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Long-tailed mealybug - Pseudococcus longispinus

By N A Martin (2019)

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Click to collapse Classification Info






Pseudococcus longispinus (Targioni Tozzetti, 1867)

Click to collapse Common names Info

Long-tailed mealybug

Click to collapse Synonyms Info

Dactylopius longispinus Targioni Tozzetti, 1867

Dactylopius longifilis Comstock, 1881

Boisduvalia lauri Signoret 1875

Oudablis lauri (Signoret 1875)

Coccus laurinus Boisduval, 1867

Pseudococcus laurinus (Boisduval, 1867)

Dactylopius hoyae Signoret, 1875

Dactylopius pteridis Signoret, 1875

Dactylopius adonidum (Linnaeus), (Maskell (1890), misidentification)

Click to collapse Biostatus and distribution Info

The adventive Long-tailed mealybug has been in New Zealand for over 100 years. It lives on a wide variety of cultivated, naturalised and native plants. It is a pest on outdoor plants and those grown in greenhouses.

Conservation status: This adventive mealybug is a pest of crops and plants in gardens and native reserves.

Click to collapse Life stages and annual cycle Info

The Long-tailed mealybug breeds all year. There are three to four generations depending upon locality and seasonal factors. During the summer all life stages are found on leaves and fruit, but when the weather becomes colder, the mealybugs move to more sheltered places such as under bark where they continue to reproduce. Breeding is slower at the lower winter temperatures. The time for a generation varies from 1 month in the heat of summer to 4 months during the cold of winter.

The mealybugs tend to live where they can find ‘shelter’ such as pushing up against the veins of plants, moulted skins of other insects, or against scale insects such as the Flocculent flax scale.

The adult female is oval, about 3 mm long. The body is yellowish-grey and may have a slightly darker stripe on its midline. The body is covered with powdery white wax and is surrounded by long white wax filaments. At the posterior end of the body are two pairs of much longer white wax filaments. The mature female has a pair of short antennae and three pairs of legs that are not visible from above. There is no distinct division between the head or thorax (middle section of the body) and abdomen. On the underside of the head there is a short rostrum that guides the feeding stylets. After mating and when it is fully grown, the female mealybug settles on the plant and produces a white fluffy wax chamber around herself. She gives live birth to small first instar (stage) nymphs.

Nymphs hatch from the eggs within the female’s body and are born live. The nymphs are like small orange-brown adult females. The pair of antennae and three pairs of legs are not visible from above. There are three female nymphal instars (stages) and two male nymphal instars. These feeding stages grow by moulting (changing skin). The second instar male makes a fluffy white cocoon in which develop two pre-adult non-feeding stages, a prepupa and a pupa. The prepupa and pupa have wing buds. The adult male emerges from the pupa. The moulted prepupal and pupal skins are pushed out the end of the cocoon. The adult male does not have a rostrum or stylets and does not feed. When it is ready to emerge from the cocoon, the back end of the cocoon is pushed open and the male backs out. After it has opened the back of the cocoon, its transparent wings (1 pair) expand and harden. The red bodied male grows a pair of long white wax tails. It is presumed that the wax tails help balance the insect in flight. The male may mate with females of the same colony or fly to another colony to mate.

Feeding and honeydew

Mealybug adult females and nymphs have sucking mouthparts. Specially shaped rods called stylets are held in the short sheath-like rostrum. When it wishes to feed, the mealybug moves the tip of the rostrum onto the surface of the plant leaf, stem or fruit. The stylets are then gradually pushed into the plant and manoeuvred into the phloem (nutrient transport vessels) of the plant. The mealybugs suck the plant’s sap, which is high in sugars and low in other nutrients. Mealybugs have a short white wax anal tube through which they excrete the excess sugary liquid, which is called honeydew.

Walking, flying and dispersal

The adult male has legs and wings. It can walk around the leaves where its cocoon was and it can fly to other leaves or to different plants. Adult females and nymphs also have legs and can walk. They may move about the group of leaves where they were born. In other insects with a none flying adult female, the first stage larvae or nymphs are able to disperse to new plants. They usually do this using the wind. It is likely that some first instar nymphs climb to a prominent place on a leaf or branch and await a gust of wind.

Click to collapse Recognition Info

Like many other mealybugs the long-tailed mealybug is covered by white wax. They are pale brown or purple under the wax. They may occur singly or in dense colonies. However, it can easily be recognised because it is the only species in New Zealand where the adult female has both four very long posterior tails and long lateral wax filaments. Other species may have two to four long posterior wax filaments and obvious lateral wax filaments.

Click to collapse Natural enemies Info

No pathogens of the Long-tailed mealybug, Pseudococcus longispinus, are known in New Zealand.


