Mealybugs are unarmoured soft-bodied scale, covered with a white ‘mealy’ (waxy) coating and usually live in small colonies. The wingless females have legs (unlike some other scale) and can move about, while males are smaller, gnat-like and have wings. Adult males have a very short life span after pupation and do not feed at all, living only to mate with females. Newly hatched nymphs, called crawlers, are soft bodied and yellow. The waxy coating develops over them when they mature. They are quite active at first but settle down once they have found a suitable feeding site. The larvae of the mealy bug predator lady beetle closely resemble mealy bugs, especially the long-tailed mealy bug, but the larvae are almost three times the size of the mealy bugs.

Adult size: 4 mm

Out and about

They inhabit warmer regions as they like moist, warm climates. They will be about in the warmer months, and are often present in greenhouses. They are found all over the world. In Australia they are in all states.

Reproduction and Life cycle

Like other scale, the females and males have dissimilar life cycles. The females have three instars whereas the males have an extra pupal stage, emerging as winged adults. Some species such as the long-tailed mealy bugs give birth to live young, while others lay eggs , up to as many as 600. in a cottony, waxy mass on the underside of leaves. Their life cycle is very short, with new nymphs hatching every 2-3 weeks.

To deter

To control

- Soapy water spray - White oil spray - Neem oil spray - Tea of garlic, nettles, basil, or wormwood - Spray with pyrethrum Since ants protect mealy bugs from predators, sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the plants to get rid of them. See information on ants for other methods of dealing with them.

Plants to repel

Plants to attract


Hoverflies / Lacewings / Lady beetles (mealy bug destroyer lady beetle specifically preys on mealy bugs)
Why they are a Pest
They suck sap from plants and, like aphids and scale (which they are related to), they secrete honey dew, attract ants, and can transmit diseases from plant to plant. They cause the flower buds of fruits and vegetables to drop and leaves to yellow and fall. They have a huge range of plants they attack. They are common on citrus and ornamental trees as well as vegetable plants including passionfruit, pineapple, coffee, avocado, bananas, eggplant, grapes, peppers, sugarcane. The honeydew itself can grow sooty mould (a fungus), which will not kill the plant but does inhibit photosynthesis. It can be treated with a soap spray, white oil or neem spray.