Mealybugs are sexually dimorphic, meaning that the sexes have distinct morphological differences. Females are nymphal, exhibit reduced morphology, and are wingless, though unlike many female scale insects, they often retain legs and can move. The females do not change completely and are likely to be neotenic (exhibiting nymphal characteristics). Males are winged and do change completely during their lives. Since mealybugs (as well as all other Hemiptera) are hemimetabolous insects, they do not undergo complete metamorphosis in the true sense of the word, i.e. there are no clear larval, pupal and adult stages, and the wings do not develop internally. However, male mealybugs do exhibit a radical change during their life cycle, changing from wingless, ovoid nymphs to "wasp-like" flying adults.
Mealybug females feed on plant sap, normally in roots or other crevices. They attach themselves to the plant and secrete a powdery wax layer (therefore the name mealybug) used for protection while they suck the plant juices. The males on the other hand, are short-lived as they do not feed at all as adults and only live to fertilize the females. Male citrus mealy bugs fly to the females and resemble fluffy gnats.
The most serious pests are mealybugs that feed on citrus; other species damage sugarcane, grapes, pineapple (Jahn et al. 2003), coffee trees, cassava, ferns, cacti, gardenias and orchids. Mealybugs only tend to be serious pests in the presences of ants because the ants protect them from predators and parasites. Mealybugs also infest some species of carnivorous plant such as Sarracenia (pitcher plants), in such cases it is difficult to eradicate them without repeated applications of insecticide such as diazinon. Small infestations may not inflict significant damage. In larger amounts though, they can induce leaf drop.