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Flocculent flax scale - Poliaspis floccosa

By N A Martin (2016, revised 2017)

Classification

Phylum:
Arthropoda
Class:
Insecta
Order:
Hemiptera
Superfamily:
Coccoidea
Family:
Diaspididae
Scientific Name:
Poliaspis floccosa Henderson, 2011
  • Small colony of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae), note the large female scale, yellow crawlers and white fluffy wax on young scale insects.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Small colony of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae), note the large female scale, yellow crawlers and white fluffy wax on young scale insects. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Colonies of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae) and the yellow areas on the upper side of the leaf where the scale have been feeding. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant and Food Research
    Colonies of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae) and the yellow areas on the upper side of the leaf where the scale have been feeding. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant and Food Research
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Common Names

Flocculent flax scale, Flax scale
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Biostatus and Distribution

This distinctive endemic scale insect lives on the underside of leaves of its endemic host plants, especially New Zealand flax, Phormium species (Hemerocallidaceae). It is found on the North and South Islands.

Conservation status: Widespread in the North and South Islands on its host plants in native ecosystems and in gardens and parks.

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Life Stages and Annual Cycle

Lifecycle of Diaspidine scale (Hemiptera: Diaspididae: Diaspidinae). The male prepupae and pupa live under the male second instar cover. Diagram adapted from Figures 1 and 2 in Henderson R.C. 2011. Diaspididae (Insecta: Hemiptera: Coccoidea). Fauna of New Zealand 66 Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Landcare Research
Lifecycle of Diaspidine scale (Hemiptera: Diaspididae: Diaspidinae). The male prepupae and pupa live under the male second instar cover. Diagram adapted from Figures 1 and 2 in Henderson R.C. 2011. Diaspididae (Insecta: Hemiptera: Coccoidea). Fauna of New Zealand 66 Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Landcare Research

This scale insect breeds all year. There do not appear to be discrete generations. It is not known how long it takes from birth to adult. All stages live on the underside of host plant leaves, often in large groups.

The bright yellow body of the mature female insect lives under a white wax scale cover that is often coated with white flocculent wax when immature. Bright yellow eggs are laid in the posterior space under the scale cover. The body shrinks as eggs are formed. After the first instar (stage) nymphs hatch, they leave the female scale through a flap at the posterior end of the scale. The crawlers walk over the plant leaf and settle in a place to feed. The scale insect spends the rest of its growth and development in this place. Only the adult male can move away. Once settled the nymph forms a wax cover. The wax scale cover is coated with flocculent wax. The first instar scale moults (changes skin) into the second instar. Unlike other scale insects, it incorporates the first instar skin and scale cover into its enlarged scale cover. The scale cover of the second instar scales are also coated with flocculent wax. When the female second instar moults into the third instar scale, it also incorporates the second instar skin and scale cover into its scale cover. The new part of the last stage female scale colour is pale to light gold in colour. The third instar female grows into the mature female that is receptive to the male and lays eggs after mating.

When the second instar male has finished feeding and grown to full size, it moults into a non-feeding prepupae that stays under the same second instar scale cover. Likewise, when the prepupae moults into the pupa, it to stays under the same scale cover. The pupa moults into the adult male which is coloured red and has legs, one pair of wings and a long pointed abdomen. When its body has hardened, it backs out of the scale cover and goes in search of mature female scales with which to mate.

Feeding
Adult females and juvenile scales have sucking mouthparts. Specially shaped long rods called stylets are used for feeding. Until used for feeding the tips of the stylets held in the short sheath-like rostrum. When it wishes to feed, the scale insect moves the tip of the rostrum onto the surface of the plant. The stylets are then gradually pushed into the plant and manoeuvred into cells of the plant. The stylets form two tubes, one down which saliva is pumped into plant cells and the second tube through which it sucks the contents of the plant cells. The dead plant cells turn yellow and the yellow patches of dead cells can be seen on the upper side of plant leaves. Unlike other scale insects (Coccoidea), Diaspididae scale insects possess a blind gut with no connection between the stomach and the anal opening.

Walking, flying and dispersal
The crawler stage of the first instar nymph and the adult males are the only two stages with functional legs. They both have three pairs of legs and antennae. The adult male also has one pair of wings. The crawler if the main stage for dispersal. Most crawlers walk to a place on the same leaf, but some travel to other leaves on the same plant. Some crawlers disperse to other plants; most distance dispersal is by air. It is not known if crawlers of this species go to high points of the plant and stand up to catch the wind. Adult males can walk over a leaf and colony in search of females with which to mate. They can also fly to nearby colonies, and may be carried further by wind.

