By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Bad bug found here
Placeholder Image
Forsyth County News
Anyone who thinks they may have found the pink hibiscus mealybug on plants or would like more information can contact the extension office at (770) 887-2418.

The Forsyth County Extension Office is asking residents to be on the lookout for a pest that poses a threat to various plants.

The pink hibiscus mealybug, also known to scientists as maconellicoccus hirsutus, was found recently on a county resident's plant.

The hibiscus was bought from a retail vendor in south Forsyth. The extension office is concerned that others may have had mealybugs on them as well.

The tiny bugs, about 1/8 of an inch long, are pink to reddish-brown and covered with a white, mealy wax.

According to information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the bugs apparently entered Florida in 2002. This is the first scare in north Georgia since 2004.

Jan Vandevelde, county master gardener coordinator for the extension office, said the Georgia Department of Agriculture is investigating the insect's presence in Forsyth and has cleared out possible infested plant materials where the bug was found.

"It's a big pest in the Caribbean, it's a pest in south Florida, they're not too sure about Georgia," she said.
"It was shipped in on a tropical hibiscus plant. We have no idea how much are really here and that's part of the process."

Vandevelde said the extension office is hoping to get the word out about the bug.

"We do have mealybugs in the area, but this is a different species," she said. "This is a new and invasive species and the reason why this bug is worse than the others, too, is it secretes a toxin when it feeds on the plants and it causes the leaves to deform and can eventually kill the plant if they get enough of them on there."

VandeVelde said the bug lays white, cottony egg masses in and around the leaves and stems of plants.

The bugs target, among others, peanuts, cotton, okra and ornamental plants. There is no chemical treatment to fight them.

The extension office asks that anyone who has a hibiscus or other flowering plant bought during the summer or spring to check the plants for tiny, white, cottony egg masses, small, grayish-pink insects and several distorted leaves.

Vandevelde said not to move infested plants, but to bring a leaf and insect sample, sealed in a plastic bag, to the extension office for further investigation.