Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

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Maconellicoccus hirsutus
(pink hibiscus mealybug)

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Datasheet

Maconellicoccus hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 16 November 2021
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Natural Enemy
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Maconellicoccus hirsutus
  • Preferred Common Name
  • pink hibiscus mealybug
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Arthropoda
  •       Subphylum: Uniramia
  •         Class: Insecta
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Maconellicoccus hirsutus is highly invasive if introduced in the absence of its natural enemies, as demonstrated by its rapid spread through the Caribbean islands and beyond despite plant quarantine strengthening throughout the region. In...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
M. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); adult females. Laboratory culture. USA
TitleFemales
CaptionM. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); adult females. Laboratory culture. USA
Copyright©Florida Division of Plant Industry/Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
M. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); adult females. Laboratory culture. USA
FemalesM. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); adult females. Laboratory culture. USA©Florida Division of Plant Industry/Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
M. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); adult females in a field infestation. USA
TitleField infestation
CaptionM. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); adult females in a field infestation. USA
Copyright©Jeffrey W. Lotz/Florida Division of Plant Industry/Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
M. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); adult females in a field infestation. USA
Field infestationM. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); adult females in a field infestation. USA©Jeffrey W. Lotz/Florida Division of Plant Industry/Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Maconellicoccus hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); adult females in a field infestation. USA.
TitleField infestation
CaptionMaconellicoccus hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); adult females in a field infestation. USA.
Copyright©Florida Division of Plant Industry/Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Maconellicoccus hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); adult females in a field infestation. USA.
Field infestationMaconellicoccus hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); adult females in a field infestation. USA.©Florida Division of Plant Industry/Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
M. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); adult male, in a field infestation. USA.
TitleMale
CaptionM. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); adult male, in a field infestation. USA.
Copyright©Florida Division of Plant Industry/Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
M. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); adult male, in a field infestation. USA.
MaleM. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); adult male, in a field infestation. USA.©Florida Division of Plant Industry/Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
M. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); field infestation. USA.
TitleField infestation
CaptionM. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); field infestation. USA.
Copyright©Florida Division of Plant Industry/Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
M. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); field infestation. USA.
Field infestationM. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); field infestation. USA.©Florida Division of Plant Industry/Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
M. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); field infestation. USA.
TitleField infestation
CaptionM. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); field infestation. USA.
Copyright©Florida Division of Plant Industry/Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
M. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); field infestation. USA.
Field infestationM. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); field infestation. USA.©Florida Division of Plant Industry/Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
M. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); infestation, in laboratory. USA.
TitleInfestation
CaptionM. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); infestation, in laboratory. USA.
Copyright©Florida Division of Plant Industry/Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
M. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); infestation, in laboratory. USA.
InfestationM. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); infestation, in laboratory. USA.©Florida Division of Plant Industry/Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
M. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); foliar damage, from a field infestation. USA.
TitleDamage
CaptionM. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); foliar damage, from a field infestation. USA.
Copyright©Florida Division of Plant Industry/Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
M. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); foliar damage, from a field infestation. USA.
DamageM. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); foliar damage, from a field infestation. USA.©Florida Division of Plant Industry/Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
M. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); field infestation on Hibiscus spp. USA.
TitleField infestation
CaptionM. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); field infestation on Hibiscus spp. USA.
Copyright©Florida Division of Plant Industry/Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
M. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); field infestation on Hibiscus spp. USA.
Field infestationM. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); field infestation on Hibiscus spp. USA.©Florida Division of Plant Industry/Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Maconellicoccus hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); adult female, ventral view. Slide mounted specimen.
TitleFemale
CaptionMaconellicoccus hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); adult female, ventral view. Slide mounted specimen.
Copyright©Alessandra Rung/Scale Insects/USDA APHIS ITP/Bugwood.org - CC BY-NC 3.0 US
Maconellicoccus hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); adult female, ventral view. Slide mounted specimen.
FemaleMaconellicoccus hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); adult female, ventral view. Slide mounted specimen.©Alessandra Rung/Scale Insects/USDA APHIS ITP/Bugwood.org - CC BY-NC 3.0 US
M. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); adult female, diagrammatic view.
TitleFemale
CaptionM. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); adult female, diagrammatic view.
Copyright©CAB International
M. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); adult female, diagrammatic view.
FemaleM. hirsutus (pink hibiscus mealybug); adult female, diagrammatic view.©CAB International

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Maconellicoccus hirsutus (Green, 1908)

Preferred Common Name

  • pink hibiscus mealybug

Other Scientific Names

  • Maconellicoccus pasaniae (Borchsenius) Tang, 1992
  • Maconellicoccus perforatus (DeLotto) DeLotto, 1964
  • Paracoccus pasaniae Borchsenius, 1962
  • Phenacoccus glomeratus Green, 1922
  • Phenacoccus hirsutus Green, 1908
  • Phenacoccus quaternus Ramakrishna Ayyar, 1921
  • Pseudococcus hibisci Hall, 1921
  • Spilococcus perforatus De Lotto, 1954

International Common Names

  • English: hibiscus mealybug; hirsutus mealybug; pink mealybug
  • Spanish: cochinilla rosada del Hibiscus
  • French: cochenille de l'Hibiscus
  • Portuguese: cochonilha-rosada

Local Common Names

  • Germany: Schmierlaus, Hibiscus-
  • India: grape mealybug; mulberry mealybug
  • Japan: fuyou-wata-kaigaramodoki; wata-kona-kaigaramushi

EPPO code

  • PHENHI (Maconellicoccus hirsutus)

Summary of Invasiveness

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Maconellicoccus hirsutus is highly invasive if introduced in the absence of its natural enemies, as demonstrated by its rapid spread through the Caribbean islands and beyond despite plant quarantine strengthening throughout the region. In the absence of natural controls, it had a devastating impact on the agriculture, natural forests and tourism of Grenada, damaging foreign exchange, trade in agricultural products, and the local ecology and hydrology.

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: Maconellicoccus
  •                                         Species: Maconellicoccus hirsutus

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Maconellicoccus hirsutus was described from India as Phenacoccus hirsutus by Green (1908). Ezzat (1958) subsequently designated it as the type species of the genus Maconellicoccus. Williams (1996) says the genus currently consists of eight species (native to Australia (4), Africa (1), southern Asia (2) and Nepal (1)).

Description

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Crawlers (0.3 mm long) are salmon-pink. Immature females and newly matured females have greyish-pink bodies dusted with mealy white wax. The adult female is 2.5-4 mm long, soft-bodied, elongate oval and slightly flattened; on maturation, she begins to secrete sticky, elastic, white wax filaments from her abdomen to form a protective ovisac for her eggs. As her pinkish-grey body fills with salmon-pink eggs it turns pink, but often this is not immediately visible because the entire colony tends to become covered by white, waxy ovisac material. When the sticky ovisac wax is parted with a needle, clusters of salmon-pink eggs and pink to grey females become visible. On microscopic examination of slide-mounted females, the combination of 9-segmented antennae, anal lobe bars, numerous dorsal oral rim ducts on all parts of the body except the limbs and long, flagellate dorsal setae make the species fairly easy to recognize in parts of the world where other Maconellicoccus species do not occur. Males have one pair of very simple wings, long antennae, one pair of white wax filaments projecting posteriorly and lack mouthparts.

Distribution

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Maconellicoccus hirsutus is native to southern Asia (Williams, 1996) but has been accidentally introduced to other parts of the world (most recently to North America (eight states) and Mexico, Central America (four countries), northern South America (six countries) and North Africa (two countries) (EPPO, 2020; García Morales et al., 2020) and the Caribbean, where it has spread to more than 25 territories and is still extending its range (Kairo et al., 2000). It occurs as far north as Cyprus, Greece, Iran, Israel, Lebanon and Turkey (EPPO, 2011, 2020; Ülgentürk et al., 2015; Milonas and Partsinelevos, 2017; García Morales et al., 2020), so there is no reason why it should not be able to colonize the southern USA, southern Europe and other parts of the Middle East where it is not yet known.

Green's (1908) description included material from Tasmania, but this is now regarded as a separate species, M. tasmaniae (Williams, 1985).