Twelve parasitoid and hyperpeparasitoid wasps (Hymenoptera) have been reared from Long-tailed mealybugs in New Zealand. Some were deliberately released into New Zealand to provide biological control of the Long-tailed mealybug and other pest species.


Eight species of predator have been observed feeding on Long-tailed mealybugs. These predators include five species of ladybird (four adventive), larvae of two kinds of flies, predatory gall flies (Cecidomyiidae) and hoverflies (Syrphidae), and larvae of a lacewing.

Table: Natural enemies of Long-tailed mealybug, Pseudococcus longispinus (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), from Plant-SyNZ database (27 December 2018). The reliability index shows the quality of evidence for the host association (0-10, 10=high quality).
Scientific NameCommon NameClassificationEnemy TypeReliability IndexBiostatus
Alamella mira Noyes, 1988 (Wasp)Hymenoptera: Encyrtidaeparasitoid10adventive
Anagyrus fusciventris (Girault, 1915) (Wasp)Hymenoptera: Encyrtidaeparasitoid10adventive
Aphobetus nana (Boucek, 1988) (Wasp)Hymenoptera: Pteromalidaeparasitoid10endemic
Coccophagus gurneyi Compere, 1929 (Wasp)Hymenoptera: Aphelinidaeparasitoid10adventive
Gyranusoidea advena Beardsley, 1969 (Wasp)Hymenoptera: Encyrtidaeparasitoid10adventive
Ophelosia bifasciata Girault, 1916 (Wasp)Hymenoptera: Pteromalidaeparasitoid10adventive
Ophelosia charlesi Berry, 1995 (Wasp)Hymenoptera: Pteromalidaeparasitoid10adventive
Ophelosia keatsi Girault, 1927 (Wasp)Hymenoptera: Pteromalidaeparasitoid10adventive
Parectromoides varipes (Girault, 1915) (Wasp)Hymenoptera: Encyrtidaeparasitoid10adventive
Tetracnemoidea brevicornis (Girault, 1915) (Wasp)Hymenoptera: Encyrtidaeparasitoid10adventive
Tetracnemoidea peregrina (Compere, 1939) (Wasp)Hymenoptera: Encyrtidaeparasitoid10adventive
Tetracnemoidea sydneyensis (Timberlake, 1929) (Wasp)Hymenoptera: Encyrtidaeparasitoid10adventive
Cryptolaemus montrouzieri Mulsant, 1853Mealybug ladybird (Beetle)Coleoptera: Coccinellidaepredator10adventive
Cryptoscenea australiensis (Enderlein, 1906) (Lacewing)Neuroptera: Coniopterygidaepredator10adventive
Diadiplosis koebelei (Koebele, 1893)Mealybug gallfly (Fly)Diptera: Cecidomyiidaepredator10adventive
Diomus sp. nr subclarus (Blackburn, 1895)Diomus mealybug ladybird (Beetle)Coleoptera: Coccinellidaepredator10adventive
Harmonia conformis (Boisduval, 1835)Large spotted ladybird (Beetle)Coleoptera: Coccinellidaepredator10adventive
Melanostoma fasciatum (Macquart, 1850)Small hoverfly (Fly)Diptera: Syrphidaepredator10endemic
Rhyzobius sp. (Beetle)Coleoptera: Coccinellidaepredator7unknown
Scymnus loewi Mulsant, 1850Loew's ladybird (Beetle)Coleoptera: Coccinellidaepredator10adventive

Click to collapse Host plants Info

The Long-tailed mealybug, lives on ferns, herbacious plants, shrubs, trees and climbers. It is found on crops, naturalised plants and native plants. It mainly lives on the underside of leaves, but it can be found on all parts of a plant including under bark. The young mealybugs often settle by against something prominent on the plant.

Feeding and honeydew

Mealybug adult females and nymphs have sucking mouthparts. Specially shaped rods called stylets are held in the short sheath-like rostrum. When it wishes to feed, the mealybug moves the tip of the rostrum onto the surface of the plant leaf or stem. The stylets are then gradually pushed into the plant and manoeuvred into the phloem (nutrient transport vessels) of the plant. The mealybugs suck the plant’s sap, which is high in sugars and low in other nutrients. Mealybugs have a short white wax anal tube through which they excrete the excess sugary liquid, which is called honeydew.

