By Eric Middleton and Lauren Diepenbrock
Lebbeck mealybug is an emerging pest in Florida citrus. Infestations can damage fruit, flowers and branches. The pest can even kill young trees in severe cases.
Lebbeck mealybug is often difficult to manage with insecticides alone due to the pest’s tendency to feed in protected spaces and the thick wax that covers adult mealybugs and their egg sacks. However, several predators can consume lebbeck mealybug. If they are allowed to persist, these predators can help keep mealybug populations in check. Recognizing and promoting these beneficial predators and parasitoids can decrease lebbeck mealybug outbreaks and reduce the need for additional management.
Below are some of the most common predators and parasitoids of lebbeck mealybug found in Central Florida.
Mealybug destroyer (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri) can consume large numbers of mealybugs, and both adults and larvae will feed on all life stages of lebbeck mealybug. Mealybug destroyers are commercially available and show promise for reducing lebbeck mealybug populations when released into groves.
Predatory hoverfly larvae (Ocyptamus sp.) burrow into lebbeck mealybug ovisacs and consume them from the inside out. Larvae pupate inside the wax remains and emerge as adult flies.
Trash bugs (Ceraeochrysa sp.) are the larvae of lacewings. This predator eats many different insects, including all life stages of lebbeck mealybug. Trash bugs cover themselves with detritus and resemble walking piles of debris.
SCAVENGER MOTH LARVAE
The larvae of scavenger moths (Anatrachyntis badia) feed on decaying plant material but will also feed on both living and dead mealybug ovisacs. Like hoverfly larvae, scavenger moth larvae burrow into ovisacs and consume them from the inside.
Two species (Anagyrus dactylopii and Aprostocetus sp.) of parasitoid wasps lay eggs inside lebbeck mealybug larvae, turning them into oval capsules from which adult wasps emerge. Male A. dactylopii are very small, dark wasps with long spikey antennae. Female A. dactylopii are slightly larger, with orange bodies and shorter antennae. Aprostocetus adults are small and dark with red eyes. Adult wasps are tiny and are very difficult to observe in groves without magnification.
Other predators found in Florida citrus will sometimes prey on lebbeck mealybug. These include the multicolored Asian ladybeetle (Harmonia axyridis), the metallic blue ladybeetle (Curinus coeruleus) and lacewing larvae (Chrysoperla carnea). All three will consume lebbeck mealybug juveniles and can also serve as predators of other pests in citrus.
Eric Middleton is a postdoctoral researcher, and Lauren Diepenbrock is an assistant professor, both at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred.
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