Mealybugs Facts

Mealybugs Facts
Mealybugs belong the group of scale insects. They can be found all over the world, except in the polar regions. Mealybugs prefer warm, humid areas that provide enough food (plants). They quickly reproduce and produce significant damage on the plants in the gardens and greenhouses and in the fields on commercially important crops such as pineapples, grapes, sugarcane, coffee, citrus and orchids. They also facilitate spreading of various plant diseases. People use various chemical (pesticides and insecticide soaps) and biological (animals that feed on mealybugs) methods to eradicate them. Despite huge efforts, mealybugs are still numerous around the world.
Interesting Mealybugs Facts:
Mealybugs can reach 0.04 to 0.1 inches in length.
Color of the body depends on the species. They can be white, gray, yellow, pink or purple colored.
Mealybugs have oval, segmented body without hard shell on the surface. Some species have tail-like structure at the end of the body or filaments which create impression of numerous legs.
Females are covered with white, cottony wax that is responsible for the mealy appearance, hence the name "mealybugs". This layer prevents loss of water from their soft body.
Males look like gnats. They have wings, but they lack mouth (they do not eat).
Females and immature mealybugs are herbivores. They can be found on the bark, stem, leaves, flowers and fruit. Mealybugs use specially designed straw-like mouth apparatus called "stylets" for the extraction of sap from the plant tissue.
Mealybugs release sugary liquid called honeydew (waste product of their diet). This liquid represents suitable medium for the fungi which quickly spread on the surface of the host plant and prevent photosynthesis (by blocking sunlight).
Mealybugs reduce amount of nutrients in the plant tissue and inject toxic saliva which prevents normal growth and development of plants.
Some species of ants protect mealybugs against predators and use plant material and soil to construct shelters for them. In return, mealybugs secrete honeydew which represents excellent source of food for ants.
Green lacewings and lady bugs are natural enemies of mealybugs.
Mealybugs can produce offspring all year round, with a peak during the spring and autumn (temperature and humidity are optimal during these periods of year).
Females lay eggs or give birth to live babies, depending on the species of mealybug. Egg-laying females produce 200 to 600 eggs and wrap them in a waxy cocoon. Newly hatched mealybugs, better known as "crawlers", emerge after 6 to 14 days.
Mealybugs have incomplete metamorphosis (holometabolous insects). They undergo 4 (females) to 5 (males) larval stages (called instars) before they reach adulthood.
Parasitic wasps that lay eggs and hatch inside the young mealybugs are used as biological weapon against these insects (they eat internal fluids of mealybugs).
Females can survive few months, while males die as soon as they fertilize females.

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