Cochineal Scale Insect (Oncidium ocellatum)

The Cochineal Scale Insect (Oncidium ocellatum), or Cochinea Matureis, is a small greenish brown beetle with six legs and two antennae. Its body measures between 1/2 inch and 3 inches long. They are found primarily in the southwestern United States, but they have been reported from California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma. They feed on the leaves of the cacti, including prickly pears. Their bite causes severe itching and burning sensations.

If left untreated, it may cause skin ulcers and even death.

How To Get Rid Of Cochineal Scale Insect?

There are several ways to kill them:

1) Chemical Insecticide Spray : You can spray your plants with a chemical insecticide such as permethrin (Diatom).

It kills the insects instantly.

2) Pesticide Spraying : You can use pesticides such as pyrethrins (Pyren), carbaryl (Sevin), diazinon (Advantage) or malathion (Permethrin).

These chemicals will kill the insects within minutes.

3) Heat Treatment : You can heat up the affected area to kill them permanently.

You can use a torch or heat gun to heat and kill the insects.

4) Biological Insecticide : You can spray beneficial insects such as lady bugs (ladybird beetles) or lacewings to kill them.

Cochineal Scale On Cactus – How To Treat Cochineal Scale Bugs - Picture

They are natural predators of cochineal scale insects. They will kill the insects within hours to days.

How To Prevent Cochineal Scale Insect?

You can prevent the infestation by following these tips:

1) Keep your cacti outdoors in hot, dry places.

2) Move your plants away from shades and moisture sources (trees, fences, walls, rocks) to avoid the harmful insects.

3) Place yellow labels on infested plants to alert employees.

4) Handle your plants carefully and avoid cacti injury.

Check for pests and insects frequently.

5) Keep new plants in a protected location for a few weeks to let them adapt to your garden.

Cochineal Scale On Cactus – How To Treat Cochineal Scale Bugs!

How To Get Rid Of Cochineal Scale Insects?

How do you get rid of cochineal scale insects?

There are several ways of approach to the problem. You can remove them manually by hand. This is quite a tedious process and involves a lot of patience. You need to be very careful while removing the insects so that you do not get stuck by their mouth parts. The other option is to use insecticides such as malathion, diazinon or permethrin.

How To Get Rid Of Cochineal Scale With Chemical Sprays?

Malathion: Malathion is a broad-spectrum insecticide that is used for killing insects such as aphids, mites, and caterpillars. It is available in the market in both liquid and powder form. You can mix it with water and apply the solution on the plants and cacti. However, it should be used with caution. It is highly toxic and may damage the plants as well.

Diazinon: Diazinon is an insecticide that kills a wide range of insects including thrips, aphids, beetles, and caterpillars. It is usually available in the market as dust or liquid concentrate. You can mix it with water according to the directions on the label and spray it on the infected plant. It is moderately toxic and can kill the plants as well.

Permethrin: Permethrin is an insecticide that kills mites, aphids, thrips, and other insects. It does not affect human beings but is harmful to mammals. You can safely use it to control cochineal scale infestation.

Sources & references used in this article:

Dactylopius opuntiae, a new prickly pear cactus pest in the Mediterranean: an overview by G Mazzeo, S Nucifora, A Russo… – Entomologia …, 2019 – Wiley Online Library

The effects of simulated rainfall on cochineal insects (Homoptera: Dactylopiidae): colony composition and survival on cactus cladodes by VC Moran, JH Hoffmann, NCJ Basson – Ecological Entomology, 1987 – Wiley Online Library

Biological control of the prickly pear cochineal Dactylopius opuntiae Cockerell (Hemiptera: Dactylopiidae) by R Bouharroud, M Sbaghi, M Boujghagh… – EPPO …, 2018 – Wiley Online Library

Use of botanicals extracts to control wild cochineal (Dactylopius opuntiae Cockerell) on cactus pear by AL Vigueras, J Cibrian-Tovar… – … Pear and Cochineal 811, 2007 – actahort.org

Comparative toxicity of different chemical and biological insecticides against the scale insect Dactylopius opuntiae and their side effects on the predator Cryptolaemus … by M El Aalaoui, R Bouharroud, M Sbaghi… – … and Plant Protection, 2019 – Taylor & Francis

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