UF/IFAS Hosts Lebbeck Mealybug Workshop

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Researchers are offering a lebbeck mealybug detection workshop in Fort Pierce on April 25. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to noon at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Indian River Research and Education Center (IRREC). Register for the meeting here.

Lebbeck mealybug
(Photo by Tanya Weeks, UF/IFAS)

Lebbeck mealybug (Nipaecoccus viridis) is an invasive pest that can cost the fruit and ornamental industry thousands of dollars in damage to fruit trees and landscaping plants. The researchers are working to prevent such scenarios with an early diagnostic kit to identify the invasive mealybug on trees and nursery plants. The insect is hard to detect and identify during its early life stage because it is so tiny that it is often concealed in small crevices in plants.

“Mealybugs are among the most common regulatory pests in the United States, especially in Florida,” said Nicole Quinn, assistant professor and research entomologist at the IRREC. Quinn and a research team of mealybug experts won a grant from the Florida Nursery, Growers & Landscape Association to share their kit with nursery stakeholders and distribute the kits to nursery owners, managers and growers. Quinn, UF/IFAS entomologist Lance Osborne and Muhammad “Zee” Ahmed, a research entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS), are working to teach agriculturalists how to use the kits in fields and greenhouses.  

The mealybug is easy to miss when young. In citrus groves, a sign of an infestation is deformed fruit, often leading to high levels of fruit drop. “The diagnostic kit will help growers distinguish between the lebbeck mealybug and other mealybugs,” Ahmed said. “We have found a reagent that reacts with the mealybug and positively identifies a lebbeck mealybug when it turns green. The kit includes a dropper bottle with a reagent inside and a fabric that looks similar to a paper towel.”  

The team will teach growers to scout for the purplish-red young “crawler” mealybugs, crush them on a piece of kit paper, and then apply the dropper solution to the crushed mealybug body. “If the crushed body of a mealybug turns green, it’s a lebbeck mealybug,” said Ahmed, one of the kit’s developers.

 Source: UF/IFAS