The cochineal is a phytophagous insect belonging to the order of the Rhynchota or Rincoti and to the Coccoidea family. Within this family there are subclasses with different behaviors and morphologies, but with a common feature: living on plants and feeding on their sap. For this peculiarity, the cochineal it is counted among the common parasites of plants, dangerous if the right climatic and environmental conditions occur that lead it to spend its entire life on ornamental species, herbaceous plants, shrubs and citrus fruits. The scale insects, according to the species to which they belong, can be polyphagous or oliphagous. Generally, these insects tend to be partially polyphagous, meaning that they damage only certain plant species. If present on others, in fact, even with numerous colonies, they are completely harmless. Unfortunately, like all parasites of our plants, the mealybugs they perfectly identify the species to be affected and damaged, often taking the name of the host plant as well.


Like all insect species belonging to the order or genus of the Rincoti, the mealybugs they are distinguished by a pointed and sucking mouth apparatus which tends to capture the sap of the host plants. This characteristic morphology is present, however, only in the females, since the males do not have it. The male of the cochineal, in fact, has a short life and is used only for reproductive purposes. The scale insects are very small insects, usually they reach only a few millimeters and only the females of the tropical species can reach the showy dimensions of three centimeters. The males are smaller than the females and have legs and wings, while the females are apterous (wingless). The body of the cochineal it is oval, with convex back and lateral legs. Seen under a microscope, these insects look very similar to oval lint walking on the leaves of the plant.

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Reproduction of the cochineal can be asexual or by parthenogenesis resulting from hermaphroditic individuals who possess both male and female genital organs. Mealybugs can be oviparous and viviparous, but also ovoviviparous. In the first case they lay eggs from which the young insects will be born, in the form of nymphs, in the second, they will be born from the mother's womb, while in the third, the eggs with the embryos already formed, always hatch in the mother's womb. The larval stage of the cochineal, as already mentioned, is the neanide, which goes through only three stages before becoming an adult. The nymphs also feed on the sap of the plants remaining fixedly attached to the leaves. The females of some species of scale insects can lay 400 to 600 eggs, becoming highly infesting. The eggs of the cochineal can hatch between March, June and September, with some variation of the insect's biological cycle, linked to the species to which it belongs. In just one year, the cochineal it can give birth to as many as three generations of nymphs. The subclass of belonging of the scale insects also determines the color of the parasite which can be white, yellow, reddish or brown.

Infestation mechanism

The males of the scale insects use their wings simply to move and reach the females for mating. To attract the insect of the opposite sex, the females emit powerful pheromones. After the birth of the new generation of nymphs, the males have already completed their stage of adult life and die. The infestation of the plant takes place, therefore, by the female insect and the nymphs. The parasite binds itself throughout its life to the leaves and branches of the plant and, at times, depending on the species, also to the fruits, which it can feed on in the nymph phase. The use of fruits by the nymphs does not generally cause major damage to the host plant, but only discomfort of an aesthetic nature, while the greatest damage occurs due to the sucking apparatus that removes the plant sap by piercing the leaves and bark. However, the cochineal can also cause indirect damage to the affected species, damage that depends on specific morphological conditions of the insect. Adult specimens of this parasite tend to form a shield by emitting waxy substances that accumulate on the body and back, forming a protective barrier that prevents the action of other predators or insecticides. The cochineal is, in fact, easily vulnerable in the juvenile stage. Another pest characteristic of this insect, the abundant secretion of honeydew, a sugary substance that is able to cover the plant in its entirety, damaging it aesthetically and in production, attracting ants, which protect the insect from predators, and fungi that can cause smoking. Punctures from the mouthparts of the cochineal can also cause the inoculation of viruses to the host plant.

Symptoms of the plant

Cochineal infection naturally causes clear symptoms to host plants, symptoms that can be identified by the color and shape of the leaves, by the general weakening of the plant and by the blocking of its growth. When attacked by cochineal, the plant can have deformed, crumpled, yellowed or red and brownish leaves typical of the burn. The honeydew that attracts the fumaggini creates a dense charcoal-colored covering on the plant that prevents it from carrying out photosynthesis. This mechanism blocks both the growth and the nutrition of the plant, leading it to a progressive weakening and then to death.

