Yes, they are back, and are serious problem for all gardens.
The mealybug, is a pest of many plants, trees, and shrubs. It infests hibiscus, citrus, coffee, sugar cane, annonas, plums, guava, mango, okra, sorrel, teak, mora, pigeon pea, peanut, grape vines, maize, asparagus, chrysanthemum, beans, cotton, soybean, cocoa, and many other plants. This pest occurs in most tropical areas of the world, including Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Australia, and Oceania.
The pink hibiscus mealybug is also known as the grape mealybug, the grapevine mealybug, the pink mealybug, and the hibiscus mealybug. The pest forms colonies on the host plant. If left undisturbed, the colonies will grow into large masses of white, waxy deposits on branches, fruiting structures, leaves, and even whole plants, including large trees. Adults of both sexes are about one-eighth inch (3 mm) long. The females are pink, and their bodies have a white, waxy covering. They are wingless and look like ovoid shapes covered by a mass of white, mealy wax. Males have a pair of wings and two long waxy tails and are capable of flight. This insect can complete its entire life cycle in as little as 23 to 30 days.
In its egg stage, the pink hibiscus mealybug disperses most easily by wind. The wax, which sticks to each egg, also facilitates passive transport by animals or people. Wingless crawlers and adult females have been known to travel short distances over the ground to get to other host plants in adjoining fields/gardens. As it feeds, the pink hibiscus mealybug injects into the plant a toxic saliva that results in malformed leaf and shoot growth, stunting, and, occasionally, death. Leaves show a characteristic curling, similar to damage caused by viruses. Heavily infested plants have shortened internodes leading to rosette-ing or a “bunchy top” appearance. The pink hibiscus mealybug has a wide range of hundreds of unrelated plant hosts, and the list is growing as the pest spreads into new geographic areas. So far, this insect has been found on 215 genera of plants. Its wide host range favours rapid spread and complicates effective control.
Experience in the Caribbean has shown that using pesticides and cutting and burning infested host plants are not successful techniques. For environmental reasons, biological control is the best long-term management option. IMPORTANT NOTE: Don’t separate the bug from the plant at any point. Avoid pesticides to fight this pest for a few reasons. One is that you could kill off good bugs. Besides, according the University of Florida Department of Entomology, there is no known insecticidal control for this pest.
In Matrimandir Gardens we started to control Mealy Bug in Existence Garden in 2012 with Lecanicillium lecanii that is now an approved name of an entomopathogenic fungus specie, that was previously widely known as Verticillium lecanii. L. lecanii spores when comes in contact with the Mealybug, attaches to the cuticle (outer skin) and then germinates and grows directly through spiracle into the inner body of the host. By taking nutrients from the Mealybug it further proliferates and colonizes the entire insect and thus drains the insect of nutrients. The infected Mealybug eventually dies. After 5.5 years using it in MM Gardens, we have so far, a fair control of Mealybug, there isn’t yet “Pest Resistance”, and it is safe for good bugs and others creatures like lady bird, butterflies, etc.
Verticillium lecanii is available for those who has Mealy Bug problems or want to have preventive action, in Probiotics House – Reve. Please visit us, and we will direct you in how to use it.
Margarita & Guidelma
Reve – Auroville.
Phone: +91 413 2623774
Open Tuesday to Saturday
9:30 – 11:30 am & 2:00 to 4:30 pm.