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by Valerie

August, 2013



The two totally different looking insects shown above are actually the same species. The genders of mealybugs (Phenacoccus sp.) have little in common other than the ability to mate with each other. While females are large enough to notice (about 3-4 mm in length), the males are so small (only 2 mm, including the tails) that they look like bits of white dust blowing about. Both have white waxy stuff on them; it covers the females and forms long tails on the males. The females form colonies as they feed on plants, and these were clustered on Rose Pavonia. The males appear for only a short time, and their main activity is mating with the females. Large numbers of mealybugs on a particular plant can certainly weaken or harm it, but our climate doesn't seem to promote these insects. I usually see only small colonies, often on very common native vegetation, and the plants are growing normally. Sometimes ants will be crawling over the mealybugs, feeding on the honeydew they excrete as they feed.

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