Cotton Mealy bug

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About Mealy bug awareness Program



  • qThree species of mealy bug are found on cotton. Phenacoccus solenopsis is the most predominant in Punjab.

  • qReproduction in mealy bug is mostly parthenogenetic.

  • qMature female lays eggs in ovisacs. Each ovisac contains 150- 600 eggs, majority of which are female.

  • qEggs hatch in 3 to 9 days into nymphs called ‘crawlers’, which are very mobile. The nymphal stage lasts for 22-25 days.

  • qIndividual mealy bug take 25- 30 days to grow into adults under normal conditions.

  • qThere are 12- 15 generations in a  year.

  • qThe species survives cold conditions as eggs in ovisac or other stages, both on the host plant or in the soil.  In warm climates, the insects remain active and reproduce round the year.






  • qMealy bug are polyphagous and multiply on different hosts.
  • qInitially the pest breeds on weeds and later migrates to cotton crop.
  • qParthenium is a favourite host for the pest. It also feeds on Itsit, datura, milkweed, Chenopodium sp.
  • qIt multiplies well on okra, tomato and brinjal.






  • qCrawlers crawl from an infected to healthy plant. 
  • qSmall crawlers are readily transported by wind, rain, birds,  clothing and vehicle on new plants.
  • qThe waxy coating facilitates passive transport of the insect by their sticking/clinging to equipments, animals or people moving during field operations.
  • qLong-distance movement is through transport of infested cotton sticks or seed cotton. 
  • qCrawlers are also carried through irrigated water, when the mealy bug infested plants are thrown in water channel. 
  • qAnts, attracted by the honeydew, carry crawlers of mealy bug from plant to plant.


  • qMealy bug provide ants with their sugary secretion (honeydew) as food and in return ants help in spreading of mealy bug.
  • qAnts  provide protection to mealy bug from predatory ladybird beetles, parasites and other natural enemies.
  • qAnts  keep mealy bug colony clean from detritus that accumulate in the secreted honeydew, which may be harmful to the colony .

Association of ants with mealy bug







  • qAdults and nymphs weaken the plants by sucking  sap from leaves, twigs, stems, roots and fruiting bodies.
  • qBolls are deformed, fewer and smaller in size in affected plants.
  • qHoney dew secreted by the pest encourages development of black sooty mould which  adversely affecting photosynthetic activity.

Mealy bug infesting cotton plant (1), Flower (2),Square (3), Green boll (4)








  • qRemove alternate host plants like Parthenium  and other weed hosts in and around fields.

  • qDo not throw uprooted weeds in water channel.
  • qDestroy ant colonies during land preparation.


  • qLocate ant colonies and destroy them by drenching of chlorpyriphos 20 EC @ 2 .5 ml/l or by application of 5% malathion dust. This operation can be carried out 2 or 3 times during the season. 
  • qUproot severely affected cotton plants at early stage of infestation, bury them in a pit and spray with any one of the recommended chemical insecticide or bio-pesticide such as Verticillium lecanii .
  • qWash equipments with a jet of water or spray with chemical insecticides before moving to uninfected portions in a crop.
  • qMonitor fields regularly and give spot application of recommended insecticides to avoid further spread of mealy bug from infested plants. Spot application helps in conservation of coccinellid beetles, wasps, etc, which are important predators of mealy bug nymphs.

Coccinellid predators: 1. Cryptolaemus montrouzieri, 2. Brumus suturalis near mealy bug, 3. Coccinella septumpunctata, 4. Cheilomenes sexmaculata 5.Coccinellid larvae feeding on mealy bug ;
  • qSpray V. lecanii (2x108 cfu/ml) (fungal pathogen) @ 5 g or ml per litre of water during high humid days.
  • qSpray fish oil rosin soap (FORS) @ 20gm/litre of water twice at an interval of 15-20 days, depending on pest incidence.
  • qIn case of severe infestation, spray recommended insecticides such as carbamate (carbaryl 50 WP @ 2500 g/ha or thiodicarb 75WP @ 625 gm/ha) or organophosphates (profenofos 50EC @ 1250 ml/ha, quinalphos 25 EC @ 2000 ml/ha, acephate 75 SP @ 2000 gm/ha or chlorpyriphos 25 EC @ 5000 ml/ha) 1-3 times as per need, in rotation.
  • qDo not allow the cattle to graze in infested fields.
  • qRemove all crop residues in previously infested fields, bury them and spray with any one of the recommended insecticide or bio-pesticide such as V. lecanii.
  • q Store cotton sticks away from the fields and if possible a barrier of insecticide (e.g. malathion dusting) should be made around the stacks.





© NCIPM, New Delhi. This information is being provided as a part of "Mealy bug awareness Program for Punjab", sponsored by Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, in partnership with State Agriculture Department, Government of Punjab and Central IPM Centre, Jalandar. For suggestions, please mail us at or Contact Dr. O.M. Bambawale, Director, National Centre for Integrated Pest Management, LBS Building, IARI Campus, New Delhi, 110 012, India or Call us at +91-11-25843936;+91-11-25843935;+91-11-25481472(Fax); +91-9868276387 (Mobile)

You can also contact:

Dr. R.K. Tanwar, Principal Scientist (Entomology) at +91-9868843464 (Mobile)

Dr. P. Jeya Kumar, Senior Scientist (Entomology) at  +91-9810471113 (Mobile)