Table: Host plants of the Long-tailed mealybug, Pseudococcus longispinus (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) from Plant-SyNZ database (27 December 2018). The reliability score shows the quality of evidence for the host association (1-10, 10=high).
Common Name(s)Scientific NameFamilyReliability IndexBiostatus
Maidenhair fern, Huruhuru tapairu, Makawe tapairuAdiantum sp.Pteridaceae7unknown
Hen and chickens fern, Hen and chickens, Mother spleenwort, Manamana, Mauku, Mouki, Maku, Moku, MoukuAsplenium bulbiferum G.Forst.Aspleniaceae9endemic
Rasp fern, PukupukuBlechnum medium (R.Br.) Christenh.Blechnaceae8indigenous, non-endemic
Four-leaved water clover, Nardoo, PepperwortMarsilea sp.Marsileaceae7naturalised
Feijoa, Pineapple guavaAcca sellowiana (O.Berg) BurretMyrtaceae10naturalised
Kiwifruit, Kiwi berryActinidia arguta (Siebold & Zucc.) Planch. ex Miq.Actinidiaceae10cultivated
Chinese gooseberry, Kiwifruit, Yang-taoActinidia deliciosa (A.Chev.) C.F.Liang & A.R.FergusonActinidiaceae8naturalised
Cruel plant, Kapok vine, Moth plant, White bladder flowerAraujia horturum E.Fourn.Apocynaceae10naturalised
Chatham Island kakaha, Silver spear, KakahaAstelia chathamica (Skottsb.) L.B.MooreAsteliaceae9endemic
BegoniaBegonia sp.Begoniaceae7unknown
 Cattleya sp.Orchidaceae7cultivated
Atlantic cedar, Atlas cedarCedrus atlantica (Endl.) CarrièrePinaceae10cultivated
Kangaroo vine, Native grapeCissus antartica Vent.Vitaceae10cultivated
Meyer lemon, Chinese dwarf lemonCitrus ×meyeri Yu. TanakaRutaceae10cultivated
English grapefruitCitrus ×paradisi Macfad.Rutaceae10cultivated
TangeloCitrus ×tangelo J.W.Ingram & H.E.MooreRutaceae10cultivated
New Zealand grapefruitCitrus grandis × reticulataRutaceae10cultivated
LemonCitrus limon (L.) Burm.f.Rutaceae10naturalised
Clementine, Mandarin, TangerineCitrus reticulata BlancoRutaceae10naturalised
Sweet orange, Navel orangeCitrus sinensis (L.) OsbeckRutaceae10naturalised
Satsuma mandarin, SatsumaCitrus unshiu Marcow.Rutaceae10cultivated
Cabbage tree, Giant dracena, Grass palm, Palm lily, Sago palm, Ti, Kāuka, Kiokio, Kōuka, Tī, Tī awe, Ti kōuka, Tī para, Tī pua, Tī rākau, WhanakeCordyline australis (G.Forst.) Endl.Asparagaceae10endemic
Hawaiian ti, Happy plant, Pacific Island cabbage tree, Tī poreCordyline fruticosa (L.) A.Chev.Asparagaceae10naturalised
Three Kings cabbage treeCordyline obtecta (Graham) BakerAsparagaceae10indigenous, non-endemic
Karaka nut, Karaka, KōpīCorynocarpus laevigatus J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.Corynocarpaceae10endemic
Mountain cabbage treeCussonia paniculata Eckl. & Zeyh.Araliaceae10cultivated
Alpine violet, Cyclamen, Persian violet, SowbreadCyclamen sp.Primulaceae7cultivated
 Cyperus albostriatus Schrad.Cyperaceae10naturalised
Broom, Atlas broomCytisus sp.Leguminosae7naturalised
Persimon, Chinese persimmon, Date plum, Japanese persimmon, Kaki, Key figDiospyros kaki Thunb.Ebenaceae10cultivated
Chinese medlar, Japanese medlar, LoquatEriobotrya japonica (Thunb.) Lindl.Rosaceae10naturalised
Japanese spindle treeEuonymus japonicus Thunb.Celastraceae10naturalised
Common fig, Edible fig, Brown Turkey figFicus carica L.Moraceae10naturalised
Chinese banyan, Glossy-leaf fig, Hill's weeping fig (var. hillii), Laurel fig, Malayan banyanFicus microcarpa L. f. var. hillii (F. M. Bailey) CornerMoraceae10cultivated
Ivy, English ivyHedera helix L.Araliaceae10naturalised
Pigeonwood, Kaiwhir, Kaiwhiria, Kōporokaiwhiri, Pōporokaiwhiri, Pōporokaiwhiria, Porokaiwhiri, Porokaiwhiria, PoroporokaiwhiriaHedycarya arborea J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.Monimiaceae9endemic
Australian frangipani, Sweetshade, Wing-seed treeHymenosporum flavum (Hook.) F.Muell.Pittosporaceae10naturalised
Three-squareIsolepis prolifer (Rottb.) R.Br.Cyperaceae10indigenous, non-endemic
Leafless rush, WīwīJuncus edgariae L.A.S.Johnson & K.L.WilsonJuncaceae10endemic
 Kalanchoe sp.Crassulaceae7cultivated
 Kunzea tenuicaulis de LangeMyrtaceae8endemic
Brushbox, Vinegar tree, Brisbane boxLophostemon confertus (R.Br.) Peter G.Wilson & J.T.Waterh.Myrtaceae10cultivated
