What is Cochineal? Learn More About This Insect That can Disturb Your Vegetable Garden

Although some insects are beneficial for crops, others can greatly disrupt the life of our gardens. If you know what cochineal is , you know this little bug that can be extremely harmful to the health of the vegetables we have at home.

However, if you’re on the team that doesn’t know what cochineal is, don’t worry. Despite being a very common pest in Pak, few people know it by name. Understand better what it is, how it can affect your plants and how to get rid of it here, on our blog!

What are cochineals?

Cochineal is a type of hemipterous insect (same division of other bugs, such as aphids and bedbugs). It is very similar to its “cousins”, having about 3 to 5 mm in body size and a color that can vary in tone, depending on the species to which it belongs.

In Pak, some of the most common types of the pest are the carmine cochineal ( white cochineal ), the pink hibiscus cochineal and the root cochineal. They all have similar characteristics, such as an oval body and a complete metamorphosis cycle, with 90 to 100 days of life.

Despite being considered polyphagous pests, that is, they can feed on different types of plants, they do not only bring harm to humanity. It is from the carmine cochineal that we extract carmine, a reddish dye widely used in the food and pharmaceutical industries, for example.

However, the continuous and widespread spread of this insect can cause great damage to plants, even causing losses to farmers. Therefore, it is very important to learn safe and sustainable methods of controlling the breeding of these animals, which can lay up to 600 eggs at a time.

How to identify the infestation

As mealybugs are very small, it is difficult for us to identify them when they are in our plantations. We only start to notice their possible presence when the plant starts to show clearer signs, when the infestation is already happening.

The simplest way to understand what cochineals are in plants is through observation. That’s why it’s so important to have a high level of affection and care for your garden, always observing their characteristics, such as color, height, etc.

This is because it is possible to identify this pest when small white clumps appear on the stems, roots and leaves of your plant . Remember to check all sides of the foliage as parasites can hide.

An important feature about these little buggers is that they like to settle on plants that are already in some kind of debilitation. In addition, they provide a good environment for new types of problems, such as the proliferation of fungi, so they must be quickly controlled.

What does she feed on?

Now that you know what cochineal is, you’re probably wondering how it can do so much damage, given that it’s a secondary pest. This insect sucks the sap of plants, which is like their blood. This liquid is responsible for transporting water, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body of the plant.

How to get rid of cochineal

As the cochineal spreads quickly, it is important to end the invasion as soon as possible. This way, you prevent your entire garden from being taken over by this pest, which can encourage the arrival of others.

The good news is that the process of how to get rid of cochineal is simple — and there is more than one! Any of the options can be done at home, but what proves to be more effective is spraying powdered soap or neutral detergent diluted in water.

  1. If you are going to use washing powder, the concentration should be 2:100. For neutral detergent, 5:100;
  2. Mix the water well with the chosen substance and deposit it in a spray bottle;
  3. Spray the plants with the mixture every day, in the evening.

Other products that we have at home, such as vegetable oil, can also be used to get rid of the infestation. It is very important, however, that you maintain a regularity of spraying, even when the pests appear to have gone away. Thus, you avoid reinfestations.

It is very common to use other insects to kill the cochineal, such as the ladybug. While it is true that ladybugs can help to reduce the size of the pest, this method is not as effective and recommended as spraying using soap and detergent.

Is it necessary to prune?

If you have plants that are heavily infested, it is recommended to prune them. As they will take a little longer to get back to health, they may delay the improvement of the rest of the garden. Completely eliminate the cochineal and throw the plant away.

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