Further notes on the list of countries:

Within the British Virgin Islands, M. hirsutus has been recorded on Tortola (CABI/EPPO, 1997) and Virgin Gorda and St. Thomas (Natural History Museum collection, London, UK).

M. hirsutus is also present on St. Barthelemy and Guadeloupe (Etienne et al., 1988).

The records for Indonesia, Nusa Tenggara, come from the Lesser Sunda Islands (CABI/EPPO, 1997) and Lombok (Williams, 1996).

An erroneous record for Algeria in Ben-Dov (1994) was based on a misinterpretation of Balachowsky (1926), which mentioned the threat to Algeria posed by M. hirsutus. This was taken up in the CABI/EPPO (1997) distribution map and previous editions of the Compendium.

A record of M. hirsutus in Zambia (Williams, 1996; CABI/EPPO, 2004) published in previous versions of the Compendium was erroneous. Williams (1996) mentions Zambia in the distribution list for M. hirsutus, but this is based on a record of interception of the pest in Chicago, USA and is considered invalid as a record of M. hirsutus in Zambia. There is no record of M. hirsutus in Zambia in CABI/EPPO (2004).

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.

Last updated: 12 May 2022
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes

Africa

AlgeriaAbsent, Invalid presence record(s)
BeninPresent, LocalizedIntroduced
Burkina FasoPresentIntroduced
CameroonPresentIntroduced
Central African RepublicPresentIntroduced
ChadPresentIntroduced
Congo, Democratic Republic of thePresentIntroduced
Congo, Republic of thePresentIntroduced
Côte d'IvoirePresentIntroduced
EgyptPresentIntroducedInvasive
GabonPresentIntroduced
GambiaPresentIntroduced1992
KenyaPresentIntroduced
LiberiaPresentIntroduced
NigerPresentIntroduced
NigeriaPresentIntroduced
RéunionPresentIntroduced
SenegalPresentIntroduced
SeychellesPresentIntroduced
SomaliaPresentIntroduced
SudanPresentIntroduced
TanzaniaPresentIntroduced
-Zanzibar IslandPresent
TunisiaPresent, LocalizedIntroduced
ZambiaAbsent, Invalid presence record(s)

Asia

BangladeshPresentNative
BruneiPresent
CambodiaPresentNative
ChinaPresent, LocalizedNativeAomen (Macau)
-GuangdongPresentNative
-ShanxiPresentNative
-TibetPresentNative
-YunnanPresentNative
Hong KongPresent
IndiaPresent, WidespreadNative
-Andaman and Nicobar IslandsPresentNative
-Andhra PradeshPresentNative
-AssamPresentNative
-BiharPresentNative
-DelhiPresentNative
-GujaratPresentNative
-HaryanaPresent
-KarnatakaPresentNative
-KeralaPresentNative
-Madhya PradeshPresentNative
-MaharashtraPresentNative
-OdishaPresentNative
-PunjabPresentNative
-Tamil NaduPresentNative
-TelanganaPresent
-TripuraPresentNative
-Uttar PradeshPresentNative
-West BengalPresentNative
IndonesiaPresent, Widespread
-Irian JayaPresent
-JavaPresent
-Lesser Sunda IslandsPresent
-SulawesiPresent
-SumatraPresent
IranPresent
IsraelPresentIntroduced2015Invasive
JapanPresent, LocalizedIntroduced
-Ryukyu IslandsPresentIntroduced
JordanPresentIntroduced2009
LaosPresentNative
LebanonPresentIntroduced
MacauPresent
MalaysiaPresentNative
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresentNative
MaldivesPresentNative
MyanmarPresentNative
NepalPresentNative
OmanPresent
PakistanPresentNative
PhilippinesPresent
Saudi ArabiaPresent
SingaporePresentNative
Sri LankaPresentNative
TaiwanPresent
ThailandPresentNative
TurkeyPresentIntroduced2016
United Arab EmiratesPresent
VietnamPresentNative
YemenPresent
-SocotraPresent

Europe

CyprusPresent, WidespreadIntroduced2011
GreecePresent2014Rhodes

North America

AnguillaAbsent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)First reported: 1996/1997
Antigua and BarbudaPresentIntroduced2000Invasive
ArubaPresentIntroduced1997Invasive
BahamasPresentIntroduced2000Invasive
BarbadosPresentIntroduced2000Invasive
BelizePresentIntroduced1999Invasive
British Virgin IslandsPresentIntroduced1997Invasive
Cayman IslandsPresentIntroduced
Costa RicaPresent, LocalizedIntroduced
CubaPresentIntroducedInvasive
CuraçaoPresentIntroduced1997Invasive
DominicaPresentIntroduced2001Invasive
Dominican RepublicAbsent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)2002
GrenadaPresent, LocalizedIntroduced1994Invasive
GuadeloupePresentIntroduced1998Invasive
GuatemalaAbsent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)
HaitiPresentIntroduced2002Invasive
JamaicaPresent, LocalizedIntroduced
MartiniquePresentIntroduced1999Invasive
MexicoPresent, Few occurrencesIntroduced1999InvasivePresent in Baja California and Nayarit.
MontserratPresentIntroduced1998Invasive
Netherlands AntillesPresentIntroduced1996Invasive
NicaraguaPresent, Localized
Puerto RicoPresentIntroduced1997Invasive
Saint BarthélemyPresentIntroducedInvasive
Saint Kitts and NevisPresentIntroduced1995Invasive
Saint LuciaPresentIntroduced1996Invasive
Saint MartinPresent
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresentIntroduced1997Invasive
Sint MaartenPresentIntroduced1996Invasive
Trinidad and TobagoPresentIntroduced1995Invasive
U.S. Virgin IslandsPresentIntroduced1997Invasive
United StatesPresent, LocalizedIntroduced1999
-AlabamaPresentIntroduced2005
-CaliforniaPresent, LocalizedIntroduced1999Invasive
-FloridaPresent, LocalizedIntroduced2002Invasive
-GeorgiaPresent, LocalizedIntroduced
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced1983Invasive
-LouisianaPresentIntroduced2006
-New YorkPresentIntroduced2007
-North CarolinaPresentIntroduced2009
-OklahomaPresentIntroduced2005
-South CarolinaPresentIntroduced2009
-TennesseePresentIntroduced2014
-TexasPresentIntroduced2007

Oceania

AustraliaPresentIntroducedInvasive
-Northern TerritoryPresentIntroducedInvasive
-QueenslandPresentIntroducedInvasive
-South AustraliaPresentIntroducedInvasive
-Western AustraliaPresentIntroducedInvasive
Federated States of MicronesiaPresent, LocalizedIntroducedInvasive
FijiPresentIntroduced
GuamPresentIntroducedInvasive
New CaledoniaPresentIntroduced
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroduced
PalauPresentIntroduced
Papua New GuineaPresent, Widespread
SamoaPresentIntroducedInvasive
Solomon IslandsPresentIntroduced
TongaPresentIntroduced1975
TuvaluPresentIntroduced1976
VanuatuPresentIntroduced2003

South America

BrazilPresent, WidespreadIntroduced2010Invasive
-AlagoasPresentIntroducedInvasive
-BahiaPresentIntroducedInvasive
-Espirito SantoPresentIntroducedInvasive
-MaranhaoPresentIntroducedInvasive
-Mato GrossoPresentIntroducedInvasive
-ParaPresentIntroducedInvasive
-PernambucoPresentIntroducedInvasive
-Rio Grande do SulPresentIntroducedInvasive
-RoraimaPresentIntroduced2010Invasive
-Santa CatarinaPresentIntroducedInvasive
-Sao PauloPresentIntroducedInvasive
ColombiaPresentIntroduced2006InvasiveMainland, San Andres and Providence Islands.
French GuianaPresentIntroduced1997Invasive
GuyanaPresent, WidespreadIntroduced1997Invasive
SurinamePresent, LocalizedIntroducedInvasive
VenezuelaPresentIntroduced1999Invasive

History of Introduction and Spread

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Maconellicoccus hirsutus originated in southern Asia but has been spread accidentally by trade in infested fresh plant material. In many of the countries where it has been introduced it has become an invasive pest. It is now found mainly in tropical and subtropical areas but it is found in some temperate areas under glass. The first record of the mealybug outside its native range was from North-East Africa (Egypt in 1921, followed by Sudan in 1937); it then spread to East Africa (Tanzania before 1949, Kenya before 1952). The species then appeared in Central Africa (Chad before 1957) and spread there and then gradually westward (Cameroon before 1970, Niger before 1973, Liberia before 1982) and continues to spread; the most recent record is the Gambia (in 1992). Literature records from Algeria and Zambia are erroneous. Lately the mealybug has been spreading westwards along the North African coast (Tunisia, 2014).

