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The cochineal

Cochineal is a particularly common parasite in greenhouses, in gardens, in apartment, it attacks in particular some species of ornamental plants, among which we remember the succulents in general, the olive tree, the laurel, the conifers and most of the houseplants . The development of the cochineal in the apartment and in the greenhouse is particularly favored by a dry environment with poor ventilation. Unfortunately this pest also resists the very cold temperatures found in the garden during the winter, so it is often very difficult to eradicate, as the generations increase from year to year.

The parasite

With the term cocciniglia in reality some parasites of similar form are designated, that cause similar damages; these are generally small pests, which attack the stems or the leaf lamina, from which they suck the lymph, causing wounds through which bacteria can penetrate, and which sometimes leave perennial scars even when the parasite is eradicated. Cochineals produce small bags of eggs, typically covered by a waxy or stiff shield, which protects them until they hatch; the biggest problems regarding the fight against these insects often derive from these badges, which repair the eggs from the most common insecticidal products.
Among the most widespread cochineals include Iceria, Saissetia (with a rigid external shield, often dark in color), Ceroplastes (with adult forms covered by a waxy shield), Chloropulvinaria (or cocciniglia fioccosa), Pseudococcus and planococcus (farinosa cocciniglia).

Fight the cochineal

The fight against cochineal must be timely, since when you begin to see a few specimens, it often means that many eggs have already been laid.
In the apartment, if we notice the presence of scale insects in the leaves of our plants, we can avoid using chemicals, and simply remove the insects we see using a cotton swab, or a cotton bud, soaked in alcohol, to disinfect the wound that insects produce on the plant, but also to remove them with greater care, given that the waxy patina above them often acts as a glue, and keeps them firmly attached to the foliage.
When we clean a small plant from the cochineal we try to remove it completely, controlling in particular in the dark and unventilated areas, such as the leaf axils or the center of the leaf rosettes.
If we are afraid of not being able to completely clean the plant it is advisable to turn to a specific insecticide, so as to make sure we do not find the parasite on the plant within a few weeks.
If the infestation is very large or if we need to clean a garden shrub from the cochineal, it is good to use an insecticide, so as to make sure we eradicate it.
Mineral scale is used as an insecticide for mineral oil, there are various types, some are also allowed in organic farming, some are used only at the end of winter, as they can spoil the young shoots.
In any case, we remind you that any product we use in the garden against insects or other pests must be used when there are no flowers, on a windless day, possibly in the early evening hours: in this way we avoid disturbing or even killing the useful insects, we avoid to spray our neighbors with insecticide, we avoid that the product present on the foliage, in contact with the scorching sun can cause damage.
When spraying a plant with mineral oil against the cochineal we remind to go and hit all the leaves, above all where they attach to the branches and above all on the lower pages, where the cochineal is more often nestled.
Mineral oil is an insecticide that works by contact and by ingestion, in practice it produces a thin patina on insects that prevents them from breathing.
If the infestation is very wide we repeat the operation after 15 days and if necessary "wash" the leaves after another 15 days with water, in order to remove the corpses.
It may happen that the simple mineral oil does not completely weaken the cochineal, in such a case it is necessary to strengthen it with the addition of a pyrethrum-based insecticide.

Cochineal: The enemies of cochineal

As with all pests, the first enemy of cochineal is often a good crop: greenhouses or poorly ventilated dwellings, scarce watering, dry climate, are the first allies of cochineal.
Therefore proper ventilation, a suitable climate and correct watering generally keep the cochineal away.
In nature there are also other enemies of this insect, first of all the ladybug larvae, which are voracious consumers of cochineal.