Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Oracella acuta
(loblolly pine mealybug)



Oracella acuta (loblolly pine mealybug)


  • Last modified
  • 20 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Oracella acuta
  • Preferred Common Name
  • loblolly pine mealybug
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Arthropoda
  •       Subphylum: Uniramia
  •         Class: Insecta
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • This species has had limited distribution from its native habitats in the southern region of the USA since its discovery and description (Lobdell, 1930). O. acuta appea...

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Oracella acuta (Lobdell)

Preferred Common Name

  • loblolly pine mealybug

International Common Names

  • Chinese: nantah Oracella

Local Common Names

  • USA: acute mealybug

Summary of Invasiveness

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This species has had limited distribution from its native habitats in the southern region of the USA since its discovery and description (Lobdell, 1930). O. acuta appears to be restricted to feeding on species of pines and loblolly pine, Pinus taeda, is its preferred food source. In its native habitat, populations seldom reach pest status due to the presence of natural enemies. In 1988, it was transported to a pine seed orchard in China on slash pine, Pinuselliottii, scions purchased in the USA. Sun et al. (1996) noted that O. acuta-infested slash pine scions leaving the USA and entering China in 1988 were not subjected to the quarantine restrictions of either country. The loblolly pine mealybug quickly became established and rapidly spread throughout pine plantations in the Guangdong Province, China where it threatens both native and introduced species of pines in the region.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Arthropoda
  •             Subphylum: Uniramia
  •                 Class: Insecta
  •                     Order: Hemiptera
  •                         Suborder: Sternorrhyncha
  •                             Unknown: Coccoidea
  •                                 Family: Pseudococcidae
  •                                     Genus: Oracella
  •                                         Species: Oracella acuta

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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O. acuta was originally described by Lobdell (1930) as Pseudococcus acutus from specimens on pine collected in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, USA. This species was later redescribed by Ferris (1950) and placed in a newly formed genus, Oracella. This monotypic genus and the species name was included in Ben-Dov’s (1994; 2010a,b) taxonomic coverage of the Pseudococcidae. McKenzie (1967), and Miller and Miller (2002) included the generic name in their keys to the North American Pseudococcidae, and Tao (1999) included the species in his listing of scale insects in China. Later, Kosztarab (1996) redescribed the species and provided notes on its distribution and biology.


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O. acuta is a bisexual species with multiple generations annually. This species is distinguished by the morphology of the adult female. No descriptive information on the morphology of the immature or adult male stages exists at present [2010]. The live adult females are pink and covered with a white powdery, waxy secretion. The females are uniquely found enclosed within whitish resinous cells that are open at one end, from which their pygidia protrude. The cells are usually attached to the stem at the base of the needle.

The slide-mounted adult females are 1.6-2.2 mm long and 1-1.5 mm wide (Lobdell, 1930; Kosztarab, 1996). The dorsum is distinguished by four to seven pairs of cerarii on the submargin; each with two to three minute conical setae, two to three slender setae and a few trilocular pores. Oral collar ducts and anal ring bar are absent and tubular ducts are absent or rarely occur with only a few ducts irregularly distributed over the dorsum (Ferris, 1950; Kosztarab, 1996; Miller, 2005). Anal lobes are reduced to small protuberances. Venter possesses seven-segmented antennae with filamentous segments. The well-developed legs are five-segmented with translucent pores on femur and tibia, and the claw is slightly curved and without a denticle. Large, distinctive multilocular pores are located on the posterior borders of the third to eighth abdominal segments (Ferris, 1950; Kosztarab, 1996), with a few scattered in the cephalic region (Lobdell, 1930). The circulus is large and with a divided transverse fold. Sparse trilocular pores are scattered over the abdominal segments.