In the Middle East, M. hirsutus was first recorded from Iran (before 2007), then spread to Jordan (in 2009) and onwards to Israel (in 2015). Climate warming may be the reason behind its recent establishment outdoors in Tunisia (Ben Halima-Kamel et al., 2015), Israel (Spodek et al., 2016) and Cyprus (Ülgentürk and Hocaali, 2019).

M. hirsutus was first reported in Australasia from Papua New Guinea (before 1957); by 1983, it had reached Hawaii and by 1985, parts of Australia, where it is established in the northern and eastern regions. It also now occurs on some of the Pacific islands.

The first record from the New World was in Grenada (1994); the mealybug then spread to most of the other Caribbean islands and mainland coasts of Central and South America (French Guiana, 1997; Mexico, California and Martinique, 1999 (Matile-Ferrero et al., 2000); Florida, Dominican Republic and Haiti, 2002 (Meyerdirk and De Chi, 2005); Grenada, 1994 and Guadeloupe, 1998 (Etienne et al., 1998); US Virgin Islands, 1997 (Lemon and Borland, 1997). Kairo et al. (2000) give the following introduction dates: Anguilla, 1996; Bahamas, 2000; Barbados, 2000; Belize, 1999; British Virgin Islands, 1997; Curaçao, 1997; Dominica, 2001; Montserrat, 1998; Sint Maarten/St. Martin, 1996; St. Eustatius, 1997; Puerto Rico, 1997; St. Kitts and Nevis, 1995; St. Lucia, 1996; St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 1997; Trinidad and Tobago, 1995 and 1996 respectively; and US Trust Territories, 1997). It expanded its range northwards (California in 1999) and southwards (French Guiana in 1997, Venezuela in 1999, Colombia in 2006 and Brazil in 2010). The species continues to extend its range.

Risk of Introduction

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Live plant material imported from areas infested by M. hirsutus presents the greatest infestation risk to non-infested countries between 7° and 30° latitude. Accidental introduction to new territories is highly possible through the movement of infested living plant material through shipping or air transport/mail, particularly of ornamental plants, cut flowers, fruit and vegetables and vegetative propagules other than meristem culture.

Since its appearance in the Caribbean region in 1994, M. hirsutus is regarded as of high quarantine importance by the CPPC. The mealybug is regarded as a plant quarantine threat to Honduras (Roberto Padilla, 2000) and other North, Central and South American countries not yet affected.

It may be advisable for plant quarantine services to make available a list of countries already infested and to regulate trade in fresh plant material from these countries. Trade between Caribbean countries has continued despite the mealybug problem, through a system of inspection of source areas and pre-export certification of shipments being free of infestation. Planting material of host-plant species of M. hirsutus should be inspected in the growing season previous to shipment and be found free of infestation. A phytosanitary certificate should guarantee absence of the pest from consignments of either planting material or produce. Any shipments of fresh plant material from an infested country to one that is not yet infested but could be, should be examined thoroughly to detect M. hirsutus.

As the mealybug has no known beneficial effects, it seems unlikely that deliberate introduction would occur except for malicious purposes.

Habitat

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Maconellicoccus hirsutus forms dense colonies in cracks and crevices. The severe distortion of new growth caused by the mealybug on many hosts, creates a microhabitat for them (Ghose, 1972a; Beardsley, 1985). Colonies in such tight spaces can be difficult or impossible for natural enemies to reach, especially the larger coccinellid predators.

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedProtected agriculture (e.g. glasshouse production) Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedManaged forests, plantations and orchards Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedDisturbed areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Terrestrial ManagedRail / roadsides Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Terrestrial ManagedUrban / peri-urban areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalRiverbanks Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalScrub / shrublands Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
LittoralCoastal areas Principal habitat Natural
LittoralMangroves Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural

Hosts/Species Affected

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Maconellicoccus hirsutus is highly polyphagous and has been recorded feeding on hosts from 78 plant families and 224 plant genera (García Morales et al., 2020); it shows some preference for hosts in the families Malvaceae, Fabaceae and Moraceae. One of the commonest, favoured hosts is Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Mani (1989), Garland (1998), Miller et al. (1999) and García Morales et al. (2020) give extensive host lists. When introduced to tropical countries in the absence of any natural enemies, M. hirsutus attacks a wide range of (usually woody) plants including agricultural, horticultural and forest species. It has been recorded attacking cotton (Gossypium) and soyabean (Glycine max), both annuals that are rarely attacked by mealybugs (Williams, 1986). However, in the Caribbean, it has only developed seriously damaging populations on fewer than 20 host-plant species (Kairo et al., 2000). As M. hirsutus spreads in the southern USA and into southern Europe, it could threaten crops like grapes (Vitis vinifera) and cotton (Williams, 1996).

M. hirsutus can be reared in the laboratory on pumpkins (Cucurbita), particularly those varieties with creases in the skin (Japanese pumpkin, Cucurbita moschata; acorn squash, Cucurbita pepo var. turbinata) and on sprouting Irish potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) (Mani, 1990; Meyerdirk, 1997; Serrano and Lapointe, 2002).

