Lebbeck Mealybug Update

Ernie NeffPests

lebbeck mealybug
Lauren Diepenbrock

University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) entomologist Lauren Diepenbrock provides an update on the lebbeck mealybug, a new pest of Florida citrus detected in Highlands County in June.

Diepenbrock reports that the mealybug was found June 14 by a Highlands County grower. It came from groves in Avon Park and Sebring. “It is definitely beyond one grove, and we suspect that it’s probably in other places throughout the state,” she says.

Lebbeck mealybugs “make a lot of offspring,” Diepenbrock says. “One female makes approximately 1,000 juveniles each year.” The pests cause leaf damage, but “the bigger problem is they cause a lot of damage to the fruit,” making it difficult to market as fresh fruit, she says.

Lebbeck mealybug nymphs are seen under a partially removed calyx button.
(Photo by L.M. Diepenbrock, UF/IFAS CREC)

According to Diepenbrock, the lebbeck mealybug has been a periodic pest in citrus in other countries. Older studies have shown that the pest can result in high levels of fruit drop.

Historically, the pest has been found damaging citrus in the Middle East, South Africa, the Mediterranean and Australia. In recent years, it has been found in more locations worldwide and on several host crops.

To prevent spread of possible lebbeck mealybug infestations, Diepenbrock recommends growers clean equipment and tools before moving them from one part of a grove to another.

Diepenbrock thinks the best long-term control of lebbeck mealybug may be the use of natural mealybug enemies that have been found in Florida. “I’m hopeful that will work,” she says.

“If you think you have it in your grove, please … report it,” says Diepenbrock, who has initiated a research program for the new pest. Growers who suspect they have the pest in their groves can report finds to Diepenbrock, their citrus Extension agent or the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Division of Plant Industry.

Diepenbrock’s discussion of lebbeck mealybug is part of the current All In For Citrus Podcast. The podcast is a joint effort of UF/IFAS and Southeast AgNet.

Listen to the full podcast here.

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About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large