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DESCRIPTION Adult- The female citrus
mealybug is wingless and appears to have been rolled in flour
(hence the name). It grows to 3 mm long and 1.5 mm wide. A fringe
of small waxy filaments protrude from the periphery. The male is
small, but with its wings and tail filaments, it appears to be
4.5 mm long. Egg- The oblong, yellow eggs are enmeshed in a
dense, fluffy, white ovisac. Crawler- The tiny crawler is oval
and yellow, with red eyes. The antennae are rather distinct.
Nymph- Female nymphs resemble the larger adult females. Male
nymphs are narrower and often occur in a loose cocoon.
Fig. 106: Citrus mealybug
Planococcus citri (Risso), Pseudococcidae, HOMOPTERA
Zoom Fig. 106: Full view of life cycle (25.4 K)
Citrus mealybug. A, Adult female. B, Egg mass. C-G, Nymphs. H, Adult male. ZOOM
BIOLOGY Distribution- Citrus mealybugs
occur in southern Europe and in the southern United States, where
they overwinter outdoors. Further north, they survive in
greenhouses and homes. Host Plants- Citrus mealybugs have been
collected from at least 27 host plant families. Many ornamental
plants grown in greenhouses are susceptible to attack including
begonia, coleus, amaryllis, cyclamen, and dahlia. Citrus mealybug
has been collected on canna, narcissus, and tulip outdoors.
Damage- Citrus mealybugs damage hosts by sucking out plant sap,
by excreting honeydew in which sooty mold can grow, and by
causing distorted growth and premature leaf drop with their toxic
saliva. They further disfigure plants by secreting cottony wax.
Infested plants usually die unless the pest is controlled. Life
History- The citrus mealybug has been recognized as a pest of
citrus and ornamental plants in Europe since 1813 (where it is
called the greenhouse mealybug) and in the United States since
1879. Because female citrus mealybugs have no wings, they must be
transported to the proximity of the next host plant. They can,
however, travel short distances by crawling and the immatures can
be blown about. Males are small, winged insects. After mating,
each female lays up to hundreds of eggs in a dense, fluffy
secretion called the egg sac or ovisac. Within a few days, new
mealybugs (crawlers) hatch and begin to squirm out of the ovisac.
Light infestations are easily overlooked because the mealybugs
tend to wedge into crevices on the host plant. As their numbers
increase, mealybugs of all sizes can be seen crawling around or
feeding on all exposed plant surfaces.
Control of citrus mealybugs is amazingly difficult. Some commercial flower growers merely discard infested plants rather than trying to rescue them from citrus mealybugs. Horticultural oils may damage amaryllis. For specific chemical controls, consult the current Cooperative Extension publications on ornamental plant pest management or consult your county Extension Agent.
University of Florida/IFAS Reference to Pest Control Guides