Mealy Bugs Commonly Known as Woolly Aphids, A Gardeners Nightmare!
Posted January 24, 2013
A gardeners nightmare! The dreaded mealybug can be one of the worst pest attack. They can live on the plants or in the root systems. They hid under leaves and nestle in the nooks and crannies. They reproduce very rapidly laying their eggs underneath a cotton-like elliptical covering that make them acquire resistance to pesticides. These small pests are 1/10" with pinkish bodies covered with white waxy fluff, almost like snow. The males are even smaller with two wings and you rarely see them. Adults and nymphs suck plant juices from many types of fruit crops, potatoes, ornamental and tropical plants, even houseplants. Feeding on all parts of the plant, particularly new growth which will cause leaves to wither and yellow and fruit will drop. The honeydew they excrete supports the growth of sooty mold fungus, another problem plants don't need! Honeydew often bring on the ants! The females lay their eggs in a fluffy white mass. The eggs hatch in 10 days and crawl to find a new feeding site, infecting new plants where they will stay and develop for 1 to 2 months or longer. Several generations will produce in a year.
Prevention of coarse it the first and best step. Insect nursery stock carefully before introducing to greenhouses, cold-frames or gardens. A couple of tiny mealybugs can cause a mountainous problem! Controlling mealybugs can be daunting at times. For minor infestations, use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol and swab off bugs and eggs. The best method for infested areas we have found for ridding plants from these tiny buggers is stiff streams of water to dislodge mealybugs, followed up by a thorough spraying of insecticidal soap, not missing a nook or cranny! And don't forget to spray the base of the plant and the surrounding soil where they have fallen. Organic sprays don't usually affect the eggs, so spraying weekly until there are not more signs of mealy bugs is a must. Some mealy bugs have developed a resistance to insecticidal soap so you can also use organic Spinosad as an alternative. Keep a close eye on the plants that were infected just in case a few escaped. Watch surrounding plants as well. No leaf unturned! Good hygiene is very important as well.