Causes of the infection

Cochineal grows in arid, warm and temperate climates. Adult specimens and nymphs are unable to survive cold temperatures and rainy environments. The rain also washes away the eggs and fertilized females, which, on the other hand, are able to withstand the cold. Some environmental conditions can favor the development of nymphs: this is the case of closed apartments, kept warm and very dry, which favor the infestation of indoor plants, but also the excessive exposure to the sun and the heat of garden plants sensitive to cochineal, can predispose to infection. Other triggers of the parasite's action, poor irrigation and incorrect pruning.

Types of insect pests

As already mentioned at the beginning of our study, not all species of scale insects are pests for the plant. Among the most feared we remember the cochineal cottony (Iceryaparmisi) and various species of mealy cochineals. The cottony species mainly attacks legumes, ornamental plants and citrus fruits. The insect has a white body, an irregular back and a poorly formed head. The reproduction of the cottony cochineal occurs asexually, since the females are also hermaphrodites. The damage of the cottony cochineal is caused by the abundant production of honeydew. Mealy bugs affect ornamental plants, citrus fruits, grapevines and figs. The main characteristic of these insects is to produce a stringy wax that creates a shield on their back. When the colonies are numerous, a kind of floury blanket forms on the affected plant. The floury insect is white in color and has numerous legs that allow it to move. The olive tree, some ornamental plants and citrus fruits, can also be attacked by scale insects with short, immobile legs of a reddish or brown color. Still motionless and red in color are other species of scale insects that live on khaki, elm, plum, currant, ornamental plants, such as magnolia, and grapevine. Very small, yellowish, immobile scale insects live on branches and stems and do not produce honeydew.


The increase in temperatures and periods of drought favor the infection of scale insects on indoor plants and those from the garden or cultivated fields. To protect the health of the plant, its aesthetic performance and, if necessary, also its production, it is necessary to intervene with methods of chemical or biological fight. The chemical fight was essentially carried out with mineral oils. These are insecticides derived from petroleum extracts, with a toxic and asphyxiating action on most scale insects, even if they are frequently used to combat cottony ones.

The mineral oils they can be anthracenic, that is, dark (the most toxic), yellow and white. Many of these products are no longer allowed in agriculture, only the white ones remain, which have undergone a greater refining process and therefore have a lower environmental impact. White oils are used with other insecticides to enhance their action, as they alone are not very effective. Mineral oils should be applied to the plant in late winter, when the buds are swollen and when the eggs with the nymphs are about to hatch, which represent the stage of the insect most vulnerable to chemical treatments.

L'white oil it can damage some species of plants and if the effects are not known, it is better to focus on pyrethrum-based insecticides or with mothballs. Another chemical substance that can be used with an insecticidal effect, soft soap. It is a compound based on potassium salts, water and glycerin, effective on parasites with sucking systems.

Soft soap is not phytotoxic, but those added with synthetic degreasers and dyes can "burn" the leaves of the plant, causing their death. Very effective on mealybugs and with zero environmental impact, it is the biological fight to be practiced with traditional methods or by making use of predators typical of this parasite, such as the parasitic wasp, other hymenoptera, some mites, ladybugs and even cockroaches.

On indoor plants, nymphs can be removed by wiping the leaves with cotton soaked in alcohol. The rain washes away the scale insects, so when it rains, it is advisable to expose houseplants (excluding succulents) to the healthy action of water. Washing indoor plants and avoiding accumulations of dust also has a good preventive effect. If the mealybugs attract ants, you can wrap the trunk of the plant with a sticky fly paper, making sure to place it at a certain height from the ground to avoid contamination with soil debris.


We all associate the term cochineal with the disease that affects our plants triggered by the attack of harmful parasites called cochineals. But it's not just this. In fact, the cochineal is a dye obtained from the insect of the same name and above all from the females of this family. These insects are able to defend themselves from their enemies thanks to a liquid that they secrete in case of attack by predators and that they use as a shell for their defense. It is from this very dense liquid with an intense red color that the dye is produced. To be able to produce one kg of dye, about 100,000 insects are needed. The dye powder is obtained by grinding the carapace and treating the substance with hot water. In the food industry, most red dyes are produced from cochineal.

