Mealybugs are a common plant sucking insect that can be a problem in areas like greenhouses, gardens, ornamentals and indoor plants. They’re found in warmer growing climates like Florida. Mealybugs are soft bodied, oval shaped, wingless insects that often appears as a white cottony mass on the leaves, stems and fruit of the plants. Normally covered with a white or grey wax and maxing out at a ¼” in length. They feed by sucking the sap out of the tissues of the plant.
Damage is not often significant at low pest levels, though at a higher number they can cause leaf yellowing and curling as the plant weakens. Feeding is usually accompanied by honeydew, which makes the plant sticky and encourages the growth of sooty molds. Honeydew can also attract a lot of ants.
Adult females deposit 300-600 eggs within a waxy, cottony appearing mass mostly found on the underside of the leaves. Their egg cases can also be confused with downy mildew. Egg laying continues for 2 weeks with the female dying shortly after all the eggs are laid. Hatching occurs within 1-3 weeks, and the small active yellow nymphs begin migrating over the plant in search of feeding sites on which to settle. As they feed, the secrete honeydew and a waxy coating begins to form over their bodies.
After the initial egg laying the numbers can quickly start to overwhelm your plants health. If you’re having problems with mealybugs and your ornamentals, reach out to a professional.