The lebbeck mealybug, also known as the hibiscus mealybug, is a pest that has recently become problematic for Florida citrus growers. Extension agent Lourdes Perez Cordero and entomologist Lauren Diepenbrock, both with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), recently reported on the pest.
According to Cordero and Diepenbrock, the lebbeck mealybug feeds by piercing the plant and sucking the sap from the tree. The nymphs and the adult females are known to feed from any part of the tree except the root system. There appears to be a preference for the calyx of the fruits that are still developing as well as points of injury on bark.
Mealybug saliva can cause deformation of the fruit, chlorosis in leaves and stunted growth of the plant. In addition, its excretion can accumulate on top of the leaves and cause sooty mold to grow on leaves. This is less than ideal since it reduces the leaves’ exposure to the sun, affecting photosynthesis.
All citrus species grown in Florida are susceptible to this pest that can cause fruit to drop prematurely and reduce yield. Lebbeck mealybug doesn’t only affect citrus; it has a very wide host range. It can infest more than 50 plant families, including fruiting trees like avocadoes, ornamental plants such as roses and hibiscus, and even weeds.
Females are fairly visible due to their whiteish color contrasting with the green color of plants, and also because of their large waxy ovisacs (capsule that contains the eggs). Another unique characteristic of this pest is that it bleeds purple when crushed.
EARLY DETECTION IS KEY
Early detection is the key to control, Cordero and Diepenbrock advise. That’s because protection of developing fruit is key to reducing fruit drop from mealybug feeding.
Management for lebbeck mealybug is still under development. However, applications of Movento, after petal fall and in accordance with the formulation’s label, could be useful for early management. Insecticides aimed at managing Asian citrus psyllid, citrus leafminer and other insect pests should reduce overall damage by the mealybug.
It is well documented that insecticides alone will not provide full control of this pest. Long term, it is imperative to consider inclusion of management practices that can support predatory insect and spider populations.
Learn more about lebbeck mealybug from UF/IFAS.
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