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The mealybug, O. acuta, was originally discovered infesting pine needles collected in Mississippi, USA (Lobdell, 1930). This mealybug is found on various pine species throughout the southern USA (Johnson and Lyon, 1976). It is speculated that this species is native to the Mississippi basin and over time has spread eastward and westward feeding on various species of pines. Since its discovery, O. acuta has been recorded in fourteen southern states (Miller, 2005; Ben-Dov, 2010a). The project to introduce genetic material into China to enhance their pine forests resulted in the introduction of the loblolly pine mealybug from the purchase and importation of O. acuta-infested scions of slash pine (Pinus elliottii) from a company in Baldwin, Georgia, USA, in 1988 (DeBarr, 1992; Sun et al., 1996; FAO, 2001). The infested plant material was not detected during its route from Georgia to the Hongling Seed Orchard in Taishan City, Guangdong Province, China (Pan et al., 1995; Sun et al., 1996). The presence of O. acuta is not easily detected as the first instar nymphs tend to settle beneath the fascicles or at the base of the needles. As such, the 70 infested scions were grafted onto P. elliottii in the pine orchard (Sun et al., 1996). In 1989, Sun et al. (1996) reported that some 2,460 scions were obtained from the newly-infested trees and grafted onto trees in uninfested areas of the seed orchard. The mealybug was initially thought to be that of the native species, Pseudococcus pini. However, specimens of the mealybug were eventually sent to D. R. Miller in 1991 who identified the specimens as O. acuta. The most severe damage currently occurs on slash pine in China, but there is concern that this invasive pest could spread north and cause significant damage in plantations of its preferred host, loblolly pine [Pinus taeda] (Sun et al., 1996).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


-GuangdongWidespread1988Introduced Invasive Sun et al., 1996; Xie et al., 2001; Masner et al., 2004; Sun et al., 2004; Sun et al., 2004Accidentally introduced on slash pine scions (DeBarr, 1992; Sun et al., 1996, 1998)
-GuangxiPresentIntroduced Invasive Xu et al., 2007

North America

-ArkansasPresentNative Not invasive Masner et al., 2004
-FloridaPresent, few occurrencesNative Not invasive Kosztarab, 1996; Miller, 2005
-GeorgiaPresentNative Not invasive Clarke et al., 1992; Kosztarab, 1996; Sun et al., 2004; Miller, 2005
-KentuckyPresentNative Not invasive Kosztarab, 1996; Miller, 2005
-LouisianaPresentNative Not invasive Kosztarab, 1996; Masner et al., 2004; Miller, 2005
-MarylandPresentNative Not invasive Kosztarab, 1996
-MinnesotaPresentNative Not invasive Miller, 2005
-MississippiPresentNative Not invasive LOBDELL, 1930, June; BenDov, 1994; Kosztarab, 1996; Miller, 2005
-North CarolinaPresentNative Not invasive Kosztarab, 1996; Masner et al., 2004; Miller, 2005
-OklahomaPresentNative Not invasive Clarke et al., 1992
-PennsylvaniaPresentNative Not invasive Johnson and Lyon, 1976
-South CarolinaPresentNative Not invasive Kosztarab, 1996; Masner et al., 2004; Miller, 2005
-TexasPresentNative Not invasive Ferris, 1950; McDaniel, 1975; BenDov, 1994; Kosztarab, 1996; Masner et al., 2004; Miller, 2005
-VirginiaPresentNative Not invasive Kosztarab, 1996; Miller, 2005


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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Guangdong Georgia 1988 Yes Sun et al. (1996) Importation of infested genetic material

Risk of Introduction

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The risk of introduction of O. acuta from country to country is low as long as inspections are made of pine material that is to be shipped internationally. However, the risk of spread of established populations of O. acuta locally into uninfested pine forest is moderate to high as the specimens are easily transferred to new hosts by the wind, as well as carried on the bodies of animals.


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This species is recorded only from species of Pinus and appears to be restricted to regions in the eastern and southern USA, and the southern region of China.The tips of the new-growth needles appear to be the preferred feeding site for this species.However, mealybugs will also settle and feed on other areas including at the old growth internode or between the needles near the top of the fascicle (Clarke et al., 1990a). Specimens of O. acuta tend to settle throughout the tree canopy with no significant differences in the population density for a preferred location in the four cardinal directions on the trees (Li et al., 1994). However, a higher population density more often occurs in the lower strata of the host trees. This mealybug is capable of surviving temperatures from -1 to 32ºC; thus, potentially posing a threat to pines in more northern regions (Sun et al., 1996). Currently, populations of the loblolly pine mealybug are located at latitudes south of the range of the mealybug in the USA (Sun et al., 1996). Population decreases that have been observed during the summers have been attributed to the impact of high temperatures (Tang et al., 2000; 2001). Stages of this species are found either under the bark or in a ‘resinous cell’ produced by the female. This protective waxy covering allows the mealybug to maintain a favourable humidity level, prevents rapid temperature changes, functions as a protective barrier against topically applied chemicals, and provides some protection against natural enemies.