  • Two adult females of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae), note on the lower scale the exuvia of the first and second instar nymphs on the scale cover. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Two adult females of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae), note on the lower scale the exuvia of the first and second instar nymphs on the scale cover. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Adult female of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae), note the exuvia of the first and second instar nymphs on the scale cover and the coating of flocculent wax.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Adult female of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae), note the exuvia of the first and second instar nymphs on the scale cover and the coating of flocculent wax. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Yellow adult female of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), removed from its white scale cover.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Yellow adult female of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), removed from its white scale cover. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Two adult female of Flocculent flax scales, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), turned over to show yellow female body and yellow eggs.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Two adult female of Flocculent flax scales, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), turned over to show yellow female body and yellow eggs. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Two winged adult Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on a scale colony. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Two winged adult Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on a scale colony. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Winged adult Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Winged adult Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Winged adult Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Winged adult Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Winged adult Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) showing the long thin penis sheath.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Winged adult Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) showing the long thin penis sheath. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Adult female and first instar (stage) nymphs of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae), note the flocculent white wax secreted by the young scale insects. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Adult female and first instar (stage) nymphs of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae), note the flocculent white wax secreted by the young scale insects. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Adult female and first instar (stage) nymphs of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae), note the flocculent white wax secreted by the young scale insects. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    Adult female and first instar (stage) nymphs of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae), note the flocculent white wax secreted by the young scale insects. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
  • First instar (stage) nymphs of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae), note the flocculent white wax secreted by the young scale insects. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    First instar (stage) nymphs of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae), note the flocculent white wax secreted by the young scale insects. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
  • Small colony of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae), note the flocculent white wax secreted. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Small colony of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae), note the flocculent white wax secreted. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Colonies of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae) Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Colonies of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae) Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Colonies of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae) and the yellow areas on the upper side of the leaf where the scale have been feeding.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant and Food Research
    Colonies of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae) and the yellow areas on the upper side of the leaf where the scale have been feeding. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant and Food Research
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Recognition

The clusters of white flocculent wax on leaves of host plants make the recognition of these colonies of Flocculent flax scale easy. Single scales can be confused with other species of white Diaspididae found on flax and cabbage trees; usually there are some scales with flocculent wax to enable identification. The presence of chlorotic, yellow, areas on the upper side of leaves usually indicates the presence of Diaspididae scales on the underside of leaves.

One of the three other native Diaspididae on flax is an unnamed species, Leucaspis sp. 1 that is usually only found in the groove on the upper side of leaves. A fungal infection often indicates the presence of this species of scale insect. Another native white scale insect that may be seen on flax and cabbage trees is the Cordyline scale, Anzaspis cordylinidis. These are long, narrow scales that may have a dark or pale cap and can occur on either side of leaves. A second species of Leucaspis has also been found of flax leaves. It is wider than A. cordylinidis and the female has a dark scale cover under the white wax.

On leaves of Cabbage trees, Cordyline species, two other species of white scale may sometimes be found, Waratah scale, Pseudaulacaspis brimblecombei Williams, 1973, and White palm scale, Pseudaulacaspis eugeniae (Maskell, 1892). The mature female scales are similar in shape to Flocculent flax scale, but no life stage produces flocculent white wax.

Sometimes old colonies and declining colonies of Flocculent flax scale are occupied by mealybugs (Pseudococcidae). Mealybugs secrete honeydew that may result in sooty mould fungi. Diaspididae scale insects do not secrete honeydew.

