There cochineal it is the worst enemy of plants, sometimes it can be deadly for them. The cochineal is a small insect, with a long white and slender body, a characteristic that makes it easily camouflaged within our plants. It reproduces quickly and multiplies on the order of days to affect plants, it is very similar to aphids, other enemies of plants similar to lice. The cochineal is part of the family of rhynchota and can be recognized because it has a slender body and a cap-shaped tortoise; the male cochineal also has wings, while not in the female sex. The symptoms of how to recognize the cochineal attack immediately are theyellowing of the leavespresence of spots on the stem and thearrival of ants (these are attracted by the taste of the cochineal).
How to get rid of the cochineal
The cochineal first attacks the leaves of our plants, then moving on to the stems to look for sugars to feed on. They are like very small lice, real parasites of a few millimeters and are really dangerous for the protection of crops. Once the cochineal arrives in the buds or flowers, life expectancy is minimal. However, we must not give up, there are different techniques and supports to eliminate and eradicate this annoying insect. Their best habitat is the heat, therefore the preferred season is summer, therefore it is the best point of attack to neutralize the cochinealHere are some initial tips:
- Best hydrate plants by keeping the soil moist, the cochineal hates direct sun and drought.
- Beware of planting potsthey must always be cleaned from the base, because it is from there that the cochineal takes root in the first place (precisely because exposed light does not reach them).
- Use organic mineral oil it can prevent the birth and growth of the cochineal, be careful when using this product, it should usually be sprayed along the stem and on the leaves so as to create a protective film. An excessive use can compromise the plant, it could suffocate it.
- Strong jets of water directly on the infected points they can cause the cochineal to detach from the leaves.
There are several on the market lotions and alcohol for the elimination of the cochineal, they are usually applied on the leaves and then it will be necessary to rinse thoroughly in order not to poison the plant from the chemical components.
Natural remedies to fight cochineal
The cochineal can also be eradicated with natural or do-it-yourself remedies. An inexpensive solution is to employ garlic and onion in a liquid compound to be sprayed directly on infected stems and leaves. Garlic will drive away the cochineal, although it is only a palliative but not a repellent. If you don't want to have bad smells of garlic and onions, you can use lotions based on Marseille soap with warm water. This remedy is very effective, by repeating sprays on the crops every day, the cochineal will disappear; it is certainly a less invasive method than other chemical-based products for removing cochineal. There are many essential oils that neutralize cochineal immediately, always to be used with a spray bottle, and examples are white oil, tea oil and linseed oil. Finally, a grandmother's method is suggested which consists in obtaining toothpicks and a damp cloth, with extreme care you will have to clean leaf by leaf: slow but efficient method.
In addition to the normal cochineal that we have talked about extensively before, there is another defined type cottony mealybug. This differs from the first because it nests right on the leaves forming a cotton ball. The cottony cochineal is visible to the naked eye precisely because the plant acts as a bed for this parasitic onset, sometimes they are confused for spiders' nests, which have the same shapes. The scientific name is icerya purchasialways belonging to the family of rhynchota. The cottony mealybug attacks the most fruit trees or succulents, since it is greedy for sugars, so as to suck its lifeblood. By ingesting sugars, the cochineal opens the way for other insects and animals ready to attack the plant, since the honeydew: the sugary trail of the cottony cochineal. It reproduces quickly, scientific studies state that a cochineal (cottonous or not) is capable of depositing at least 300 eggs a year. Even for the cottony cochineal all the remedies to eliminate this insect, suggested for the normal cochineal, remain valid. We mention that other animals also come to help to eradicate the cottony cochineal, some types of ladybugs and wasps they attack the nest formation of the cochineal. It is necessary to intervene immediately at the first appearances of the scale insects, because then with the adult insect pesticides and more chemical protections will be needed, instead of the previously recommended natural remedies.
The lemon cochineal is scientifically called aspidiotus nerii and is similar to the normal cochineal, or the cottony cochineal, but it only attacks citrus plants. Always white in color and prefers to attack the fruit immediately, unlike the stems or later leaves. There lemon cochineal it causes sudden yellowing of the plant and evident sediments on the fruits, they secrete green dots on the lemons to lay their eggs and nest. Even in the case of the lemon cochineal, the valid remedies remain thewhite oil or mineral oil sprayed directly on the infested parts. In the case of cultivation in pots, in addition to the methods mentioned above, the plant must be immediately transplanted into a new clean and sanitized pot with ethyl alcohol (usually the main points of attack derive from the inside of the vase up to go up the stem of the plantations).
Peculiarities of the cochineal
Despite being a weed, the cochineal also has some peculiarities that make it even positive: from the females of the cochineal a rare dye is obtained, precisely the color of the cochineal. When the cochineal attacks another insect, it secretes an intense red liquid to defend itself, about 100,000 insects are needed to produce one kilogram of cochineal dye. The cochineal reproduces very quickly. The eggs can sometimes also hatch in the belly of the cochineal mother, thus becoming an ovoviviparous insect. In both cases the embryos are called nymphs, these too actively feed on the plant in which they are raised and attacked by the cochineal. The period of hatching of the eggs is spring, and it is particular that the cochineal can have 3 gestations of nymphs per year, which makes this insect very weed and harmful to plants.