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Cryptic mealybug

  • Cryptic mealybug
    Cryptic mealybug

General information

Cryptic mealybugs pose a significant threat to a range of Australian horticultural industries. It is known to affect 42 host varieties, including citrus, mango, avocado, banana, guava plants and palm trees. This pest has been reported to cause severe damage to citrus plantations. In 2014 it was found on coconut palms in Cairns, which means it is important to limit the spread of cryptic mealybug from North Queensland. It is also known as citrus mealybug.

Scientific name

Pseudococcus cryptus

Description 

Soft, oval-bodied insects that are pale yellow to greenish yellow in colour, with a thick wax covering the entire body. They:

  • are 1–3 mm in size
  • have piercing mouthparts that they insert into the plant.
Life history

Yellowish eggs are laid in an egg sac resembling a white cottony mass, behind the female. Females can lay between 300–600 eggs, which take 3 to 6 days to hatch, depending on temperature. Male cryptic mealybugs live for 2 to 4 days after pupation. Adult females live for an average of 87.6 days as adults.

Distribution

Cryptic mealybugs have been found on islands in the Torres Strait and at isolated places in North Queensland, including Cairns, however they are currently not widely established.

Wind is a major factor in the spread of cryptic mealybugs, as well as the transportation of contaminated fruit and plant material.

Host range

Citrus plants and coconut palms.

Damage

Mealybugs are pests of economic importance for a wide range of hosts (see hosts listed above). They can cause severe damage to crops, making the crop not suitable for market.

If cryptic mealybugs should become established on the mainland there is a high potential for colonisation, resulting in economic problems for growers. They can also hide under the calyx of fruit, which can cause export difficulties.

Symptoms include:

  • leaf distortion
  • twisting shoots
  • white residue
  • sooty mould fungus
Control options

Both home gardeners and commercial growers should be on the lookout for cryptic mealybugs. If you think you have found plants damaged by the pest, report it immediately to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.

To prevent the spread of cryptic mealybugs, you should:

  • always use clean planting material
  • avoid sharing machinery and equipment with other gardeners unless it has been correctly cleaned down
  • practice good hygiene measures by ensuring shoes, clothing, equipment (including cutting tools), machinery and vehicles are clean and free of soil and plant material before and after use.

Quarantine restrictions

Biosecurity Queensland and the Australian Government's Northern Australian Quarantine Strategy (NAQS) have strict regulations in place to prevent the movement of risk materials between, and out of, their respective quarantine zones in the Torres Strait and on the Queensland mainland.

Last updated 03 September 2012