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContextReferences
Abelmoschus esculentus (okra)MalvaceaeMain
Abelmoschus manihot (bele)MalvaceaeOther
Abutilon indicum (country mallow)MalvaceaeOther
Acacia acatlensisFabaceaeUnknown
Acacia farnesiana (huisache)FabaceaeUnknown
Acacia hindsiiFabaceaeUnknown
Acacia nilotica (gum arabic tree)FabaceaeUnknown
Acalypha (Copperleaf)EuphorbiaceaeOther
Acalypha hispida (Copperleaf)EuphorbiaceaeUnknown
Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006)
Acanthus ilicifoliusAcanthaceaeOther
AchariaLimacodidaeUnknown
Achyranthes aspera (devil's horsewhip)AmaranthaceaeUnknown
Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006)
Aegiphila martinicensisUnknown
Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006)
AlbiziaFabaceaeUnknown
Albizia lebbeck (Indian siris)FabaceaeOther
AllamandaApocynaceaeMain
Allamanda cathartica (yellow allamanda)ApocynaceaeUnknown
Etienne et al. (1998); Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006)
Alpinia purpurata (red ginger)ZingiberaceaeMain
Etienne et al. (1998); Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006)
Anacardium occidentale (cashew nut)AnacardiaceaeUnknown
Ananas comosus (pineapple)BromeliaceaeOther
AnnonaAnnonaceaeMain
Annona cherimola (cherimoya)AnnonaceaeOther
Annona muricata (soursop)AnnonaceaeMain
Annona reticulata (bullock's heart)AnnonaceaeOther
Annona squamosa (sugar apple)AnnonaceaeMain
AnthuriumAraceaeOther
Arachis hypogaea (groundnut)FabaceaeOther
AraliaAraliaceaeOther
Artocarpus altilis (breadfruit)MoraceaeOther
Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006); Williams and Watson (1988)
AsparagusLiliaceaeUnknown
Asparagus officinalis (asparagus)LiliaceaeOther
Asparagus setaceus (asparagus fern)LiliaceaeUnknown
Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006)
Averrhoa carambola (carambola)OxalidaceaeMain
Marsaro et al. (2013); Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006)
Azadirachta indica (neem tree)MeliaceaeOther
Bauhinia (camel's foot)FabaceaeOther
Bauhinia variegata (mountain ebony)FabaceaeUnknown
BetaChenopodiaceaeOther
Bidens pilosa (blackjack)AsteraceaeOther
BignoniaBignoniaceaeOther
Boehmeria nivea (ramie)UrticaceaeMain
BougainvilleaNyctaginaceaeMain
Brassica oleracea (cabbages, cauliflowers)BrassicaceaeOther
Byttneria aculeataUnknown
Cajanus cajan (pigeon pea)FabaceaeMain
Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006); Williams (2004)
Capsicum annuum (bell pepper)SolanaceaeOther
Capsicum frutescens (chilli)SolanaceaeOther
Carica papaya (pawpaw)CaricaceaeOther
Cassia (sennas)FabaceaeOther
Casuarina (beefwood)CasuarinaceaeUnknown
Cedrela odorata (Spanish cedar)MeliaceaeUnknown
Ceiba pentandra (kapok)BombacaceaeOther
Centrolobium paraenseFabaceaeOther
CeratoniaFabaceaeUnknown
Ceratonia siliqua (carob)FabaceaeOther
Chenopodium album (fat hen)ChenopodiaceaeOther
Chrysanthemum (daisy)AsteraceaeOther
Chrysanthemum coronarium (garland chrysanthemum)AsteraceaeOther
CitrusRutaceaeMain
Citrus aurantiifolia (lime)RutaceaeOther
Citrus maxima (pummelo)RutaceaeUnknown
Citrus sinensis (sweet orange)RutaceaeOther
Citrus x paradisi (grapefruit)RutaceaeOther
Clerodendrum infortunatumLamiaceaeUnknown
Clitoria ternatea (butterfly-pea)FabaceaeOther
Cocos nucifera (coconut)ArecaceaeOther
Codiaeum variegatum (garden croton)EuphorbiaceaeOther
Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006)
Coffea (coffee)RubiaceaeOther
Coffea arabica (arabica coffee)RubiaceaeOther
Coffea canephora (robusta coffee)RubiaceaeUnknown
ColocasiaAraceaeOther
Corchorus (jutes)TiliaceaeOther
Corchorus capsularis (white jute)TiliaceaeOther
Corchorus olitorius (jute)TiliaceaeOther
Cordia dichotoma (Indian cherry)BoraginaceaeUnknown
CosmosAsteraceaeOther
Crotalaria (rattlepods)FabaceaeOther
Crotalaria micansFabaceaeUnknown
CrotonEuphorbiaceaeOther
Cucumis sativus (cucumber)CucurbitaceaeOther
Cucurbita (pumpkin)CucurbitaceaeOther
Cucurbita moschata (pumpkin)CucurbitaceaeOther
Cucurbita pepo (marrow)CucurbitaceaeOther
Cydonia oblonga (quince)RosaceaeUnknown
DahliaAsteraceaeOther
Dalbergia (rosewoods)FabaceaeUnknown
Daucus carota (carrot)ApiaceaeOther
Delonix regia (flamboyant)FabaceaeUnknown
DendrobiumOrchidaceaeOther
Desmanthus virgatus (False tamarind)FabaceaeUnknown
Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006)
Dioscorea (yam)DioscoreaceaeOther
Diospyros kaki (persimmon)EbenaceaeOther
Dodonaea viscosa (switch sorrel)SapindaceaeOther
DurantaVerbenaceaeOther
EnterolobiumUnknown
Enterolobium cyclocarpum (ear pod tree)FabaceaeUnknown
ErythrinaFabaceaeUnknown
Erythrina spp.FabaceaeOther
Erythrina subumbrans (December tree)FabaceaeUnknown
Erythrina variegata (Indian coral tree)FabaceaeOther
Eugenia uniflora (Surinam cherry)LithomyrtusOther
Euphorbia (spurges)EuphorbiaceaeOther
Euphorbia atotoUnknown
FicusMoraceaeUnknown
Ficus benghalensis (banyan)MoraceaeOther
Ficus benjamina (weeping fig)MoraceaeOther
Ficus carica (common fig)MoraceaeOther
Ficus elastica (rubber plant)MoraceaeOther
Ficus laurifoliaUnknown
Ficus obtusifoliaMoraceaeUnknown
Ficus pertusaMoraceaeUnknown
Ficus platyphyllaMoraceaeOther
Ficus pumila (creeping fig)MoraceaeUnknown
Ficus racemosa (cluster tree)MoraceaeUnknown
Ficus religiosa (sacred fig tree)MoraceaeUnknown
Ficus semicordataMoraceaeOther
GliricidiaFabaceaeOther
Gliricidia maculataFabaceaeUnknown
Gliricidia sepium (gliricidia)FabaceaeUnknown
Isiordia-Aquino et al. (2012); Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006)
Glycine max (soyabean)FabaceaeMain
Gossypium (cotton)MalvaceaeMain
Gossypium arboreum (cotton, tree)MalvaceaeMain
Gossypium herbaceum (short staple cotton)MalvaceaeMain
Gossypium hirsutum (Bourbon cotton)MalvaceaeMain
GrevilleaProteaceaeUnknown
Grevillea robusta (silky oak)ProteaceaeUnknown
Grevillea robusta (silky oak)ProteaceaeOther
GrewiaTiliaceaeOther
Guazuma ulmifolia (bastard cedar)SterculiaceaeUnknown
Helianthus annuus (sunflower)AsteraceaeOther
Rathod et al. (2008); Rathod et al. (2008)
HeliconiaHeliconiaceaeOther
Hevea brasiliensis (rubber)EuphorbiaceaeOther
Hibiscus (rosemallows)MalvaceaeMain
Hibiscus cannabinus (kenaf)MalvaceaeMain
Hibiscus elatus (blue mahoe)MalvaceaeOther
Hibiscus manihot (bele)MalvaceaeOther
Hibiscus mutabilis (cottonrose)MalvaceaeOther
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis (China-rose)MalvaceaeMain
Hibiscus sabdariffa (Roselle)MalvaceaeMain
Hibiscus schizopetalus (fringed hibiscus)MalvaceaeOther
Hibiscus surattensisUnknown
Hibiscus syriacus (shrubby althaea)MalvaceaeUnknown
Hibiscus tiliaceus (coast cottonwood)MalvaceaeOther
Hoya carnosa (Wax plant)AsclepiadaceaeUnknown
Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006)
Inga edulis (ice-cream bean)FabaceaeOther
Inga ingoidesFabaceaeUnknown
Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006)
Inga veraFabaceaeUnknown
Ipomoea (morning glory)ConvolvulaceaeUnknown
Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato)ConvolvulaceaeOther
IxoraRubiaceaeOther
JacarandaBignoniaceaeOther
Jasminum (jasmine)OleaceaeUnknown
Jasminum sambac (Arabian jasmine)OleaceaeOther
Jatropha curcas (jatropha)EuphorbiaceaeOther
Lactuca sativa (lettuce)AsteraceaeOther
Lagerstroemia speciosa (Pride of India)LythraceaeOther
Lantana camara (lantana)VerbenaceaeOther
Lawsonia inermis (Egyptian privet)LythraceaeUnknown
Leucaena leucocephala (leucaena)FabaceaeOther
Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006)
MacarangaEuphorbiaceaeOther
Malachra alceifoliaUnknown
MalpighiaMalpighiaceae
Malpighia emarginataMalpighiaceaeUnknown
Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006)
Malpighia glabra (acerola)MalpighiaceaeMain
Malus sylvestris (crab-apple tree)RosaceaeOther
Malvaviscus arboreus (wax mallow)MalvaceaeOther
Malvaviscus conzattiiUnknown
MangiferaAnacardiaceaeUnknown
Marotta et al. (2001)
Mangifera indica (mango)AnacardiaceaeOther
Manihot esculenta (cassava)EuphorbiaceaeOther
Manilkara zapota (sapodilla)SapotaceaeMain
Mani and Krishnamoorthy (2008); Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006); Lad et al. (2013)
Medicago sativa (lucerne)FabaceaeOther
Mimosa (sensitive plants)FabaceaeUnknown
Mimosa diplotricha (giant sensitive plant)FabaceaeUnknown
Mimosa pigra (giant sensitive plant)FabaceaeHabitat/association
Mimosa pudica (sensitive plant)FabaceaeOther
Momordica charantia (bitter gourd)CucurbitaceaeUnknown
Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006)
Montanoa grandifloraAsteraceaeOther
Morus alba (mora)MoraceaeMain
Morus nigra (black mulberry)MoraceaeMain
Murraya koenigii (curry leaf tree)RutaceaeOther
Musa (banana)MusaceaeOther
Musa paradisiacaMain
MussaendaRubiaceaeOther
Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006)
Myrtus communis (myrtle)LithomyrtusOther
Nephelium lappaceum (rambutan)SapindaceaeOther
Nerium (oleander)ApocynaceaeUnknown
Nerium oleander (oleander)ApocynaceaeOther
Opuntia (Pricklypear)CactaceaeOther
Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde)FabaceaeOther
Parthenium hysterophorus (parthenium weed)AsteraceaeOther
Passiflora (passionflower)PassifloraceaeOther
Passiflora edulis (passionfruit)PassifloraceaeMain
Persea americana (avocado)LauraceaeMain
Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006)
Phaseolus vulgaris (common bean)FabaceaeOther
Phoenix dactylifera (date-palm)ArecaceaeOther
Phoenix sylvestris (east Indian wine palm)ArecaceaeOther
Phyllanthus elsiaeUnknown
Phyllanthus niruri (seed-under-the-leaf)EuphorbiaceaeOther
Piper arboreum subsp. tuberculatumOther
PithecellobiumFabaceaeUnknown
Plumeria rubra (red frangipani)ApocynaceaeUnknown
Portulaca grandiflora (Rose moss)PortulacaceaeUnknown
ProsopisUnknown
Prosopis cineraria (screw-bean)FabaceaeUnknown
Prosopis laevigataFabaceaeUnknown
Prunus armeniaca (apricot)RosaceaeOther
Prunus domestica (plum)RosaceaeOther
Prunus salicina (Japanese plum)RosaceaeOther
Psidium (guava)LithomyrtusUnknown
Halaybeh and Katbeh-Bader (2010); Marotta et al. (2001)
Psidium guajava (guava)LithomyrtusOther
Punica granatum (pomegranate)PunicaceaeOther
Quercus (oaks)FagaceaeOther
QuisqualisCombretaceaeOther
Rhododendron (Azalea)EricaceaeOther
Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust)FabaceaeOther
Saccharum officinarum (sugarcane)PoaceaeOther
Salix (willows)SalicaceaeOther
Samanea saman (rain tree)FabaceaeUnknown
Senna siamea (yellow cassia)FabaceaeOther
Williams (1986); Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006)
Sida acuta (sida)MalvaceaeMain
Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006)
SolandraSolanaceaeOther
Solanum aethiopicum (african scarlet eggplant)SolanaceaeUnknown
Solanum americanumSolanaceaeUnknown
Solanum lycopersicum (tomato)SolanaceaeOther
Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006); Marsaro et al. (2013)
Solanum melongena (aubergine)SolanaceaeOther
Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006); Chang and Miller (1996)
Solanum umbellatumUnknown
Spondias (purple mombin)AnacardiaceaeMain
Spondias dulcis (otaheite apple)AnacardiaceaeOther
Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006)
Spondias mombin (hog plum)AnacardiaceaeOther
Spondias purpurea (red mombin)AnacardiaceaeMain
Spondias tuberosaAnacardiaceaeUnknown
Syzygium aromaticum (clove)LithomyrtusUnknown
Syzygium cumini (black plum)LithomyrtusOther
Tabebuia heterophylla (pink trumpet tree)BignoniaceaeUnknown
Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006)
TamarindusFabaceaeUnknown
Tamarindus indica (tamarind)FabaceaeOther
Tamarix (tamarisk)TamaricaceaeUnknown
Tecoma stans (yellow bells)BignoniaceaeOther
Tectona grandis (teak)LamiaceaeMain
Tephrosia (hoary-pea)FabaceaeOther
Teramnus labialis (blue wiss)FabaceaeUnknown
Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006)
Terminalia catappa (Singapore almond)CombretaceaeOther
Terminalia mantalyCombretaceaeUnknown
TetraceraDilleniaceaeOther
Theobroma cacao (cocoa)MalvaceaeMain
Theobroma grandiflorum (cupuassu)MalvaceaeOther
ThespesiaMalvaceaeUnknown
Thespesia lampasMalvaceaeOther
Thespesia populnea (portia tree)MalvaceaeUnknown
Tithonia diversifolia (Mexican sunflower)AsteraceaeUnknown
Verbesina fastigiataUnknown
Vigna mungo (black gram)FabaceaeOther
Vigna unguiculata (cowpea)FabaceaeOther
Vitis (grape)VitaceaeUnknown
Vitis vinifera (grapevine)VitaceaeMain
Xanthosoma (cocoyam)AraceaeOther
Zea mays (maize)PoaceaeOther
ZinniaAsteraceaeUnknown
ZiziphusRhamnaceaeUnknown
Ziziphus jujuba (common jujube)RhamnaceaeOther
Ziziphus mauritiana (jujube)RhamnaceaeOther
Matile-Ferrero and Étienne (2006); Williams (2004)
Ziziphus mucronataRhamnaceaeUnknown
Ziziphus spina-christi (Christ's thorn jujube)RhamnaceaeUnknown

