One day, while adding compost I noticed there is something on my mango tree, something like a wax or mesh in white color on my mango leaves. I knew it would possibly be some sort of bugs attack. So let’s have a look at what are these white stuff on my mango tree. The research I attained gave evidence that it was an insect type pest attack. These white bugs are known as mealybugs and it’s a very common type of pest. Mealybugs belong to the biological family Pseudococcidae, and it’s recorded that more than 260 species are currently living among us destroying our crops. Pseudococcus, Planococcus, Phenacoccus, and Dysmicoccus are the genera which hold these pest species.
Like any other species; these mealybugs also composed of gender variation among female mealybugs and male mealybugs. They structurally differ according to the purpose of their sole life. If talk about males in this family of organisms, they are composed of wings, eyes but no mouth parts. Male mealybugs’ ultimate purpose of life is to fly finding another female mealybug and mating with it. Males’ life span is quite shorter than that of females who have much broader set of duties in life. Whereas, female mealybugs don’t have wings and composed of stylets (long mouth parts which used to suck).
An adult female mealybug (approximately 3 mm – 5 mm long) could lay 60- 600 eggs and it takes around 2 weeks to complete this process, at the end the mother mealybug is dying. What a sad life does these insects has gotten? Mealybug life cycle involves three main stages known as egg, nymph (larva) and adult.
The eggs laid by mother starts hatching within 1-3 weeks. Then the little nymphs in yellow skin come out crawling in order to find a better feeding spot to settle down. Nymphs are also known as crawlers. With the self-feeding nymphs grow in more stages before becoming an adult. They are just like a small version of an adult mealybug. They secrete honeydew and already form a waxy coating over the body. Gender variation of pests again hits here; where female nymphs go through 3 more stages when male nymphs had to go through five stages before becoming an adult.
If you observe your plant leaves, fruits and stems you will probably see white color cotton-like soft stuff, which is this mealybug. After growing as adults female mealybugs hardly moved. Instead daily moving, they tend to form clusters on the plant. They feed themselves by sucking the plant juices using the stylets. However, male mealybugs that could fly do not get fed after the second growing stage as a nymph. And I wonder how they survive without food, but their life span is very short. Mealybugs usually co-operatively live with ants, which feed on mealybugs honeydew. Also, ants act as a transporter of mealybugs from one plant to another.
These plant suckers are a real nuisance for gardeners like us. They are likely to live in hot tropical climates like ours. If we couldn’t get rid of mealybug attack at minimal or lowest stage, it could spread all over your garden. Mango, cashew, cassava, pineapples, citrus plants, coffee, yam, sugarcane, papaya, millet, coconut and passion fruit are likely the host plant types of mealybug attack. When these mealybugs are sucking plant juices, the leaves become yellow and wilt. Severe attacks could bring down any host tree by shedding leaves, reducing fruit settings, lack of photosynthesis, shedding of young fruits and plant deformation ultimately lead to the death of the plant.
The simplest way to get rid of mealybug is to destroy or take off the affected plant or part of the plant out of your garden; it would prevent further spread at low cost. But what if the affected plant is really worthy for you and you don’t want or couldn’t just take away from the garden?
As for me, my mango tree which gives yummy mango is affected by mealybugs at somewhat beginner stage. I never wanna lose my mango tree after all these years of caring. I heard that neem oil would be useful to get rid of mealybugs. Neem oil is an organic method to suppress mealybugs. Different percentages of neem oil extraction could repel different species of mealybugs. However, a higher concentration of neem oil could give your plant symptoms of phytotoxic damages; yellow color spots on leaves are possible to occur. This can be reduced using concentration percentage between 1-10%. Usually, these oils are used by mixing water or plant –safe detergent to enhance mealybug suppression. You should spray the oil all over the infected plant to get rid of mealybugs at whatever their stage is. But keep in mind not to spray under high sunlight. You better spray neem oil under a shade, unless plant tissues would burn by sunlight. Let the plant dry completely before taking to sunlight.
Likewise, there are other controlling methods such as applying alcohol, repotting, using insecticidal soaps, synthetic insecticides, growth regulators and chitin inhibitors, using parasitic bugs such as lady beetles and, wasps could suppress mealybug infections. As a precaution, you better monitor your plants not to get infected by mealybugs.