Apple, Crab-appleMalus ×domestica Borkh.Rosaceae10naturalised
Bottlebrush, Honey myrtle, PaperbarkMelaleuca sp.Myrtaceae7cultivated
Red mapou, Red matipo, Māpau, Māpou, Mataira, Matipou, Takapou, Tāpau, TīpauMyrsine australis (A.Rich.) AllanPrimulaceae10endemic
Oleander, Rose-bayNerium oleander L.Apocynaceae10naturalised
Passion flowerPassiflora sp.Passifloraceae7unknown
CinerariaPericallis ×hybrida (Scheidw.) B.Nord.Compositae10naturalised
AvocadoPersea americana Mill.Lauraceae10naturalised
Moth orchidPhalaenopsis sp.Orchidaceae7cultivated
BeanPhaseolus sp.Leguminosae7unknown
Dwarf bean, French bean, Garden bean, Green bean, Kidney bean, Pole bean, Snap bean, String beanPhaseolus vulgaris L.Leguminosae10cultivated
Flax, Lowland flax, New Zealand flax, Swamp flax, Harakeke, Harareke, KōrariPhormium tenax J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.Hemerocallidaceae10endemic
Monterey pine, Radiata pinePinus radiata D. DonPinaceae10naturalised
 Pittosporum bracteolatum Endl.Pittosporaceae10cultivated
Marsh ribbonwood, Salt marsh ribbonwood, Houi, Mākaka, RunaPlagianthus divaricatus J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.Malvaceae8endemic
European plum, Greengage, PlumPrunus ×domestica L.Rosaceae10cultivated
GuavaPsidium sp.Myrtaceae7unknown
European pear, PearPyrus communis L.Rosaceae10naturalised
Asian pear, NashiPyrus pyrifolia (Burm.f.) NakaiRosaceae10cultivated
Dock, SorrelRumex sp.Polygonaceae7unknown
Queensland umbrella tree, Umbrella treeSchefflera actinophylla (Endl.) HarmsAraliaceae10naturalised
Tamarillo, Tree tomatoSolanum betaceum Cav.Solanaceae10naturalised
Apple of Peru, Peruvian apple, TomatoSolanum lycopersicum L.Solanaceae10naturalised
Flannel leaf, Kerosene plant, Tobacco weed, Wild tobacco tree, Woolly nightshadeSolanum mauritianum Scop.Solanaceae10naturalised
Potato, Hīwai, Huiwaiwaka, Kapana, Mahetau, Parareka, Parate, Rīwai, Taewa, TaewhaSolanum tuberosum L.Solanaceae10naturalised
 Sophora microphylla sens. lat. AitonLeguminosae7indigenous, non-endemic
 Tecomanthe speciosa W.R.B.Oliv.Bignoniaceae10endemic
Strawberry cloverTrifolium fragiferum L.Leguminosae8naturalised
Crimson cloverTrifolium incarnatum L.Leguminosae8naturalised
White cloverTrifolium repens L.Leguminosae8naturalised
Subclover, Subterranean cloverTrifolium subterraneum L.Leguminosae8naturalised
Rabbiteye blueberry, Rabbit-eye blueberryVaccinium ashei J.M.ReadeEricaceae10cultivated
Hebe, Shrub speedwell, Veronica, Speedwell, KoromikoVeronica sp.Plantaginaceae7endemic
GrapeVitis vinifera L.Vitaceae10naturalised
 Zamia sp.Zamiaceae7cultivated
Arum lily, Calla lily, Pig lilyZantedeschia sp.Araceae7unknown

Click to collapse Control Info

Home gardeners who wish to control the Long-tailed mealybug should ask their local garden centre or horticultural supplier about the available options.

Commercial growers who need to control the Long-tailed mealybug should consult their professional organisation for up-to-date advice.

Click to collapse Additional information Info

Why is there so much white wax?

Most mealybugs produce much white flocculent wax with which they are covered and which also covers the areas of plants they inhabit. To the human eye this makes it much easier to find the colonies of mealybugs. However, does it make it easier for predators and parasitoids to find them, or is the white wax some kind of deterrent and warning colouration? Other insects with a scale stage also cover themselves with white wax. This suggests to me that it may be some kind of deterrent and warning.

Click to collapse Information sources Info

Cox JM. 1979. Longtailed mealy bug, Preudococcus longispinus (Targioni-Tozzetti), life cycle. DSIR Information Series No. 105/32.

Cox JM. 1987. Pseudococcidae (Insecta: Hemiptera). Fauna of New Zealand. 11: 1-230.

Plant-SyNZ: Invertebrate herbivore-host plant association database.

Click to collapse Acknowledgements Info

The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited (Plant & Food Research) for permission to use photographs.

Click to collapse Other images Info

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