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedManaged forests, plantations and orchards Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural forests Principal habitat Natural

Hosts/Species Affected

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The loblolly pine mealybug is reported to be capable of infesting eight species of pines (Pinuscaribaea,Pinusechinata, Pinuselliottii, Pinusmassoniana, Pinuspalustris, Pinustaeda, Pinusthunbergiana, and Pinusvirginiana), and potentially can survive on these pine species throughout their range (Sun et al., 1996; Xie et al., 2001).


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The extraction of sap by the feeding mealybugs in the area of the fascicle may lead to excessive resin flow resulting in the needles turning brown and eventually dropping off (Xu et al., 1992; Pan et al., 1994; Sun et al., 1996). High populations of the mealybug can potentially cause malformed growth, loss of plant vigour, stunting, defoliation, reduced seed production, and potential death of the plant, if not treated. The mealybugs are often found in the pitch cells located on new growth needles or on a short section of the stem immediately below the buds in the southern USA. However, the mealybugs are found completely covering the needles and shoots on pine branches in China. Heavy populations of the loblolly pine mealybug have been reported to severely damage slash pine cones that result in them being smaller than normal, deformed or crescent-shaped, and a reduction in seed production results (Sun et al., 1996). Also, the production of vast amounts of honeydew serves as a substrate for the development of sooty mould that blackens the branches, stems, and needles. These weakened trees are susceptible to attacks by other insects.

List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType
Fruit / discoloration
Fruit / gummosis
Fruit / honeydew or sooty mould
Growing point / dieback
Growing point / discoloration
Growing point / distortion
Growing point / dwarfing; stunting
Growing point / honeydew or sooty mould
Growing point / internal feeding; boring
Growing point / wilt
Inflorescence / discoloration (non-graminaceous plants)
Inflorescence / distortion (non-graminaceous plants)
Inflorescence / dwarfing; stunting
Inflorescence / honeydew or sooty mould
Inflorescence / internal feeding
Leaves / abnormal colours
Leaves / abnormal forms
Leaves / abnormal leaf fall
Leaves / honeydew or sooty mould
Leaves / internal feeding
Leaves / wilting
Leaves / yellowed or dead
Seeds / distortion
Seeds / internal feeding
Stems / dieback
Stems / discoloration
Stems / distortion
Stems / external feeding
Stems / honeydew or sooty mould
Whole plant / discoloration
Whole plant / distortion; rosetting
Whole plant / early senescence
Whole plant / internal feeding

Biology and Ecology

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Seasonal development of the loblolly pine mealybug and potentially the impact of beneficial control agents differ slightly throughout its range with the mealybug having three or four complete generations annually in warmer climates and two or three in more northern climates. Also, their preferred feeding site at the new growth needles results in growth damage, needle damage and needle drop, and stem die-back. The survival of crawlers is dependent upon their behavioural pattern of searching for an acceptable place to settle and feed, as well as upon the environmental conditions at the time of their emergence. In the USA, the spring generation of O.acuta feeds on the new growth and cones, whereas in China they infest both the new and old needles (Ciesla, 1995).

Reproductive Biology

O. acuta is a bisexual mealybug capable of four or five generations annually, especially in more southern climates (Clarke et al., 1990a; Sun et al., 2004a). Kosztarab (1996) reported that the mealybug had two or three generations annually in Virginia, USA. Development of the O. acuta female consists of egg, first (crawler), second, third and adult stages. However, the males undergo egg, first, second, prepupa, pupa and adult stages. Females are always wingless. Apterous males are present during the winter and spring months, whereas alate males occur throughout the remainder of the year in the southern USA. In late-March, first generation females begin secreting their white resinous covering between the needles, including those with swollen bases from feeding by other insects, in which to lay their eggs in mid-April (Clarke et al., 1990a). In Georgia, USA first generation adult females were reported to be capable of producing approximately 182 pink eggs in a chain-like arrangement within the resin cells, whereas the second generation females produced approximately 113 eggs (Clarke et al., 1990a; Sun et al., 1996). The fecundity and number of eggs laid per female, as well as the mortality of the adults, have been determined to be effected by temperature (Tang et al., 1996; 2000; 2001). The eggs hatch within 8-10 days with an egg-hatch rate of about 90% (Sun et al., 1996). In Virginia, Kosztarab (1996) reported that females laid their eggs either under the bark or on twigs in the resinous cells. Crawlers from eggs that hatch in the autumn tend to settle in the needle sheaths where they remain through the second or occasionally the third stage before moving under the bark where they mature. The period of development from crawler to adult stage was reported to be effected by the weather and temperature (Tang et al., 2000; 2001). Crawlers leave the cell and tend to settle most often at the shoot tip of the new growth, whereas females settle on both the new growth and at the old growth internodes (Clarke et al., 1990a). This species is reported to overwinter as crawlers between the needles in the fascicles or under the old resin cells of the females by the previous generation (Clarke et al., 1990a; Sun et al., 1996).


