HOLY HIBISCUS, IT’S A MEALYBUG!

First reported in Florida in 2002, pink hibiscus mealybugs are still munching their way through plants in Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties. There’s no known control for this pest other than biological control using natural enemies such as predatory ladybugs and wasps. Mealybugs don’t respond to pesticides, and besides, pesticides will kill the mealybug-eating parasites.

Of course, there’s nothing funny about these sap-sucking insects, but I did find myself in a humorous situation one day when I told a homeowner that pink hibiscus mealybugs were eating her bougainvillea. I think she felt kind of sorry for me, because she very gently and politely took me aside and whispered, “Sir, this isn’t pink hibiscus, it’s bougainvillea.”

She obviously thought that pink hibiscus mealybugs only eat pink hibiscus and that I should take some remedial classes in plant identification.

So I very gently and politely whispered back that a pink hibiscus mealybug is called a pink hibiscus mealybug because of its pink body fluid, and that her bougainvillea was of course a bougainvillea — one of the finest ones I would ever see in my lifetime once the mealybugs could be controlled.

So she asked me to look at the crumpled, yellowing leaves of her tomato plants. “Pink hibiscus mealybugs?” she asked. I told her yes. “And my cucumbers?” Yes.
Exasperated, she said, “So I suppose the pink hibiscus is the only plant that doesn’t get pink hibiscus mealybugs?”

Did I tell you that I love my job?

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