- The little, soft-bodied sucking insects are typically a problem for woody and ornamental plants, but they can also cause damage to vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, and more.
- Mealybugs, which feed on the sap of tomato plants, produce honeydew, which in turn attracts even more pests (sooty mold) that do further damage to the crop.
- It is possible to confuse them with cottony cushion scale, woolly aphids, soft scales, and whiteflies, all of which generate wax and honeydew like these pests do.
Symptoms and damages
- Infestation symptoms may include white cottony egg masses on plants, waxed plants, sticky honeydew, black sooty mold developing over honeydew, or ants feeding on honeydew.
- Stunted growth
- Mealybugs feed on plant sap, which causes the plants to shrivel and die. A high population density can inhibit plant growth and lead to the loss of leaves.
- Avoid mealybugs by inspecting purchased plants.
- To avoid spread, quarantine or eliminate infested plants.
- Handpick or prune mealybugs from houseplants and gardens. Remove the plant if the infection is severe.
- High-pressure water sprays reduce big exposed populations.
- Make sure you apply nitrogen fertilizer properly. Overapplication in conjunction with consistent irrigation helps to stimulate new plant growth in areas that mealybugs favor for laying their eggs.
- A 70% (or less) isopropyl alcohol and water solution can remove mealybugs from indoor plants with serious infestations. First test plants for phytotoxicity and reduce concentration.
- Adult mealybugs hide and have a waxy cuticle, making contact pesticides ineffective. Insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils, and neem oil can eliminate immature mealybugs.
- Some insecticides advertised for use against mealybugs can be toxic to beneficial insects and should be avoided in the garden.
More information: https://mrec.ifas.ufl.edu/lso/mealybugs.htm