The loblolly pine mealybug inserts its stylets into the parenchyma cells and begins extracting sap rich in nutrients (carbohydrates, hormones, minerals, water, etc.). The individuals are capable of retracting their stylets, moving to a different location and re-inserting their mouthparts into new cells. Lower population densities of O. acuta were reported to occur on hosts of Pinus elliottii growing in a variety of locations (Gu and Chen, 1996).


The loblolly pine mealybug is capable of surviving on pine hosts in association with other mealybug species (Johnson and Lyon, 1976).

Environmental Requirements

These mealybugs are located under the bark, in resin cells, in the needle sheaths or on the tips of needles. O. acuta overwinters as crawlers in the fascicles between the needles and under previously-used resin cells (Clarke et al., 1990a). The number of generations annually may be affected by temperature (Tang et al., 1996; 2000; 2001).


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Am - Tropical monsoon climate Tolerated Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
C - Temperate/Mesothermal climate Preferred Average temp. of coldest month > 0°C and < 18°C, mean warmest month > 10°C
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Preferred Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Acerophagus coccois Adults/Larvae not specific
Acerophagus notativentris Larvae not specific
Aenasius Adults/Larvae not specific
Agelena difficilis Predator All Stages not specific
Aleurodothrips fasciapennis Predator Not known not specific
Allotropa oracellae Adults/Larvae not specific
Anagyrus dactylopii not specific
Aprostocetus Adults/Larvae not specific
Bothrocalvia albolineata Predator All Stages not specific
Brumoides lineatus Predator All Stages not specific
Calvia chinensis Predator All Stages not specific
Carrhotus xanthogramma Predator
Chartocerus sp. not specific
Cheilomenes sexmaculata Predator Adults/Nymphs not specific
Chrysopa pallens Predator All Stages not specific
Coccidomyia Predator Adults/Larvae not specific
Cryptolaemus montrouzieri Predator All Stages not specific
Cyclosa monticola Predator All Stages not specific
Dicrodiplosis Predator Adults/Nymphs not specific
Harmonia yedoensis Predator not specific
Hylyphantes graminicola Predator not specific
Keiscymnus taiwanensis Predator not specific
Pardosa pseudoannulata Predator Adults/Nymphs not specific
Pharoscymnus taoi Predator not specific
Prochiloneurus not specific
Propylea japonica Predator not specific
Scymnus ovimaculatus Predator not specific
Synonycha grandis Predator not specific
Zarhopalus debarri Adults not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

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The loblolly mealybug, O. acuta, is a native species of pines in the southern USA that seldom obtains pest status due to the effectiveness of parasitoids and predators that maintain populations at low levels (Clarke et al., 1990a,b; 1992; Negron and Clarke, 1995; Sun et al., 1996; Sun et al., 2004a,b). This mealybug was accidentally introduced into pine plantations in Guangdong Province, China in 1988 (Sun et al., 1996) on pine scions purchased in the USA. Upon the establishment and severe damage to pine forests by the invasive loblolly pine mealybug in 1990, surveys were initiated to find potential biological control agents from which 21 natural enemies were recorded by Pan et al. (2002) and Xu et al. (2007). However, these proved to be ineffective (Yang, 1991; Pan et al, 1994; Pang and Tang, 1994a; Zhou et al., 1994) in suppressing the pest populations. Initial efforts to control the loblolly pine mealybug were implemented by Chinese forest entomologists, and later (1992) the programme was funded by the Forestry Department of Guangdong Province and the Ministry of Forestry (Sun et al., 1996). Cooperative assistance between China and the USA agencies and personnel provided the basis for identification of O. acuta and information on its development and natural enemies. As a result of the continual increase in the pest populations (Tang, 1994), a 10-year Sino-USA cooperative project was initiated in 1995 (DeBarr et al., 1998; Clarke, 2007) to survey native habitats in the USA for potential biological control agents (Sun et al., 1996). This cooperative international programme to biologically control O. acuta in China was conducted from 1995-2004 (Clarke, 2007). The objective of the programme was to collect parasitized females from its native range in the southeastern USA and ship them to China. The parasitoids would be mass-reared and released into O. acuta-infested forests in China.