Growth Stages

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Flowering stage, Fruiting stage, Vegetative growing stage

Symptoms

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The saliva that M. hirsutus injects into the host plant while feeding probably contains a substance that is phytotoxic (Williams, 1996). Host plants differ in their susceptibility and degree of response to the toxin. The more tolerant species tend to be infested at their growing points and in stem axils and infested new growth becomes stunted, with reduced internode extension and leaf expansion. Stunted stems may become swollen. In more sensitive plants, stunting is more marked and new growth forms cabbage-like clusters, with the mealybugs hidden in the creases of the growth. In highly susceptible plants, even brief probing of unexpanded leaves by crawlers causes severe crumpling of the leaves when they subsequently expand, while established infestations can cause total defoliation and even death of the whole plant. As the plant dies back from the tips, the mealybugs migrate to healthy tissue, so the colonies migrate from shoot tips to twigs to branches and finally down the trunk. Samanea saman is particularly severely affected.

It should be noted that on Hibiscus, the mealybug Paracoccus marginatus causes very similar damage to that caused by M. hirsutus (Pollard, 1999).

List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType
Fruit / abnormal shape
Fruit / external feeding
Fruit / honeydew or sooty mould
Fruit / premature drop
Growing point / external feeding
Inflorescence / external feeding
Inflorescence / fall or shedding
Inflorescence / honeydew or sooty mould
Leaves / abnormal forms
Leaves / abnormal leaf fall
Leaves / external feeding
Leaves / honeydew or sooty mould
Leaves / wilting
Stems / external feeding
Stems / honeydew or sooty mould
Stems / stunting or rosetting

Biology and Ecology

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Local movement of M. hirsutus occurs at the first-instar (crawler) stage. Crawlers are very small (0.3 mm long), light and can survive a day or so without feeding. They cannot walk far by themselves, but are ideally suited to transport by water, wind and animal agents including domestic animals and man. Misra (1920) recorded transport of M. hirsutus by nymphs of another mealybug species (Ferrisia virgata) in India. Accidental introductions to new countries apparently occur via infested plant material.

Once the crawler settles at a feeding site development continues; there are three immature instars in the female and four in the male. Crawlers settle in cracks and crevices, usually on new growth which becomes severely stunted and distorted, in which densely packed colonies develop; Kairo et al. (2000) describe the symptoms in detail. While reproduction in many countries is sexual, M. hirsutus is reported as mostly parthenogenetic in Egypt (Hall, 1921) and Bihar, India (Singh and Ghosh, 1970). In West Bengal, India, M. hirsutus is recorded as being biparental (Ghose, 1971b, 1972a) and it seems likely that populations in the Caribbean are also biparental (Williams, 1996). Males are reported to have a pupal stage capable of locomotion (Bartlett, 1978).

