The Pink Hibiscus Mealy Bug (Maconellicoccus hirsutus) has caused tremendous economic losses in many Caribbean countries since its introduction to Grenada in 1994. Due to the exportation of flowers and fresh fruits trade in some countries has been restricted, as this plant pest has affected agricultural products. Between 1995 and 1998, an estimated total of 18.3 million USD was lost due to control costs and the impact of this plant pest. Trade was deeply impacted as countries would not accept shipment of agricultural produce.
Ornamental plants used in hotels have incurred increased costs as these plants for landscaping have had to be replaced due to infestation of the hibiscus plant. The Timber industry is another casualty of the pink hibiscus mealybug as some species of forest trees are affected by this pest as well.
The toxic saliva of the pink mealybug causes the malformation of fruits, leaves, and shoot growth, often stunting plant growth, leaving black sooty mold or the occasional death of a plant.
Imported live plant material from affected areas presents a high infestation risk to non-infested countries. As such always declare any agricultural items that you may have in your possession when traveling. There is also a high possibility of continued accidental introduction as plant material can be moved through other vectors like air transport/mail, shipping, cut flowers, fruit and vegetables, ornamental plants, or even vegetative propagules.
Currently, biological control agents have been effective in the management of this pest in Grenada and other Caribbean countries.
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Source – Our Policy Brief – Invasive Species Threaten Livelihoods and Valuable Biodiversity in the Caribbean