A variety of natural enemies have been observed to be associated with the loblolly mealybug in its natural habitats in the southern USA (Clarke et al., 1990a). An encyrtid (Acerophagus coccois), a platygastrid (Allotropa spp.), and a signiphorid (Chartocerus sp.), were the most abundant parasitoids observed attacking the mealybug in Georgia, USA (Clarke et al., 1990a,b). The polyphagous parasitoid, A. coccois is known to parasitize species in several genera of Pseudococcidae (Clarke et al., 1990a; Bertschy et al., 1997), including O. acuta (Dorn et al., 2001). Parasitism was reported to increase from May to September at one site in 1982, and exceeded 50% at one site and 90% at another site in 1984 (Clarke et al., 1990a,b). A new primary parasitoid species, Zarhopalus debarri,of the loblolly pine mealybug was discovered and described (Sun et al., 1998). All known members of this genus are parasitoids of mealybugs.

Also, it was determined that collected specimens of Allotropa from the loblolly pine mealybug represented a new species, Allotropaoracellae (Masner et al., 2004). Masner et al. (2004) conducted a study to determine suitable parasitoids of O. acuta and provided a description for the adult female A. oracellae including notes on its hosts and distribution. Two primary endoparasitoids, A. oracellae and Z. debarri, were evaluated to determine any interspecific competition among the two natural enemies of the loblolly mealybug (Sun et al., 2004b). They determined that multiple parasitism of O. acuta did not occur and concluded that the two parasitoids never attacked hosts previously attacked by the other species. Panet al. (2004) examined the morphology of the pupae and puparia of three parasitoids (A. coccois, Anagyrus dactylopii, and Z. debarri) of O. acuta. Clarke et al. (1990a) reported that A. oracellae was the most dominant parasitoid at low host population levels and that it attacks immature and adult stages of the mealybug, whereas Z. debarri primarily attacks adult female hosts. In their more recent study, Sun et al. (2004a) also found Allotropa sp. and A. coccois to be capable of parasitizing second and third instars although they prefer to parasitize adult female mealybugs, and because Z. debarri is larger, it primarily attacked the adult stage of the loblolly pine mealybug female. In an evaluation of three parasitoids of O. acuta in Georgia, Sun et al. (2004a) reported A.oracellae and A. coccois practiced both solitary and gregarious behaviours, whereas Z. debarri emerged from solitary parasitized hosts. Also, the majority of Prochiloneurus specimens evaluated were solitary in their development within their host. Parasitism rates for O. acuta are capable of exceeding 60%, but generally ranged from 24% to 29% of the pest population at one site and 58% to 63% at another (Sun et al., 2004a). It was concluded from surveys that no effective native natural enemies of O. acuta were available in China (Tang, 1994; Tang et al., 1995a,b; Sun et al., 1996). Studies on the natural enemy fauna in the USA resulted in the selection of two parasitoids, Allotropa sp. and Z. debarri, for importation into China to control O. acuta (Sun and Zhang, 2003). From dissections of two-day-old parasitoids, Sun et al. (2004b) determined the mean number of eggs for Allotropa sp. was 74, whereas the mean number for Z. debarri was 119 per female. Ren et al. (2000) reported the discovery of a new native parasitoid, A. dactylopi in China. Predators reported to be associated with O. acuta in Georgia include two species of cecidomyiid larvae, Coccidomyia sp. and Dicrodiplosis sp., and some unidentified anthocorid bugs (Clarke et al., 1990a). In China, the predaceous Cryptolaemus montrouzieri was determined to have some potential in regulating the pest populations (Tang, 1994; Tang et al., 1995a; Sun et al., 1996). The effect of temperature on the development of the generalist predator, Nephus ryuguus, was investigated to assess its use as a biological control agent against O. acuta (Li et al., 2003).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)

The waxy projections on the immature mealybugs provide a means for its dispersal by wind or attachment to animals. Distribution of the mealybug throughout a region is usually dependent upon aerial movement, either through convection or horizontal movement of air currents. Once a new host is located, a new mealybug population can rapidly develop due to its capability of having multiple generations annually and high fecundity. Xu et al. (1992) reported a dispersal distance of 17 km since its establishment in 1989 to 63 km in 1995.

