Scale insects belong to the order of ribs, as are aphids. Their name derives from the Spanish language whose term cochinilla means little piglet. These are insects that are exclusively phytomites, which constitute one of the most important and widespread groupings of insects that cause damage to plants. The characteristic that distinguishes them is a marked sexual dimorphism and also their regression both morphological and anatomical and functional as far as the female is concerned, that is neoteny. In fact the male specimens are endowed with wings, while the female specimens have none and sometimes, especially after the laying of the eggs, they can lose even the legs: in this way they become in practice containers for the protection of the new generation. This type of insects is able to pierce the lamina of the leaf or of a young stem to feed on the sap that is contained there, which is very rich in sugars. Among the most common types of cochineals we can mention the Iceria, the Saissetia, the Ceroplastes, the Chloropulvinaria, the Pseudococcus and the planococcus.
All types of cochineals, especially those we can find on apartment plants, can easily be seen especially if the leaves of an apartment plant are always kept clean: therefore finding scale insects on a plant is not difficult. Compared to all plant insect pests, scale insects are also recognizable as they have a tendency to become covered with waxy substances for protection. Generally they constitute a sort of cap that has the shape of a small shield, rather rigid or rubbery, depending on the species of cochineal. For example, the Saissetia has a fairly rigid external shield, which is often dark in color; Ceroplastes, in its adult forms, is covered by a waxy shield. The cochineal whose scientific name is Chloropulvinaria is recognized by its particular appearance for which it is called c. fioccosa, while the planococcus is similarly recognizable and is also called c. powdery.
Which plants are attacked by scale insects
Mealybugs in the wild usually spread on coniferous and succulent plants in general. However, it is very common that they can attack not only vine plants and citrus trees, but also many ornamental plants. The development of scale insects is generally facilitated in the various fissures that are created in a plant, in all its crevices and in those places of the foliage that are exposed to light. In general, cochineals prefer plants that are treated regularly with fertilizers that have a large percentage of nitrogen. They also prefer plants that are found in dry places or with low humidity and little or no ventilation. These harmful pests are often carried on the plant by ants which feed on much honeydew. It is worth observing if on our apartment plants there is the presence of ants because, sometimes, this can represent an alarm bell that can reveal us the presence of annoying pests in those areas that are not particularly visible.
Cochineal remedies: Cochineal remedies houseplants
Speaking of cochineal remedies, if the infestation of cochineal on your houseplant is of slight entity then the parasite can be eradicated by removing the individual specimens in a manual way, making sure to disinfect the holes that are left by the insect with cotton that you have soaked with alcohol. If instead the infestation should be massive because you have noticed a large number of specimens on the plant, it is advisable to intervene using other remedies, such as white oil, activated perhaps with malathion or with a pyrethroid, to have an even more effective action. If you want to have a really optimal result it is good to treat the plant in any case with anticoccidial remedies, towards the beginning of spring or in the autumn / winter period: in this way it is possible to be able to eliminate even most of their eggs, avoiding therefore to damage the adult insects that are useful and that are little present on the plants in these months of the year. The biological type of fight against cochineal can be done using Cryptolaemus montrouzieri, insects that feed on scale insects.