How to Manage Pests

UC Pest Management Guidelines

Citrus

Mealybugs

Scientific Names:
Citrus mealybug: Planococcus citri
Citrophilus mealybug: Pseudococcus calceolariae
Longtailed mealybug Pseudococcus longispinus
Comstock mealybug: Pseudococcus comstocki

(Reviewed 9/08, updated 6/13)

In this Guideline:


Description of the Pests

Mealybugs are soft, oval, flat, distinctly segmented, and covered with a white, mealy wax that extends into spines (filaments) along the body margin and the posterior end. The species differ mainly in the thickness and length of the waxy filaments. Citrus mealybug, the most common species, has a pinkish body that is visible through the powdery wax. The filaments around its margins are not appreciably longer at the posterior end. The Comstock mealybug primarily occurs on lemons in the San Joaquin Valley and has a thicker wax cover than the citrus mealybug. In addition, it has two spines at the posterior end, about one-quarter the length of the body. The other two mealybug species are usually not a problem in citrus because they are kept at low population levels by parasites.

Female mealybugs lay several hundred eggs on the leaves, fruit, or twigs; eggs for some of the species are laid in cottony egg sacs. Newly hatched nymphs are light yellow and free of wax, but soon start to excrete a waxy cover. There are two to three overlapping generation a year. Mealybugs are often found between clusters of grapefruit, especially in groves tended by ants.

Damage

Mealybugs extract plant sap, reducing tree vigor, and excrete honeydew, which gets on plant surfaces and provides a surface upon which sooty mold grows. If a cluster of mealybugs feeds along a fruit stem, fruit drop can occur. Damage is most severe in spring and fall.

Management

Mealybugs are primarily managed by conserving their natural enemies and reducing ant populations and dust problems. Treatment is rarely required.

Biological Control

Parasites provide good control of the citrophilus, longtailed, and Comstock mealybugs if they are not destroyed by treatments for other pests. Native predators include lady beetles, lacewings, and syrphid flies. An introduced predator of the citrus mealybug, the mealybug destroyer, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri, is a voracious feeder of the pest in both the larval and adults stages. Its larvae resemble a mealybug but are about twice as large as the adult citrus mealybug females. The adult is a small beetle with dark brown wing covers and a light brown head and prothoracic shield. Because Cryptolaemus does not survive the winter well, it can be purchased from commercial insectaries in early spring and released in orchards where citrus mealybugs were a problem the previous year. Release about 500 Cryptolaemus per acre.

Organically Acceptable Methods

Biological control, including the release of Cryptolaemus montrouzieri, is acceptable in organically managed citrus groves.

Monitoring and Treatment Decisions

If a heavy population of mealybugs must be reduced quickly, a treatment can be applied, but release Cryptolaemus about 2 weeks after to reestablish biological control.

Common name Amount to use R.E.I.‡ P.H.I.‡
(example trade name) (type of coverage)** (hours) (days)

  Calculate impact of pesticide on air quality
 
The following are ranked with the pesticides having the greatest IPM value listed first—the most effective and least harmful to natural enemies, honey bees, and the environment are at the top of the table. When choosing a pesticide, consider information relating to air and water quality, resistance management, and the pesticide's properties and application timing. Not all registered pesticides are listed. Always read the label of the product being used.
 
A. CRYPTOLAEMUS MONTROUZIERI#
  (Mealybug destroyer) 500/acre NA NA
  RANGE OF ACTIVITY: Pests: narrow (mealybugs); Natural enemies: none
  PERSISTENCE: Pests: intermediate, does not survive winters well; Natural enemies: none
  COMMENTS: Release in early spring in orchards where citrus mealybugs were a problem the previous year.
 
B. CHLORPYRIFOS*
  (Lorsban Advanced) 2–7 qt/100 gal (TC) 5 days See comments
  RANGE OF ACTIVITY: Pests: broad (many insects); Natural enemies: most
  PERSISTENCE: Pests: short (low rates), intermediate (high rates); Natural enemies: short (low rates), intermediate (high rates)
  MODE OF ACTION GROUP NUMBER1: 1B
  COMMENTS: For use on all varieties. Do not apply during bloom. Preharvest interval is 21 days up to 7 pt/acre and 35 days above 7 pt/acre.
  . . . PLUS . . . (optional)
  NARROW RANGE OIL
  (415) 1.2–1.4% 4 When dry
  RANGE OF ACTIVITY: Pests: broad (unprotected stages of insects and mites); Natural enemies: most
  PERSISTENCE: Pests: short; Natural enemies: short
  MODE OF ACTION: Contact including smothering and barrier effects.
  COMMENTS: Use highest dosage of oil for July or Aug. applications. CAUTION: Serious hazards are associated with oil treatments to green lemons because of phytotoxicity after sweating; check label for preharvest interval.
 
** TC - Thorough coverage uses 750–2000 gal/acre.
Restricted entry interval (R.E.I.) is the number of hours (unless otherwise noted) from treatment until the treated area can be safely entered without protective clothing. Preharvest interval (P.H.I.) is the number of days from treatment to harvest. In some cases the REI exceeds the PHI. The longer of two intervals is the minimum time that must elapse before harvest.
# Acceptable for use on organically grown produce.
1 Rotate chemicals with a different mode-of-action Group number, and do not use products with the same mode-of-action Group number more than twice per season to help prevent the development of resistance. For example, the organophosphates have a Group number of 1B; chemicals with a 1B Group number should be alternated with chemicals that have a Group number other than 1B. Mode-of-action Group numbers ("un"=unknown or uncertain mode of action) are assigned by IRAC (Insecticide Resistance Action Committee). For additional information, see their Web site at http://www.irac-online.org/.
NA Not applicable.

[Precautions]

PUBLICATION

[UC Peer Reviewed]

UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines: Citrus
UC ANR Publication 3441

Insects, Mites, and Snails

  • E. E. Grafton-Cardwell, Entomology, UC Riverside and Kearney Agricultural Center, Parlier
  • J. G. Morse, Entomology, UC Riverside
  • N. V. O'Connell, UC Cooperative Extension, Tulare County
  • P. A. Phillips (emeritus), UC IPM Program, UC Cooperative Extension, Ventura County
  • C. E. Kallsen, UC Cooperative Extension, Kern County
  • D. R. Haviland, UC Cooperative Extension, Kern County
Acknowledgments for contributions to Insect, Mites, and Snails:
  • J. Barcinas, E.S.I., Corona, CA
  • R. Dunn, Badger Farming Co., Exeter, CA
  • J. Gorden, Pest Management Associates, Exeter, CA
  • H. Griffiths, E.S.I., Corona, CA
  • D. Machlitt, Consulting Entomology Services, Moorpark, CA
  • C. Musgrove, retired entomologist, Riverside, CA
  • K. Olsen, S & J Ranch, Pinedale, CA
  • T. Roberts, E.S.I., Corona, CA
  • T. Shea, UC Cooperative Extension, Riverside County
  • J. Stewart, Pest Management Associates, Exeter, CA
  • P. Washburn, Washburn & Sons Citrus Pest Control, Riverside, CA

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