If you can’t run…

…you may as well do this:

Wax filaments protect scale insects - Cape Tribulation, Australia

Scale insects are masters of the sap-sucking lifestyle. It is an easy living- all the food a little bug could ask for- with one catch. Scale are a sitting target. Since they can’t run, scale insects must defend themselves from predators in other ways. Recruiting an ant army, building armored shells, or perhaps even sprouting a wild waxy barrier.

I suppose the fluff fence must work, even it does look silly.

*update* Reliable sources on facebook and in the comments suggest that these are not true scale but whiteflies, a related group of sternorrhynchan insects with a similarly sedentary sap-sucking life stage.

7 thoughts on “If you can’t run…”

  1. I don’t think it’s a scale, instead I think whitefly (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae). I decided to make this my personal Mystery.

    I think this might be Aleurodicus destructor. However, it greatly depends on the host. Fits the range and the usual appearance of long, thick wax rods. Your photos are, per usual, the best on the internet for this example. A strong supporting good clue for the Coconut Whitefly is here: http://treelogic.com.au/facts/2008/07/coconut-whitefly/

    Whitefly taxonomy is highly dependent on the arrangement and placement of tiny pores, so we can’t be sure without a much clearer view of the upper surface, and with all that wax! If I’m right, you’re off by a superfamily, which measures a Taxonomic Fail of around 19, conservatively based on Grimaldi & Engel (2005).

    I will grade you kindly on your biology and probable role of the wax. For these particular insects, many parasitoids specialize and are not bothered by the wax secretions. I think whiteflies have truly mastered the sap-sucking lifestyle and thanks to global trade, have become some of the most damaging pests to agriculture.

    1. Ug. Pwned by my own taxonomy fail index! Cory Unruh over on Facebook also agrees that the mystery wax fluff insect is a whitefly.

      5 points to your February mystery point tally, Jesse. Thanks for the info!

  2. Getting back to the point of “it works even if it looks silly.” Yes, it does work since they are still around but also, it may look silly but that doesn’t mean you might eat it, does it? So, maybe looking silly is a pretty good defense against certain predators. Remember they don’t care what we think of them or what we call them: their goal (if they can be said to have any) is survival and reproduction. Maybe it is silly; I think it is kind of pretty.

  3. Pingback: Links 2/16/12 | Mike the Mad Biologist

Leave a Reply