The life cycle has been studied in India (Mani, 1989). Each adult female lays 150-600 eggs over a period of about 1 week and these hatch in 6-9 days (Bartlett, 1978; Mani, 1989). A generation is completed in about 5 weeks in warm conditions (Bartlett, 1978) although Ghose (1972b) reports a generation time of as little as 23 days in the laboratory. In countries with a cool winter, the species survives cold conditions as eggs (Bartlett, 1978) or other stages, both on the host plant and in the soil (Pollard, 1995). There may be as many as 15 generations per year (Pollard, 1995). There are no figures reported on reproduction of M. hirsutus in the tropics (Williams, 1996).

Infestations of M. hirsutus are often associated with attendant ants (Ghose, 1970), which collect sugary honeydew from the mealybugs. Ants recorded attending M. hirsutus include Oecophylla sp., Iridomyrmex sp. and Solenopsis sp. (Williams and Watson, 1998) in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. Ant associations in India are given by Mani (1989).

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
A - Tropical/Megathermal climate Preferred Average temp. of coolest month > 18°C, > 1500mm precipitation annually
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Tolerated > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Tolerated < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
B - Dry (arid and semi-arid) Tolerated < 860mm precipitation annually
BS - Steppe climate Tolerated > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
BW - Desert climate Tolerated < 430mm annual precipitation
C - Temperate/Mesothermal climate Tolerated Average temp. of coldest month > 0°C and < 18°C, mean warmest month > 10°C
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Tolerated Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
35 35

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) 0
Mean annual temperature (ºC) >10 <25
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 35
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 5

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration07number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall350-430 mm720-1500 mmmm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Bimodal
Summer
Uniform
Winter

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Alamella flava Parasite
Allotropa japonica Parasite
Anagyrus dactylopii Parasite Adults
Anagyrus kamali Parasite Adults Montes Rodríguez (2012)
Autoba silicula Predator Adults; Arthropods|Nymphs
Bothriocraera bicolor Parasite
Brinckochrysa scelestes Predator Adults; Arthropods|Nymphs
Brumoides suturalis Predator Adults; Arthropods|Nymphs Papua New Guinea
Cacoxenus multidentatus Parasite
Cryptolaemus montrouzieri Predator Adults; Eggs; Arthropods|Larvae; Arthropods|Nymphs; Arthropods|Pupae Egypt; India ornamental plants
Cycloneda sanguinea Predator
Domomyza perspicax Predator Adults; Arthropods|Nymphs
Eublemma gayneri Predator Adults; Arthropods|Nymphs
Eublemma trifasciata Predator Adults; Arthropods|Nymphs
Gyranusoidea indica Parasite Arthropods|Larvae Montes Rodríguez (2012)
Gyranusoidea mirzai Parasite
Harmonia axyridis Predator
Hyperaspis maindroni Predator Adults; Arthropods|Nymphs Papua New Guinea
Hyperaspis notata Predator
Laterospora phenacocca Pathogen Adults; Arthropods|Nymphs
Mallada boninensis Predator Adults; Arthropods|Nymphs
Nephus fijiensis Predator Adults; Arthropods|Nymphs Papua New Guinea Hibiscus
Pseudoscymnus pallidicollis Predator Adults; Arthropods|Nymphs Papua New Guinea
Scymnus coccivora Predator Adults; Eggs; Arthropods|Nymphs
Scymnus conformis Predator Adults; Arthropods|Nymphs Egypt ornamental plants
Spalgis epeus Predator Adults; Arthropods|Nymphs
Triommata coccidivora Predator Adults; Arthropods|Nymphs

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Kamal (1951), Ghose (1970), Beardsley (1985) and Mani (1989) mention at least 30 species of natural enemies of M. hirsutus from 11 families in six orders in India and Egypt, including parasitic Hymenoptera, predatory Heteroptera, Neuroptera, Lepidoptera, Diptera and Coleoptera. García Morales et al. (2020) list natural enemies of M. hirsutus.

The natural enemies of M. hirsutus that have been used successfully in biological control programmes are the predatory beetle Cryptolaemus montrouzieri and the hymenopteran endoparasitoids Anagyrus kamali and Gyranusoidea indica. In countries with cool winters, the predatory beetle Scymnus coccivora and the hymenopteran parasitoid Anagyrus dactylopii have been used.

Adult M. hirsutus can encapsulate and kill up to 60% of A. kamali eggs laid in them, but earlier instars of the mealybug are less able to defend themselves in this way. A. kamali attacks all stages of the mealybug but prefers adult females for oviposition (Sagarra and Vincent, 1999; Sagarra et al., 1999).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural dispersal

Natural dispersal of M. hirsutus to new plants is mainly by the minute first-instar nymphs (crawlers), which actively walk about looking for a suitable feeding site. A crawler may walk about a metre before settling. If picked up by wind or on a passing animal, it may be passively carried further.

Vector transmission (biotic)

If ants attend the mealybugs for their honeydew, sometimes the ants may pick up and carry the mealybugs to new feeding sites, aiding dispersal over a distance of few metres.

Accidental introduction

Long-distance dispersal of M. hirsutus is mainly by human transport of infested plants and to a lesser extent produce and cut flowers.

Intentional introduction

There is no reason for M. hirsutus to be deliberately introduced to a new environment and no evidence to suggest that this has ever occurred.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Botanical gardens and zoos Yes
Cut flower trade Yes Yes Harman (in press)
Food Yes Harman (in press)
Forage Yes
Forestry Yes Yes
Garden waste disposal Yes
Habitat restoration and improvement Yes
Hedges and windbreaks Yes
Hitchhiker Yes Yes Harman (in press)
Horticulture Yes Yes Harman (in press)
Internet sales Yes
Landscape improvement Yes
Live food or feed trade Yes
Military movements Yes Yes
Nursery trade Yes Yes Harman (in press)
People sharing resources Yes
Self-propelled Yes Harman (in press)
Smuggling Yes

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Clothing, footwear and possessionseggs, larvae, nymphs, pupae and adults on infested live plant material; and larvae on people
Land vehiclesLarvae on passing vehicles Yes
Plants or parts of plantsImportant means of movement of eggs, larvae, nymphs, pupae and adults over long and short distances Yes Yes Harman (in press)
Aircrafteggs, larvae, nymphs, pupae and adults on infested live plant material; and larvae on people Yes Yes Harman (in press)
Bulk freight or cargoLarvae Yes Yes
Consumableseggs, larvae, nymphs, pupae and adults on infested live plant material Yes Harman (in press)
Debris and waste associated with human activitieseggs, larvae, nymphs, pupae and adults on infested live plant material in waste Yes
Host and vector organismsLarvae picked up and carried by passing birds and mammals including humans Yes Harman (in press)
LivestockLarvae picked up and carried by passing birds and mammals Yes Harman (in press)
WindLarvae blown about - an important means of movement locally Yes Yes Kairo (1997); Harman (in press)
Floating vegetation and debriseggs, larvae, nymphs, pupae and adults Yes Yes

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 arthropods/adults; arthropods/eggs; arthropods/larvae; arthropods/nymphs; arthropods/pupae Yes Yes Pest or symptoms not visible to the naked eye but usually visible under light microscope
Fruits (inc. pods) arthropods/adults; arthropods/eggs; arthropods/larvae; arthropods/nymphs; arthropods/pupae Yes Pest or symptoms not visible to the naked eye but usually visible under light microscope
Leaves arthropods/adults; arthropods/eggs; arthropods/larvae; arthropods/nymphs; arthropods/pupae Yes Pest or symptoms not visible to the naked eye but usually visible under light microscope
Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches arthropods/adults; arthropods/eggs; arthropods/larvae; arthropods/nymphs; arthropods/pupae Yes Pest or symptoms not visible to the naked eye but usually visible under light microscope
Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport
Bulbs/Tubers/Corms/Rhizomes
Roots
Seedlings/Micropropagated plants
True seeds (inc. grain)
Wood

Wood Packaging

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Wood Packaging not known to carry the pest in trade/transport
Loose wood packing material
Non-wood
Processed or treated wood
Solid wood packing material with bark
Solid wood packing material without bark

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Animal/plant collections Negative
Animal/plant products Negative
Biodiversity (generally) Negative
Crop production Negative
Cultural/amenity Negative
Economic/livelihood Negative
Environment (generally) Negative
Fisheries / aquaculture None
Forestry production Negative
Human health None
Livestock production None
Native fauna Negative
Native flora Negative
Rare/protected species Negative
Tourism Negative
Trade/international relations Negative
Transport/travel None

