Saturday, 5 March 2011

Scale

The Poinsettia which has graced our kitchen since our friend Jayne gave it to us for Christmas 2009, has been invaded.  For a couple of weeks now, there has been a steady 'rain' of sticky dew falling from it and tiny, sparkling droplets of honeydew have been forming on it's leaf surfaces.  This distressing situation has been brought about by an infestation of Brown Soft Scale Insects (Coccus hesperidum).  Seen here in a dorsal view under my PC microscope.
It doesn't look much like an insect does it?  About 2mm in length, they cling to the underside of the leaves near a vein and pierce the leaf with stabbing mouth-parts, sucking the sap ingesting it, taking out what it needs and finally excreting honeydew in small droplets.  The underside of these little charmers doesn't look much either.
This honeydew attracts ants and wasps with it's sugary sweetness, but thankfully, these have not been seen in the kitchen yet!
Another insect was seen to be harbouring either eggs or young on it's underside.  They produce young both sexually and asexually.  Each female is able to produce young without fertilisation from a male insect - a process known as parthenogenesis.  So, there you are!  Time to reach for the insecticide I think!
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