Tuesday, October 14, 2008

From Australia to Texas

Cottony-Cushion Scale, Icerya purchasi
Highway 385, near McCamey, Texas

What would you guess this white stuff was? Plant? Gall? Insect? It had us stumped. Including Mr. Burr Williams. (Gasp!)

If you guessed insect, you'd be surprisingly right. Browsing this weekend through our new book, A Field Guide to Texas Critters by Bill Zak, Donna and I saw our "white stuff." It was quite thrilling and unexpected.

This scale is in the same family as aphids. And like some aphids, it produced honeydew, which is why that ant is so interested. The scale starts off as a normal-ish insect, but as it matures, it hooks itself onto a tree as a parasite, sucking the sap and in doing so becomes immobilized. If I understand it right, the long column projecting outward from the insect is the egg sac.

This insect is not native to Texas, or the U.S. for that matter. It accidentally hitched a ride all the way from Australia back in the 1800s. In no time it caused such a problem with the citrus growers in California that a pest control solution had to be found. Turns out the solution was importing another insect from Australia, a special lady bug (lady beetle). It was so successful it created the field of science where one kind of insect is used to control another (bad) kind.

  • You can read more and see more detailed pictures at a California site, Garden Bees.


Bobbie said...

Now that is absolutely the most interesting thing! I thought it was some sort of fungus. Didn't you blog a photo of different kind of assassin bug...maybe a gray one?

nelda said...

Wow! Who would ever guess. I think Casey posted a picture with something similar. You are so-o-o smart!

Godinla said...
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Godinla said...
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Godinla said...

Finally! I've caught you in a lie! That is most certainly a sock from the foot of an infant. I know a baby sock when I see one. You story couldn't possibly be true because it's so bizarre. Are you serious? I want to visit you and see this oddity for myself. What a world we live in. From Australia to Texas, indeed. It make me remember my awe for the planet.

Thank you, dear Debi.

Irene said...

Incredible and so out of this world. It could only happen in America or Australia. The continents where odd things happen in nature.

By the way, in the Netherlands, a ladybug is called an 'our dear lord beastie.' I don't know why. I will look it up.