Anyone who has suffered from the presence of mealybug on its plants will agree in confirming that it is one of the most annoying pests to be eliminated. For this reason, taking advantage of the winter, we share some tricks to avoid the mealybug in anticipation of spring.
What is mealybug?
Cochineal is an insect that feeds on the sap of plants. There are many cataloged varieties, however the most common in gardens and gardens have two characteristics that differentiate them:
- Some have a more or less hard shell, which gives them the appearance of a patella. They position themselves on leaves and stems and act like real parasitic vampires, sucking the sap.
- Others are soft, with a sticky, cottony body, or with small channels (like strips) that run from top to bottom. They behave the same way but are relatively easier to eliminate by not having armor.
You will have seen them in tree branches, stems, in the bundle and at the bottom of different types of plants. The photo accompanying this article was taken this morning and the vampire plant is a Forest Cactus ( Epiphyllum x hybridus). Look at the yellowish color of the most affected leaves, which have also lost their tonicity. In addition to adults (with a patella shape and also called lice), we also find water lilies, elongated and much smaller.
In short, a plant that I must treat urgently to prevent the parasite from spreading further.
Why is mealybug dangerous?
Because not only does it reproduce quickly when the good weather arrives, but (like aphids ) it secretes molasses. These molasses is a sugary liquid that attracts ants and, what is worse: fumaggine. This mushroom (similar to a black powder) prevents the leaves from carrying out photosynthesis. Added to the damage that the cochineal already causes, it can hinder its growth and/or flowering until it even kills the plant.
What to do to avoid mealybug?
If we find some while checking our plants, we can try to eliminate them manually, with your fingers. Adults with carapace are more difficult to detach than those with soft bodies, but it is not an impossible task.
We can use insecticidal soap, which works by softening the carapace and cleaning the molasses that may have formed.
If contagion is important, we can combine the use of insecticidal soap with Neem oil, or use more potent anti – cochineal insecticides. All these products should be sprayed, trying to reach all parts of the affected plant. We, therefore, suggest using a hand sprayer or a backpack pump if we need to treat a tree to avoid the mealybug.
Cochineal in citrus fruits
Lemons, oranges, and tangerines can have cochineal problems in the spring. Since the parasite reproduces fast enough, it can weaken the tree so much that it leaves it leafless. Without leaves, photosynthesis is not possible, and if the tree cannot feed, it will hardly give flowers that will give rise to the precious fruits.
We highly recommend checking these fruit trees regularly, paying attention to the leaves and trunk. The cochineals that appear on citrus fruits are very easy to identify, as they are white, sticky and striped. It is called a fluted mealybug.
During the winter, we can apply a preventive insecticide oil, which will act on the cochineal by asphyxiation. In this way, we can reduce the chances of insect reproducing and generating new insects.
If it is a problem that repeats itself every year, you can combine the oil with a specific insecticide, that will prolong the effect of the combined. Do not forget to repeat the application following the instructions provided by the manufacturer.
At the arrival of spring and with the increase in temperatures, pay attention to the arrival of the ants, which will climb the trees in search of the precious molasses. You can stop them by creating a barrier with an insect trap tape (a sort of adhesive barrier in which they will remain attached).
And to avoid or combat the appearance of the fumaggine, you can use a fungicide. Remember that this mushroom only appears if the mealybug colony is large and there is a large amount of molasses. I recommend that you evaluate the application according to the extent of the parasite.