and indoor plants are attacked, including apple, avocado, citrus, English ivy, ficus, gardenia, jasmine, oleander, persimmon, “pothos” (Scindapsis sp.), pittosporum, rhododendron. Plant damage is caused by loss of sap extracted by high numbers of mealybugs, resulting in wilted, distorted and yellowed (chlorotic) leaves, premature leaf drop, stunted growth, and occasionally death of infested plants or plant parts. The sticky, sugary sap excreted by mealybugs is called honeydew and falls on objects underneath the site of infestation. A black fungus called sooty mold colonizes the honeydew-coated leaves causing them to look dark and unsightly.
Management: See Citrus Pest Management Guidelines.
Literature: Baker 1988; Baker 1982; Johnson & Lyon 1988.