Question: What is this insect?
Answer: It’s a mealybug. They are pests of indoor and outdoor ornamental plants and can be found all over the world. Several species have been identified as being pests of greenhouse, nursery, and landscape plants. They are citrus and longtailed mealybugs, just to name a few. Mealybugs are most active during warm dry weather, which is what we have been experiencing for a while now. They often hide in crevices of plants.
They cause damage to plants by inserting their mouth parts into the plant parts and sucking out the sap. Some mealybugs such as the citrus species have a toxin in their saliva. Once plants are affected they will drop their leaves and buds.
Female mealybugs are wingless with a soft oval shape and approximately 3mm in length. The males are similar to gnats with wings. They both can be found coated with a waxy fluffy substance referred to as ovisac. The female species can lay 200 to 600 eggs that are protected by the waxy fluff.
This small pest is difficult to control. The waxy fluff is like a protective “waterproof” barrier for the eggs. That waxy fluff also provides some protection for the adults. Systemic insecticides may be the best defense for controlling these critters. Several applications may be necessary if treating with contact insecticides. Please visit http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/O&T/flowers/note19/note19.html for more information and control options for mealybugs.
Reminder: Please call the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Center at (910) 592-7161 with your horticultural questions and to register for any upcoming events. Be sure to check out the Ask An Expert Widget at sampson.ces.ncsu.edu for any questions you may have.