Lebbeck mealybug was first found causing damage in Florida citrus in Highlands County in 2019. As of this writing, it has now been found on citrus in 14 counties in Florida.
This pest likely gains some dispersal assistance from wind events, either being blown on infested plant material or as crawlers on wind currents as has been noted for scale crawlers in other systems. In addition, Lebbeck mealybug likely is moving passively on people, animals and equipment to new locations where it then establishes and causes damage. Infestation patterns have emerged related to movement of equipment between sites, which warrants inclusion of sanitation procedures in grower management plans for this pest.
Ongoing University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) lab research shows that two sprays of rubbing alcohol (50, 70 or 90%) will kill most mobile life stages of lebbeck mealybug that can be picked up on clothing or small equipment. For field equipment, colleagues working on a similar mealybug found that pressure washing with soap was able to remove most mealybugs from equipment surfaces.
Sanitation recommendations for lebbeck mealybug include the following:
- Take personal vehicles through a car wash after driving through infested areas.
- Cleanse equipment at least with a pressure washer (including soap is even better).
- Carry spray bottles of rubbing alcohol to spot-treat hands, clothing and small tools.
- If possible, workers should plan to visit infested sites at the end of the day and wash clothing after working in these areas.
Lauren Diepenbrock is an assistant professor at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred.
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