La Cocciniglia

La Cocciniglia

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General characteristics and scientific classification of Cochineals. What are phytophages.

In the Animalia kingdom, the Cochineals are placed in the superphylum Arthropoda, in the phylum Entoma, in the superclass Hexapoda, in the Insecta class, in the order Rhynchota, in the suborder Homoptera, in the Sternorrhyncha section.
From a merely morphological point of view, they are insects of a few millimeters in size.
Arthropod organisms known as phytophagous (which basically means parasites) have a marked aptitude for causing significant damage to plant organisms.
In fact, to feed, the phytophagus empties the individual cells sucking their liquids or deteriorating their tissues.
Scale insects can be recognized very easily, due to the fact that they secrete wax or lacquer and are therefore coated, as if they were sheltered by a sort of shield that has the clear task of protecting them.
Sexual diversity between male and female subjects is of easy relief, since the Cocciniglie males are always smaller than the females. Their biological purpose is to fertilize the females. The males in fact present a typical atrophy of the buccal apparatus, therefore their survival skills are limited.
Nature, however, has them with wings and legs, just to give them the chance to mate with female cochineals, thus ensuring the indispensable evolutionary continuity of the species.

The various sub-categories in which it is possible to classify the individual species of phytophages, which have apparently similar characteristics and many different habits

The Antofagis feed on the substances present in flowering plants. Examples are the worm of the Zagara or the Cetonia.
Monophages eat only one plant species in particular. Jokingly we could say that they have very specific tastes. To give some concrete examples we can mention the olive fly or the vine moth.
The phytophagous called Polifagi, like grasshoppers, feed on numerous types of fruit. To remember, in fact, even the fruit fly.
Endophytes take up residence within a specific plant (eg wood larvae called Miner larvae).
The phyllophagous eat the upper parts of the shoots and also the leaves (eg the Lepidopteran phyllominator or the odd Bombice).
Phytophagous called oligophagous do not have particular preferences. On the contrary, they attack plant species that are not very similar to each other. The "Cocciniglia half grain of pepper", for example, attacks citrus fruits, oleander, olive.
The xylophagous phytophagous, on the other hand, eat wood (eg cerambidic beetles).
The parasites dwell permanently in the plant they have chosen. They are very harmful, although they do not directly cause death. Nematodes and larvae of Cinipedal Hymenoptera are parasites.
The ideal habitat for scale insects is found in warm and dry climates.

La Cocciniglia: The consequences of the attack of scale insects on the health status of plants. How they can be fought or eliminated

The main problems for the plants are the female cochineals. They are in fact systematically damaging their tissues, to feed on their nutritious liquids. Obviously the plant weakens progressively, as if its vital forces were gradually lacking and the phenomenon certainly does not go unnoticed.
The symptoms that indicate the presence of phytophagous we are talking about are the characteristic discolorations, the spots, up to real deformations, anomalies of various kinds and even poor growth of leaves, fruits and branches.
Not enough all this, the activity of scale insects prepares the way for viruses, that is micro-organisms that threaten the health of the attacked plant.
Then there is the problem of the so-called "honeydew". These are the droppings produced by pests, which are often quite abundant. The honeydew has the effect of causing the onset of so-called fumaggine, that is to say different types of fungi that shield the sun's rays, thus preventing the normal absorption of the relative nourishment by the foliage on which they have developed.
Naturally the danger represented by scale insects does not only concern the plants kept outside a house, but also those kept inside.
In this second case it is opportune to avoid the chemical contrast, given that some specific insecticides, although effective in their action against phytophagous animals, can be very annoying for the human being and for the environment in which he lives.
It is therefore advisable to try to eliminate them manually in a very simple way: by obtaining a wad of cotton wool soaked in alcohol, to completely clean the affected part of the plant.
In the case of a real infestation of fields, the chemical intervention is indispensable, but to be truly effective it must be timely, given that adult scale insects, unlike the younger ones, are protected by their very special wax "dress" or lacquer and therefore it is not easy to eradicate them, if present in large quantities in a certain area.
We conclude our discussion with a curiosity: some exotic species of scale insects are unusually large. They can even measure 3 cm. But this is the exception that confirms the general rule of their very small size.