Mealybugs are soft-bodied insects that do not look like insects but more like small ovals that are often covered with cottony white filaments. They are about 1/8th inch long, with pinkish or yellowish bodies. Since these insects are so small, it is best to view them through a 10x magnifying glass.
These insects can move throughout their lives. They infest all plant parts: feeder roots, root crowns, stems, twigs, leaves, flowers, and fruits. Injured plants have discolored, wilted, and deformed leaves.
Mealybugs excrete large amounts of honeydew which provides an excellent medium for the growth of a black fungus called “sooty mold” – refer to sooty mold article – https://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/monroeco/2008/07/23/what-is-that-black-stuff-on-my-plant-leaves/
When looking for this insect if you are seeing sooty mold on the upper leaf surface then examine the bottom of the leaf above for the mealybug. If you need any help in identifying the insect, contact your County Extension Agent. For those living in the Florida Keys you can contact Kim Gabel at firstname.lastname@example.org
The least toxic mealybug control methods are:
Use strong stream of water to blast off the mealybug but not the leaves
Use insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils (read and follow all label directions)
Prune and remove the branch with the mealybugs
Look for beneficial insects that are eating the mealybugs (Green Lacewings, Mealybug Destroyers) or tiny wasps that lay their eggs on live mealybugs that then become a food source for the wasp
For more information please refer to the following University of Florida Extension fact sheets:
(Note: This publication was last reviewed in 2004 and has been archived)
This blog article was reviewed and updated in June, 2013.
Photo Credit: Kim Gabel, UF/IFAS