Economic Impact

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Pink hibiscus mealybug is highly polyphagous, with host plant records reported from more than 330 predominantly woody species belonging to 224 genera in 78 families. The saliva that M. hirsutus injects into the host plant while feeding on phloem sap probably contains a substance that is phytotoxic (Williams, 1996). Host-plants differ in their susceptibility and degree of response to the toxin. The more tolerant species tend to be infested at their growing points and in stem axils and infested new growth becomes stunted, with reduced internode extension and leaf expansion. Stunted stems may become swollen. In more sensitive plants, stunting is more marked and new growth forms cabbage-like clusters (‘bunchy top’), with the mealybugs hidden in the creases of the growth; in severe cases the leaves may fall. Honeydew and sooty mould contamination of fruit may reduce their value (Garland, 1998). In highly susceptible plants, even brief probing of unexpanded leaves by crawlers causes severe crumpling of the leaves when they subsequently expand, while established infestations can cause total defoliation and even death of the whole plant. As the plant dies back from the tips, the mealybugs migrate to healthy tissue, so the colonies migrate from shoot tips to twigs to branches and finally down the trunk. The popular amenity tree, Samanea saman, is particularly severely affected.

Maconellicoccus hirsutus is a significantly damaging pest of agricultural, horticultural and fibre crops. Williams (1996) summarized records of damage caused by M. hirsutus. Almost all serious damage by the mealybug has been recorded between 7° and 30° North. The mealybug is well-known as a pest of hibiscus, cotton (Gossypium), coffee (Coffea), mulberry (Morus), grapevine (Vitis vinifera), soyabean (Glycine max) and citrus and damages many other plant species such as avocado (Persea americana), beans, guava (Psidium guajava), cacao (Theobroma cacao), pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan), squash (Cucurbita), teak (Tectona grandis) and many ornamental species. The use of many non-crop plant species as hosts enables the mealybug to establish reservoirs. Accidental introductions of M. hirsutus have caused significant economic damage to several Caribbean countries. For example, in the late 1990s, estimated cumulative economic losses in Grenada were US$ 18.3 million. In India, bunchy top symptoms caused by M. hirsutus in mulberry are known as Tukra disease (Rao et al., 1993); this is the most serious problem in silk-producing areas (Tewari et al., 1994). However, experimental evidence suggests that Tukra-diseased leaves may be more nutritious to silkworms than normal leaves (Ahamed et al., 1999). It has been suggested that such symptoms on cacao in Zanzibar (De Lotto, 1967) and on mulberry in India (Tewari et al., 1994) might be due to a virus infection, but no evidence has been found to support this theory. Other crops seriously damaged by M. hirsutus include cotton in Egypt (Hall, 1921), with growth sometimes virtually halted; tree and herbaceum cotton in India (Dhawan et al., 1980; Muralidharan and Badaya, 2000), with reduction in yield; the fibre crops Hibiscus sabdariffa var. altissima (roselle), H. cannabinus (mesta) and Boehmeria nivea in West Bengal, India and Bangladesh (Ghose, 1961, 1972b; Singh and Ghosh, 1970), with reduction in fibre yield of roselle of 21.4% reported by Ghose (1971a) and of 40% reported by Raju et al. (1988); grapes in India, with up to 90% of bunches destroyed in the Bangalore area (Manjunath, 1985) and heavily infested bunches made unfit for consumption or marketing (Vereesh, 1986); pigeon pea in India (Patel et al., 1990); Zizyphus mauritiana [Ziziphus mauritiana] in India (Balikai and Bagali, 2000); ornamental Hibiscus in Papua New Guinea (Williams and Watson, 1988); and cacao in the Solomon Islands (Williams and Watson, 1988) and Grenada (Pollard, 1995).

In the Caribbean, damage has been reported on Annona spp., Spondias spp., okra (Abelmoschus esculentus), mango (Mangifera indica), sorrel (Hibiscus sabdariffa), Albizia saman [Samanea saman] and other ornamentals important to the tourist industry and forest trees such as blue mahoe (Hibiscus elatus) and teak (Tectona grandis) (Pollard, 1995). Transport of fruit and vegetables between the Caribbean islands by entrepreneurs came to a virtual standstill with the imposition of quarantine restrictions on the importation of fresh produce into Trinidad (Pollard, 1995), although pre-export inspections have allowed imports from some affected countries to continue.

Francois (1996) gave the estimated annual losses in Grenada due to M. hirsutus damage to crops and environment as US$ 3.5 million before biological controls were established. In the first few years of the mealybug problem in the Caribbean, affected countries suffered serious loss of trade because other countries would not accept shipments of agricultural produce from them (Peters and Watson, 1999). In the period 1995-1998, Peters (1999) estimated the island's overall losses and costs at US$ 18.3 million, of which the control programme cost US$ 1.1 million (Kairo et al., 2000). Overall losses and costs to St. Kitts in 1995-1997 were estimated by Francis (1999) as US$ 280,000, with an additional loss of trade estimated at US$ 22,000. For St. Lucia, losses were estimated at US$ 67,000 (Anon., 1999) and for St. Vincent and the Grenadines losses were estimated at US$ 3.4 million (Edwards, 1999). If the mealybug were to spread across the southern USA, it is estimated that it could cause losses of US$ 750 million per year (Moffit, 1999) of which $163 million would be in Florida (Milonas and Partsinelevos, 2017).

Environmental Impact

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In Grenada, severe devastation of natural habitats was seen as a result of the M. hirsutus outbreak: for example, in the Grand Etang area, a stand of 38 ha of blue mahoe (Hibiscus elatus), was destroyed (Peters and Watson, 1999; Kairo et al., 2000). This is the dominant tree species in the natural rainforest; if such devastation had become widespread, the soils, watersheds and hydrology and both terrestrial and marine natural habitats of the island would have been threatened.

Impact: Biodiversity

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If the M. hirsutus outbreak in Grenada had continued unchecked, the environmental damage and consequent habitat loss due to soil erosion would have resulted in significant loss of both terrestrial and marine biodiversity.

Social Impact

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Maconellicoccus hirsutus is highly invasive if introduced in the absence of its natural enemies, as demonstrated by its rapid spread through the Caribbean islands and beyond despite plant quarantine strengthening throughout the region. It negatively impacts peoples’ livelihoods in agriculture, horticulture, forestry and tourism. Infestation of ornamental plants and amenity trees reduces their amenity value due to distortion of growth, defoliation and disfigurement by sooty mould. Samanea saman, an important amenity tree particularly at tourist hotels, is severely affected. Before biological control was implemented, it had a devastating impact on the agriculture, natural forests and tourism of Grenada (Peters and Watson, 1999), damaging foreign exchange, trade in agricultural products and the local economy, ecology and hydrology.

Risk and Impact Factors

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Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Gregarious
Impact outcomes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Host damage
  • Modification of hydrology
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts forestry
  • Negatively impacts livelihoods
  • Negatively impacts tourism
  • Reduced amenity values
  • Transportation disruption
  • Negatively impacts animal/plant collections
  • Damages animal/plant products
  • Negatively impacts trade/international relations
Impact mechanisms
  • Fouling
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
  • Difficult to identify/detect in the field

Diagnosis

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Maconellicoccus hirsutus can only be identified authoritatively by examination of slide-mounted adult females under a compound light microscope and use of taxonomic keys. The combination of 9-segmented antennae, anal lobe bars, numerous dorsal oral rim ducts on all parts of the body except the limbs and long, flagellate dorsal setae make the species fairly easy to recognize in parts of the world where other Maconellicoccus species do not occur, but careful microscopic examination is necessary in countries where other species of Maconellicoccus are known to be present. Watson and Chandler (2000) describe a method for preparation of slide mounts and provide a key for the identification of M. hirsutus in the Caribbean region. A taxonomic key to all the species of Maconellicoccus is provided by Williams (1996). Keys for the identification of immature stages of M. hirsutus are given by Miller (1999) and Gullan (2000) provides a key to immature stages of M. hirsutus and five other common mealybug pests.