There cochineal it is a very common insect, spread all over the world. And it is often a source of great annoyance for our gardens, especially in the hottest and driest areas. In summer, infestations can become a real emergency, causing the death of flowers and ornamental plants, even going so far as to destroy entire crops. The insects they proliferate on every type of plant and attack every part of it: leaves, branches, stem, flowers, fruit.

The cochineal takes advantage of the hot and dry periods to attack and destroy our plants: it may be capable of destroying entire crops. It is also called cottony cochineal for its ability to resemble a thick and white coat. The definite species cottony attacks legumes, ornamental plants and citrus fruits.

Another popular type is the short-legged cochineal that attacks others plants ornamental and olive trees mealy bugs they attack instead plants ornamental plants of citrus fruits the vine and the fig.

To locate the cochineal, just look at the plants: usually its presence is accompanied by a series of small white spots on the leaves. These are insects no longer than a few millimeters, and it is therefore necessary to be very careful to identify them.

They are very resistant insects, to the point that many pesticides are ineffective. For this, and to preserve the environment, over the years many natural remedies have spread to help fight it. Let's see them together.

A lot of water

As we said at the beginning, the cochineal it fears above all the abundance of water and low temperatures. Before the insect attacks our plants, in hot periods like this, it is therefore good to water them frequently: think that their main enemy is summer storms! If the environment is rich in water, then, the scale insects will be disadvantaged in reproduction and propagation. When it comes to indoor plants, you need to try to maintain the right degree of humidity in the environment.

Manual removal

When our plants have already been attacked by the cochineal, the first step is manually remove insects, taking care to look good in every corner, since, as we have seen, they can nestle anywhere. Once the pests are removed, it is helpful to disinfect any small holes they have left on the plants, using a little cotton soaked in alcohol, to prevent reproduction.

Lemon cochineal: A lemon branch attacked by the cochineal

Marseille soap

If preventive watering or removal does not work, it is possible to switch to more 'invasive' methods, such as Marseille soap. Warning! When choosing this soap pay attention to the ingredients: make sure it's 100% natural. The preparation can be of two ways. In liquid form, 20/30 cc of product must be diluted for each liter of water. In solid form, however, 10/20 grams of soap will be diluted in a liter of water.

Once prepared, apply it directly on the insects, in the evening hours. If the remedy does not take effect immediately, repeat the operation every 3-5 days.

Among the suspended substances that have proved effective for the eradication of cochineal, there are those who recommend using a spray bottle with a mixture of water and 30 drops of tea tree oil, an oil derived from Melaleuca alternifolia, or a solution of water and two teaspoons of propolis.

Cottony cochineal: a young plant attacked from the trunk


When we clean a plant from the cochineal we try to remove it completely, checking in particular in the dark and devoid of ventilation areas, such as the leaf axils or the center of the rosettes of leaves, as there are probably eggs deposited.

If we are afraid of not being able to clean the plant completely it is advisable to contact a specific natural insecticide how a pyrethrum-based macerate solution.

Garlic and onion

The latest natural remedies against the insect can be onion and garlic. There are two possibilities. We can chop one hundred grams of garlic or onion in 10 liters of water and spray the solution on the leaves and other diseased parts of the plant. There are those who also propose to sow garlic cloves, already sprouted, right around our plants infested with cochineal: in this way, the roots of the plant will receive a sort of natural disinfection.

Eliminating pests in the garden: the 4 most common enemies

Take care of the green is it your passion? Learn to eliminate pests in the garden, to defend your plants from uncomfortable and, at times, dangerous presences. We explain how to locate the most common problems and to fight them.

Aphids or Lice

They are believed to be the most common enemies of fruit and flowering plants. Commonly called "lice", aphids are pests pests able to spread to the nearest plants quickly and aggressively.

How to recognize them?

They are tiny insects from 1 to 10mm in size. They have a stinging-sucking mouth apparatus, through which they pierce the surface of leaves, small branches and shoots, to suck the sap of the plants.

Aphids produce a sugary liquid, the honeydew, which attracts ants, bees and allows the proliferation of fungi.

How to get rid of aphids?

