Lebbeck Mealybug on the Move in Florida Groves

Josh McGillAll In For Citrus Podcast, Pests

In the May episode of the All In For Citrus podcast, Lauren Diepenbrock, an entomologist with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), discusses her research on the lebbeck mealybug. The pest was first identified in Florida in the Boynton Beach area in 2009 in a natural habit.

Lebbeck Mealybug
A cluster of lebbeck mealybug ovisacs has hundreds of crawlers emerging. (Photo by Lauren Diepenbrock)
long-horned beetle
Lauren Diepenbrock

“It was not until 2019 that we found it in citrus,” Diepenbrock says. “We thought it might not have survived the environment in Florida. Sometimes with invasive pests, something else eats it or it can’t survive the local conditions. Unfortunately, 10 years later, there it is in citrus.”

The pest has been confirmed in most of Central and South Florida, and Diepenbrock says, it is probably just a matter of time before it is found further north in the state. She adds it is not an easy pest to scout for, but she offers some tips.

“It is really hard to see, especially at lowers levels,” she says. “At the juvenile stage, it is very small. Until it gets to higher levels (of infestation) and becomes really obvious, it is hard to find them in the field. Things that you might come across are heavy areas of sooty mold. Usually where you see this, something is producing honeydew, and this pest is one of the heavy producers of honeydew. You might also find some scale. Also, (look for) ant trails. Ants like to farm this pest, so often we see a lot of ant trails going back and forth from heavy infestation areas.”

Diepenbrock says lebbeck mealybug can cause fruit damage. In heavy enough concentrations, it also can cause fruit drop. The pest is even more problematic in fresh fruit because its damage can make fruit unmarketable.

Hear more management tips for the lebbeck mealybug in the May episode of the All In For Citrus podcast. The podcast is a joint project of UF/IFAS and AgNet Media.

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