Detection and Inspection

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Examine plant material, especially growing tips, for distorted, stunted, bunchy growths containing white woolly wax, tiny salmon-pink eggs and sooty mould or sticky honeydew. The honeydew produced may attract attendant ants. The entire mealybug colony tends to become covered by white, sticky, elastic, woolly, wax ovisac material. When the sticky ovisac wax is parted with a needle, clusters of pink eggs and pink to grey females become visible. In heavier infestations, white masses of wax concealing mealybugs may occur in axils and on twigs and stems. Good light conditions are essential for examination; in poor light, a powerful flashlight is helpful. One of the commonest, favoured hosts of M. hirsutus is Hibiscus rosa-sinensis; this is a good host to monitor for early detection of the arrival of the pest. 

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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In parts of the world where other species of Maconellicoccus do not occur, slide-mounted adult females of M. hirsutus are fairly easy to recognize. Examination of slide-mounted material is advisable because some other species of mealybug are similar to M. hirsutus in appearance and damage caused, for example, Phenacoccus solenopsis and Paracoccus marginatus. P. marginatus differs from M. hirsutus in the field by having yellow body contents, not pink. When preserved in 80% alcohol, specimens of P. marginatus turn black in a matter of days, whereas M. hirsutus remain brown.

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.

Biological Control

Cryptolaemus montrouzieri, a native of Australia, has been used successfully to reduce large populations of M. hirsutus in Egypt, the Caribbean (Kairo et al., 2000) and India (Karnataka) (Mani and Krishnamoorthy, 2001). In Karnataka, India, on acid lime, two releases of 25 beetles per plant in January and February 1999 reduced the population of M. hirsutus to economically unimportant levels by mid-March (Mani and Krishnamoorthy, 1999); similarly, releases on guava (Psidium guajava) reduced the mealybug population to insignificant levels within one month (Mani and Krishnamoorthy, 2001).

In Egypt, however, C. montrouzieri was unable to survive the cold of winter in sufficient numbers to be effective and the main biological control agents there are the parasitoids Anagyrus kamali and Achrysopophagus sp. (Bartlett, 1978). In India, where grapes (Vitis vinifera) are grown in areas that may have quite a cold winter, the control agents used against M. hirsutus are the parasitoid Anagyrus dactylopii and the coccinellid predators Scymnus coccivora, S. conformis and S. gratiosus (Mani, 1989). Gowda and Manjunath (1998) reported that Hibiscus cannabinus was a suitable trap crop for M. hirsutus infesting mulberry (Morus) in Mysore.

In Egypt, almost total control of the mealybug is maintained using the parasitoid A. kamali (Williams, 1996). This parasitoid has also been introduced to Grenada, Trinidad and some other Caribbean islands to control M. hirsutus (Pollard, 1995; Garland, 1998; Anon., 2000a; Kairo et al., 2000; Michaud and Evans, 2000). Pesticide spraying against disease vectors may reduce the natural enemy populations at times and allow a resurgence of the mealybug. Additional introductions of predators such as C. montrouzieri have been used on some Caribbean islands to reduce mealybug populations further (Gautam et al., 1996; Anon., 2000a). For biological control purposes, M. hirsutus can be reared in the laboratory on pumpkins (Cucurbita), particularly those varieties with creases in the skin (Japanese pumpkin, Cucurbita moschata; acorn squash, Cucurbita pepo var. turbinata) and on sprouting Irish potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) (Mani, 1990; Meyerdirk, 1997; Serrano and Lapointe, 2002).

It has been found that damage to a territory newly invaded by M. hirsutus can be minimized if the pest can be identified quickly and biological control agents are introduced as soon as possible (Kairo et al., 2000; Michaud and Evans, 2000). The great success of the biological control programme against M. hirsutus in the Caribbean, using the predatory beetle C. montrouzieri and the hymenopteran endoparasitoids A. kamali and Gyranusoides indica, is largely attributable to these insects reproducing at least twice as fast as the mealybug (Persad and Khan, 2002; Meyerdirk and De Chi, 2005); populations were reduced by 82-97% and the parasitoids were found to be effective in tropical, subtropical and semi-desert conditions. Public awareness programmes were also important; public co-operation avoided heavy use of pesticides that might have impaired establishment of the biological control agents and the public helped to disseminate the natural enemies (Kairo et al., 2000).

For Trinidad and Tobago, Singh (1999) estimated control costs of M. hirsutus in 1995-1997 to be US$ 5.1 million, while probable losses averted by control were estimated at US$ 41 million, giving a benefit:cost ratio of 8:1.

Colonies of M. hirsutus hidden in crevices amongst cabbage-like growths can be difficult or impossible for natural enemies to attack, especially for the larger coccinellid predators. This may limit the success of biological control agents in regulating pest populations because they cannot reach the mealybugs.

In Papua New Guinea, attendance by ants has been recorded to affect the level of attack of the mealybugs by parasitoids (Buckley and Gullan, 1991); the more aggressive the ant, the lower the level of parasitism observed. The effectiveness of natural enemies in regulating populations of M. hirsutus can be increased if ants attending the mealybugs can be controlled (Greve and Ismay, 1983).

Host-Plant Resistance

In Egypt, the grape varieties Romi and Banati were found to be susceptible to attack by M. hirsutus, with the variety Moscati being the most tolerant and least affected (Amin and Emam, 1996).

Chemical Control

Mani (1989) mentions that sticky banding such as 'tanglefoot'; has been used in India to protect grape bunches from infestation by M. hirsutus.

Pesticide sprays tend to be of limited effectiveness against M. hirsutus because of its habit of hiding in crevices and the waxy covering of its body (Williams, 1996); systemic insecticides are more likely to be effective. Mani (1989) states that most granular insecticides are ineffective against M. hirsutus. Any pesticide used against M. hirsutus should be carefully selected to avoid injury to its natural enemies, because they are likely to be important in helping to keep populations at low levels in the long term. The first-instar stage is most susceptible to pesticide treatments (Persad and Khan, 2000); however, the same study found that all the pesticides tested were highly toxic to the main biological control agent, A. kamali.

In India, there is some evidence of pesticide resistance developing (Mani, 1989), so pesticides are only used to control heavy infestations of the mealybug; populations are subsequently maintained at low levels by biological control.

Inorganic oil emulsion sprays gave good control of M. hirsutus on guava in Tamil Nadu, India (Jalaluddin and Sadakathulla, 1998). Anitha et al. (1999) tested the alkaloid abrine, isolated from seeds of Abrus precatorius, on M. hirsutus and found evidence that abrine could have a drastic effect on the population density of the mealybug.

IPM Programmes

In India, the main biological control agents used to regulate M. hirsutus on grapes are the parasitoid A. dactylopii and the predators Scymnus coccivora and S. gratiosus, as part of an integrated pest management regime involving pesticide use if the mealybug populations reach a high level (Mani, 1989).

In India, integrated pest management using both coccinellid beetle predators and pesticides (chlorpyrifos) has been achieved on grapes (Mani, 1989).

The M. hirsutus invasion of the Caribbean region has resulted in several long-term benefits, including strengthening of plant quarantine, development of taxonomic expertise in the region, development of export protocols, development of a capacity for biological control and reduction in the use of toxic pesticides, creating a suitable environment for the development of integrated pest management (Kairo et al., 2000).

Phytosanitary Measures

Garland (1998) recommends a fumigant for use against M. hirsutus on plants in greenhouses in Canada. Since its appearance in the Caribbean region in 1994/1995, M. hirsutus is regarded as of high quarantine importance by the CPPC. If regulation is required, planting material of host-plant species of M. hirsutus should be inspected in the growing season previous to shipment and be found free of infestation. A phytosanitary certificate should guarantee absence of the pest from consignments of either planting material or produce. Any shipments of fresh plant material from an infested country to one that is not yet infested but could be, should be examined thoroughly to detect M. hirsutus.

References

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Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS)http://griis.org/Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.

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10/01/21 Updated by:

Gillian W Watson, Department of Life Sciences, The Natural History Museum, UK

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