If you have many plants, are they large or if theinfestation is serious you can have recourse to insecticides.

For example, the most used and effective are those based on deltamethrin, cypermethrin, permethrin.


It's a very small insect, a lover of heat and humidity. Its infestation weakens the plants, sometimes to the point of decaying them.

Also in this case it is important to eliminate pests in the garden, to avoid irreparable damage.

How to recognize the Cochineal?

Its presence is revealed by one white punctuation on the branches and leaves of plants which in a few days leads to the discoloration of the affected parts.

How to get rid of Cochineal?

A natural remedy is to rub a cotton ball soaked in ethyl alcohol on the infested parts. In case of advanced disease, it is advisable to use a specific product.

The treatment must be carried out in the morning or in the evening and in any case on plants not exposed to direct sunlight.

White flies Aleuroids

It is about parasites of tropical origin, which mainly attack citrus fruits (lemons in particular), but also balcony plants like geraniums.

The white flies they love humid and warm environments and are also used to producing honeydew.

How to recognize the whitefly?

Generally, the leaves affected by their presence tend to turn yellow and fall off. We generally notice fumaggini, that is white or dark spots caused by the proliferation of the mushroom saprophyte.

How to get rid of the whitefly?

An effective product is definitely a water-soluble insecticide for floral and ornamental plants, to be dosed with a special measuring cup in water.


Eliminating pests in the garden can be a complicated task, especially when it comes to fighting the Oziorrinco.

It is a insect pest, belonging to the beetle family.

How to recognize the Oziorrinco?

Damage to crops is mainly caused byTrophic activity of the larvae, which penetrate the root system by digging real tunnels.

How to eliminate the Oziorrinco?

This parasite is particularly difficult to eradicate. Usually, it is preferred to use specific insecticides, such as wettable sulfur, to be distributed in the evening when the oziorrinco comes out to feed on the leaves of the plants.

The interventions of the gardener

The intervention of a expert technician, which takes care of the garden in a professional way, is not just a service that can be used to remedy a problem.

It is often better to prevent. A gardener expert can eliminate pests in the garden, but also prevent their formation.

Did you know that, thanks to the intervention of our technicians, we can achieve ordinary and extraordinary maintenance interventions? We carry out free inspections in your garden, to establish the necessary interventions. We also issue you a price quotation not binding for the necessary works to be carried out.

Come and visit us at our garden centers, Gitto Garden is Tecnowood in Palermo, and ask for your advice.

Mealybugs: 5 remedies against the parasite

Here are the five remedies that help fight the terrible cochineal:

  1. white oil: it is a mineral oil that is diluted in water and vaporized on plants. It creates a thin layer that covers both the insects and the eggs causing them to die from asphyxiation. It should not be used in case of rain, to prevent the water from washing off the product, and in summer because the combined action of oil and sun burns the leaves
  2. soft soap of potassium or castile soap: it is a soap based on potassium fatty acids to be diluted in water before wetting the entire surface of the leaves on both the upper and lower parts. The soft soap clogs the pores of the insect causing its death
  3. neem oil: it is a natural insecticide to be diluted in water and sprayed on plants. It affects the respiratory system of the parasite, interrupts the feeding of insects due to secondary physiological effects and acts as a deterrent for egg laying
  4. denatured alcohol: also in this case it is necessary to dilute the product in water before vaporizing it on the plants, preferring the hottest hours of the day. For faster results, you can also wet a cotton ball with alcohol and rub it directly on the parts affected by the scale insects. After each treatment, rinses with water must be carried out
  5. garlic: it is an effective natural pesticide with repellent action and a powerful natural and antifungal antibiotic. The ideal is to plant garlic bulbs at the base of the plants or prepare a decoction to be sprayed directly on the leaves.

There cochineal is one of the phytophagous insects more harmful in terms of care and maintenance of our plants. It belongs to the order of Rhynchota (more commonly referred to as Rincoti) and the family of Coccoideae. This is a family characterized by a common characteristic: that of literally live on the various parts of plants (stem and leaves in evidence) and feed on lymph that they are capable of producing.

