Rhodesgrass Mealybugs in Turf
The rhodesgrass mealybug, Antonina graminis: is a sporadic pest in North Carolina and is much more common in the Gulf states and lower tier states. It has a wide range of host grasses, however. Bermudagrass, St. Augustinegrass, tall fescue, and centipedegrass can be seriously injured. Mealybugs typically feed under leaf sheaths, on nodes, or in the crowns. They feed on plant sap with piercing-sucking mouthparts and disrupt the plant's vascular system which will interfere with water and nutrient uptake resulting in discoloration and wilt. Damage may be most noticeable during periods of drought or stress.
Stunting, thinning, and death may result in a heavy infestation. Masses of waxy, white secretions may be noticed along with possible honeydew and sooty mold. Mealybug damage is often heaviest in sunny locations during hot, dry periods. It is an infrequent pest in North Carolina.
Try to maintain healthy turf and collect and destroy clippings. Choice of turf cultivar can make a significant difference.
Pesticides such as Talstar, Tempo, or Scimitar can be applied by certified applicators, but thorough coverage is needed and a surfactant is often helpful. Though we have not tested it, imidacloprid (Merit) is effective on other mealybugs should be effective and is available to homeowners. It may be used because the turf site is on the label. Sevin may also be used. It might be best to rotate chemical choices. We have no reliable thresholds, so treatment should be based on the seriousness of the population, damage, time of year, weather, type of grass and general good judgement. It might be unrealistic to think that they can ever be completely eradicated from a lawn.
- Bermudagrass Scale, Rhodesgrass Mealybug, & Ground Pearl. Willaimson, J. 2018. Clemson Cooperative Extension Home & Garden Information Center.
- Distribution and Abundance of Parasites of the Rhodesgrass Mealybug, Antonina graminis: Reassessment of a Classic Example of Biological Control in the Southeastern United States. Chantos, J. M., S. B. Vinson, and K. R. Helms. 2009. Journal of Insect Science 9: 48.
- 2018 Pest Control for Professional Turfgrass Managers. Bowman, D. et al. 2017. NC State Extension Publication AG-408. 81 pp.
- Extension Plant Pathology Publications and Factsheets
- Horticultural Science Publications
- North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual
For assistance with a specific problem, contact your local Cooperative Extension Cente