Accidental Introduction

Due to the cryptic appearance of the mealybugs and their behaviour to settle at the base of the needles and in the cracks of stems, it is easy to overlook the infestation and move material into new locations.

Plant Trade

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Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility of pest or symptoms
Flowers/Inflorescences/Cones/Calyx adults; nymphs Yes
Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches adults; nymphs Yes
Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport
Fruits (inc. pods)
Growing medium accompanying plants
Seedlings/Micropropagated plants
True seeds (inc. grain)

Impact Summary

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Cultural/amenity Negative
Economic/livelihood Negative
Environment (generally) Negative
Human health Negative

Economic Impact

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O. acuta was reported to have been accidentally introduced and established in 1988 in Guangdong Province, China (Sun et al., 2004a). Since its introduction, the mealybug extended its range to damage 136,000 haby 1993, 212,540 ha by 1995 (Sun et al. 1998; FAO, 2001), 352,400 ha by 2000 (Ren et al., 2000; Xie et al., 2001; Sun et al., 2004a), and was estimated to be increasing its range by over 70,000 ha2 annually (Xie et al., 2001). This insect threatens the ecological, aesthetic, recreational, and economical values associated with pine forests throughout the Guangdong Province. This mealybug now threatens several introduced pine species (Pinuselliottii, Pinustaeda and Pinuscaribaea) and several endemic species (Pang and Tang, 1994b; He, 1995). High populations of mealybugs feeding at the base of the needles cause heavy resin flow resulting in the needles becoming desiccated and dropping off. Needle loss of 70 to 80% has been reported to occur on severely infested trees (Xu et al., 1992; Pan et al., 1994; Sun et al., 1996). In field experiments conducted in Guangdong, China to assess the effect of heavy infestations of O. acuta on P. elliottii, Zhang et al. (1997) reported that the tree height and lateral shoots were reduced by 23.7% and 25.8%, respectively, and the total volume of timber lost was 3.96 m3 per hectare over a 5-year infestation period. The production of sooty mould and resin flow may severely affect the growth and vigour of the tree (Ren et al., 2000). Indirect financial losses due to the decrease in pine forest volume growth resulting from high infestations of invasive species of conifers, including O. acuta, was projected to comprise of up to 85% of the total losses (Mingyang and Haigen, 2005).

Environmental Impact

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These trees contribute to the biological diversity, environmental health, and economic stability in the region they inhabit by producing unique microclimates, cool shady recreational areas, and unmatched beauty in the area. Established invasive species such as O. acuta contribute not only to a decline in the economic value of timber products, but are responsible for a decline in tourism directly impacting the local economy. Heavy infestations on slash pine (Pinus elliottii) in China were reported to cause severe reduction in the photosynthesis (38%), shoot growth (25%), and tree height growth (24%), over a 3-year period (Su, 1995; Sun et al., 1996).

Impact on Habitats

The damage or loss of infested pine trees resulting from excessive feeding by the mealybug has a direct effect on thephysical environment (temperature, humidity, water sources, minerals, local atmosphere, etc). The loss of ground cover may alter the habitat structure potentially changing the community structure of soil-dwelling insect species. The establishment and spread of the loblolly pine mealybug now threatens the native and exotic species of pines that have been established in plantations in China (Pang and Tang, 1994a,b; He, 1995; Xie et al., 2001). 

Impact on Biodiversity
Zhao (2006) noted that exotic species, including O. acuta, entered China as a result of international trade and pose a serious threat to the biodiversity of the nation. Such changes have an effect on the available food resources, shelter, and survivorship capacity of those living organisms (birds, insects, spiders, mammals, trees, shrubs, flowers, etc.) that inhabit an area. The presence of the invasive mealybug has the potential to displace native species dependent on the host tree for survival.


Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Gregarious
Impact outcomes
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Host damage
  • Increases vulnerability to invasions
  • Negatively impacts cultural/traditional practices
  • Negatively impacts forestry
  • Negatively impacts tourism
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
  • Difficult to identify/detect in the field
  • Difficult/costly to control


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Environmental Services

The pine mealybug is usually not a significant problem to pine forests in the southern USA due to the impact of natural enemies on the pest populations. However, once removed from its native habitat and the natural enemies that maintained the populations below economic levels, it has the potential to severely damage hosts.


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The loblolly pine mealybug is the only known pseudococcid on pine that produces a white, resinous cell. Monitoring potential host trees for the presence of dead or dying needles or for the presence of sooty mould may provide the opportunity to control the invasive pest prior to a massive population build-up.

Species identification requires observing the morphology of the slide-mounted adult females.

Detection and Inspection

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Conduct observations on the stems and needles of the new and last year’s growth for the resinous cells. These cells are usually located on the stems at the base of the needles and may contain a distinctive pink female with a protruding abdomen. Survey the needles and branches for the presence of sooty mould resulting from feeding loblolly pine mealybugs.

The loblolly pine mealybug can be detected by monitoring the needles, especially in the sheaths, for the presence of a whitish, resinous covered mealybug. The adult female is usually found enclosed within a whitish resinous cell (2-3 mm long) that is open at one end, from which the pygidium protrudes (Lobdell, 1930). The elimination of honeydew results in the development of sooty mould growth on the lower needles and stems, reducing photosynthesis and causing significant die-back of the infested foliage. Inspection of mealybug-infested plant material, as well as the use of yellow sticky traps, were found effective in attracting the two parasitoids, Allotropa sp. and Zarhopalus debarri (Sun and Zhang, 2003), and O. acuta males (Sun et al., 2002).

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Upon examination of this unique species, Ferris (1950) erected a new genus, Oracella, for this mealybug. Lobdell (1930) noted the presence of a series of large multilocular pores on the dorsal and ventral margins of the posterior abdominal segments, distinguishing this species from other known pseudococcids. The presence of four to seven pairs of inconspicuous cerarii and the lack of an anal ring bar also aid in separating this species from other mealybugs. The production of ‘resin cells’ by O. acuta distinguishes this species from all known pine-infesting pseudococcids.

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Implementation of programmes to survey potential hosts for the invasive loblolly pine mealybug, administering control tactics in mealybug-infested areas, and maintaining quarantines to prohibit transporting the species into uninfested regions can be effective in suppressing the pest populations.


The implementation of surveys in pine forests in an effort to discover infestations early enough to control the population before it has the opportunity to increase in size is required. Maintaining quarantines can limit the spread of the invasive pest from region to region. This mealybug has been placed on China’s National Quarantine List since 1996.

Public Awareness

Education of the public through literature, presentations, and workshops can enhance the awareness of managers, property owners and government officials. The use of field surveys to teach individuals the damage symptoms on the host and the morphology of the loblolly pine mealybug may be used to more quickly implement control tactics.


Upon the discovery of this invasive species in 1990, an immediate attempt was made to identify the species and implement control procedures to eradicate the loblolly pine mealybug (Sun et al., 1996). Insecticides that had been effectively used against two other similar exotic pests were selected for use against the infestation at Hongling Seed Orchard, in Guangdong Province, China. After the various application methods (foliar sprays, trunk injections, aerosols, etc.) proved ineffective, the infested branches and limbs were cut off and burned. Eventually, whole trees that were infested were cut down and burned (Sun et al., 1996). By 1992, other insecticides were evaluated (Pan et al., 1994) as well as two bioinsecticides as a possible control agent for O. acuta (Sun et al., 1996). Monitoring hosts and early detection provide the opportunity to suppress pest populations of O. acuta (Zhang et al., 2009).


Physical/mechanical control

New infestations, small in size or limited to a few branches, can be eliminated by pruning the infested limbs and burning.