Cochineal insect

And that is why the cochineal is considered as one of the parasites more harmful to the life of many plants, especially where the right ones occur conditions both climatic and environmental that induce it to "live" and feed for a long period of time on ornamental varieties, herbaceous, shrubby and also various citrus fruits. According to the species they belong to, the scale insects can be polyphage or olifage. The former damage selectively only some varieties and some genera the latter do not make much distinction, trying to "cling" to the metabolic activity of any plant organism.

The white areas of the leaf, the scale insects in "action".

THE males mealybugs are only useful for reproduction: females emit powerful pheromones, which are immediately received by the male insects. These die soon after the birth of the young nymphs, simply for having largely completed their life cycle. Infestation therefore occurs only by the specimens females and small nymphs.

How does the cochineal attack manifest itself?

These can also feed on the lymph produced by fruit peel (if the plant produces any), causing a lesile aesthetic damage. The adult specimens, on the other hand, act on the lymph above all of the leaves, causing "holes" and forming a protective barrier consisting mainly of waxy chemicals, mostly white, almost cottony, which cover and cover the affected parts.

Ants play a bad joke: they protect the mealybugs from attacks by predatory insects.

But the attack of these insects does not end here. In fact, they tend to produce the honeydew, a highly sugary substance, capable not only of covering the plant a few times in its entirety, but of attracting ants, which in turn act as protection to these insects from predatory macroinsects.

When the plant is subject to attack by scale insects it often presents deformed leaves, mostly yellowed or brownish in color, as if they had been burned. Furthermore, honeydew prevents chlorophyll photosynthesis, causing a slow decay of the affected variety or genus.

How to eradicate scale insects

Once the infestation has just occurred, it is all in all easy to try to eradicate the infestation: just get a cotton soaked in pure alcohol and mechanically removing the small white corpuscles along with the affected plant parts. But more often than not, once the infestation has already occurred and completed, it is essential to resort to oils and chemicals.

The mineral oils they are insecticides derived from substances extracted in turn from petroleum: they act with a toxic action e asphyxiating on most scale insects. The most recently used oil iswhite oil, to be administered to affected plants a end of winter, when the eggs hatch with the nymphs, easily vulnerable to synthetic treatments. This insecticide, however, can damage some varieties if you do not know the side effects: to be "on the safe side", it is therefore advisable to have another insecticidal effect, the soft soap. It degreases and quickly kills just those parasites with sucking apparatuses.

Although uncommon, insects predators can be effectively used in the fight against scale insects: from bees ai Beatles.

Linseed oil

Also very effective against mites is aphids, L'linseed oil is a real miracle against the cochineal.

If you decide to use this product, just dilute it approximately 10 ml in a liter of water is wet the plant of the compound by means of a vaporizer or soaked cotton balls.

Repeat the process once a week until the cochineal it will not be definitively gone.

White fly

There white fly it is a parasite that mainly affects lemon plants and some flowering plants typical of balconies and gardens, such as begonias and geraniums.

Remedies: among the alternative uses of apple cider vinegar we find a remedy for whitefly suggested by one of our readers. The remedy requires you to drill a hole about halfway through a plastic bottle that will hang on the plant. The bottom of the bottle should be filled with two fingers of apple cider vinegar or alternatively with white vinegar to which to add a drop of honey. The parasites attracted by the vinegar will enter the bottle and will not attack the plant. Another remedy for whitefly is garlic infusion.

L'powdery mildew is a plant disease caused by a group of fungi called Oidium. It affects both potted plants and plants grown in the garden.

Symptoms: white spots on the leaves of plants.

Remedies: avoid watering the plants too much, use horsetail macerate and garlic infusion on diseased leaves.

Downy mildew is a very dangerous disease for plants, so much so that it can be lethal. Among the most affected varieties we find the tomatoes and the basil.

Symptoms: depigmentation of the leaves and necrosis or rot of the fruits.

Remedies: repair plants from rain with protective nets, copper-based preventive treatments as indicated by organic farming.

The spider mite (Tetranychus urticae) is a mite that can infest various vegetables, including tomatoes and beans, as well as ornamental plants and fruit trees.

Symptoms: leaves and pods ruined, withering and falling.

Remedies: biological struggle, garlic, onions, expanded clay, leaf removal, rosemary essential oil.

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Video: Finding Cochineal

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