Movement control

Periodic surveys of uninfested pine plantations need to be conducted to discover new infestations due to wind and animal dispersal of O. acuta. Local observations of individual trees may prevent pest population build-up resulting in massive outbreaks in a given area. Quarantine restrictions for the movement of infested material into non-infested regions may slow the spread of the invasive species. Due to the increase in world trade, there is a need to develop a more effective inspection methodology to prevent the introduction of exotic plant pests in or on logs, processed and unprocessed lumber, manufactured and unmanufactured wood articles, and genetic material for enhancing native plant species.Ciesla (1995) proposed inspections of incoming logs, wood products and plant material including crates and pallets to reduce the chance of new invasions by the invasive species. However, because this mealybug settles on and feeds on the twigs and needles on the tree, observations focused on these materials would be most effective.

Biological control

The transfer of O. acuta from the USA to hosts in China; thus, leaving behind those natural enemies that maintained the population at low levels allowed for its establishment and rapid population growth in the new region. Upon the discovery of the invasive O. acuta and its damage to slash pine [Pinus elliottii] stands in the Guangdong Province, a two-year search to find potential native natural enemies in the infested pine stands was employed. From field evaluations, it was concluded that in the absence of natural enemies, populations of O. acuta increased 1.26 times per generation (Tang et al., 1996). In studies to assess potential natural enemies of the loblolly pine mealybug in China, the predaceous Cryptolaemus montrouzieri was determined to have some potential in regulating the pest populations (Tang, 1994; Tang et al., 1995a; Pan et al., 2002). One discovered parasitoid, Allotropa sp., was found to be ineffective against the loblolly pine mealybug. Cooperative efforts between the USA and China were initiated to evaluate the natural enemies of O. acuta as potential biological control agents to import into China to suppress infestations of the pest. Nine parasitoid species have been found to be associated with O. acuta (Clarke et al., 1990a; Sun et al., 1998, 2004a,b; Masner et al., 2004). Of these, two species,Allotropa oracellae and Zarhopalus debarri, are consider primary parasitoids for use against the loblolly pine mealybug.

Chemical control

Several studies have demonstrated that effective insecticides are available to suppress population levels of O. acuta on pine hosts (Clarke et al., 1992; Sun and Zhang, 2003). However, Clarke et al. (1992) concluded from evaluations of four pyrethroids that insecticide use often resulted in endemic populations reaching outbreak levels in Georgia and Oklahoma pine seed orchards. They concluded the use of these insecticides resulted in a lower parasitoid population on treated branches although they were not significantly lower than numbers on untreated branches (Clarke et al., 1988; 1992). Chemical applications that do not completely cover the tree often result in a resurgence of the mealybug as the insecticides have been documented to be detrimental to populations of biological control agents resulting in an explosion in the pest population. The general concept that insecticide use has a detrimental impact on natural enemies of the loblolly pine mealybug is widely supported (Clarke et al., 1988; 1990a,b; 1992; Sun et al., 1996; Sun and Zhang, 2003). They proposed that consideration be given to appropriate timing of insecticide applications to lessen the impact on parasitoids. As a result, newly discovered, local populations of O. acuta may be controlled with repeated spot applications of insecticides. To suppress population numbers of the invasive pest, insecticides or insecticidal soaps may be used on infested trees accessible to equipment required for application.


Due to the discovery of natural enemies for O. acuta in its native habitats, classical biological control tactics may well be successfully implemented to suppress populations of this exotic pest in China. The rearing and mass releases of parasitoids are currently used as part of an integrated pest management programme against the loblolly pine mealybug in pine forests. Several IPM programmes at the state and provincial levels have been initiated against the loblolly pine mealybug (Diansheng, 2003). The combined use of biological control agents, selective insecticides appropriately timed to have a minimal impact on natural enemies, mechanical pruning and destruction of infested material, and quarantine of infested material, holds the potential of maintaining this invasive pest below economic threshold levels.

Monitoring and Surveillance

The use of yellow-sticky traps may be used to determine not only the population density of the invasive pest, but assess the effectiveness of the parasitoids of O. acuta (Sun et al., 2002).

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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Additional studies need to be conducted on the immature and adult male stages of this species. Thus, more precise morphological and developmental studies are needed on O. acuta. Also, behaviour studies on the species may play a significant role in the eventual control of this invasive mealybug. Further investigations on the natural enemy complex that will lead to the suppression of the pest populations are needed to protect the affected ecosystems.


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Links to Websites

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Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS) source for updated system data added to species habitat list.


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31/12/09 Original text by:

Paris Lambdin, Department of Entomology, Agricultural Experimental Station, University of Tennessee, PO Box 1071, Knoxville, TN 37901, USA

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