  • Colonies of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae) Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Colonies of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae) Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Colonies of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae) and the yellow areas on the upper side of the leaf where the scale have been feeding.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant and Food Research
    Colonies of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae) and the yellow areas on the upper side of the leaf where the scale have been feeding. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant and Food Research
  • Two adult females of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae), note on the lower scale the exuvia of the first and second instar nymphs on the scale cover. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Two adult females of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae), note on the lower scale the exuvia of the first and second instar nymphs on the scale cover. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Adult female of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae), note the exuvia of the first and second instar nymphs on the scale cover and the coating of flocculent wax.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Adult female of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae), note the exuvia of the first and second instar nymphs on the scale cover and the coating of flocculent wax. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Yellow adult female of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), removed from its white scale cover.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Yellow adult female of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), removed from its white scale cover. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Two small colonies of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae), note the flocculent white wax secreted. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Two small colonies of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae), note the flocculent white wax secreted. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on leaf of Three Kings cabbage tree, Cordyline obtecta (Asparagaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on leaf of Three Kings cabbage tree, Cordyline obtecta (Asparagaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on leaf of Blue-berry, Dianella nigra (Hemerocallidaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on leaf of Blue-berry, Dianella nigra (Hemerocallidaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae), with numerous Cordyline scale, Anzaspis cordylinidis (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), mainly on the underside of leaves. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae), with numerous Cordyline scale, Anzaspis cordylinidis (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), mainly on the underside of leaves. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
  • Cordyline scale, Anzaspis cordylinidis (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on the upper side of a leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae),  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Cordyline scale, Anzaspis cordylinidis (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on the upper side of a leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae), Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Unknown species of Leucaspis scale, Leucaspis sp. (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on the underside of a leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae). Note the upturned male scale. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Unknown species of Leucaspis scale, Leucaspis sp. (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on the underside of a leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae). Note the upturned male scale. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Flax groove scale, Leucaspis sp. 1 (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), in groove on the upper side of a leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae). Image: Minna Personen © Plant & Food Research
    Flax groove scale, Leucaspis sp. 1 (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), in groove on the upper side of a leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae). Image: Minna Personen © Plant & Food Research
  • Fungus infesting Flax groove scale, Leucaspis sp.1 (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), in groove on the upper side of a leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae). Image: Minna Personen © Plant & Food Research
    Fungus infesting Flax groove scale, Leucaspis sp.1 (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), in groove on the upper side of a leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae). Image: Minna Personen © Plant & Food Research
  • Colony of the native mealybug, Paracoccus glaucus (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), with male cocoons of flocculent wax on the underside of a leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Colony of the native mealybug, Paracoccus glaucus (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), with male cocoons of flocculent wax on the underside of a leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Female and larvae of the native mealybug, Paracoccus glaucus (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), on the underside of a leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Female and larvae of the native mealybug, Paracoccus glaucus (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), on the underside of a leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Female and larvae of the long-tailed mealybug, Pseudococcus longispinosus (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), on the underside of a leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Female and larvae of the long-tailed mealybug, Pseudococcus longispinosus (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), on the underside of a leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Female, larvae and male cocoons of the long-tailed mealybug, Pseudococcus longispinosus (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), on the underside of a leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Female, larvae and male cocoons of the long-tailed mealybug, Pseudococcus longispinosus (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), on the underside of a leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Waratah scale, Pseudaulacaspis brimblecombei Williams, 1973 (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), can occur on leaves of cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae). Image: Rosa C. Henderson © Landcare Research
    Waratah scale, Pseudaulacaspis brimblecombei Williams, 1973 (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), can occur on leaves of cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae). Image: Rosa C. Henderson © Landcare Research
  • White palm scale, Pseudaulacaspis eugeniae (Maskell, 1892) (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), can occur on leaves of cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae). Image: Rosa C. Henderson © Landcare Research
    White palm scale, Pseudaulacaspis eugeniae (Maskell, 1892) (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), can occur on leaves of cabbage tree, Cordyline australis (Asparagaceae). Image: Rosa C. Henderson © Landcare Research
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Natural Enemies

Parasitoids
One wasp parasitoid has been found. The tiny female wasp parasitoid lays an egg in a scale insect. The wasp larva lives in the scale body. When it is fully grown it leaves the body and pupates under the scale cover. The adult wasp chews a hole in the scale cover in order to get out.

Predators
Two ladybirds and caterpillars of one moth predate on Flocculent flax scale. The caterpillars form webbed tunnels in the scale insect colonies. They hide in the tunnels by day and come out to feed on the scale at night. When fully grown the caterpillar spins a cocoon in its tunnel and changes into a pupa from which the moth later emerges.

The steelblue ladybird feeds on a variety of insects including scale insects. The endemic ladybird, Rhyzobius sp. Is only known to feed on Flocculent flax scale. Both adults and larvae feed on the scale insect.

Saprophagous fungus
A brown saprophagous fungus, Ramichloridium punctatum, may be found on dead scale insects. The fungus is not believed to kill the scale insects.

Table: Natural enemies of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), from Plant-SyNZ database (11 December 2015). The reliability index shows the quality of evidence for the host association (0-10, 10=high quality).
Scientific NameCommon NameClassificationEnemy TypeReliability IndexBiostatus
Batrachedra arenosella (Walker, 1864)Armoured scale eating caterpillar (Moth or Butterfly)Lepidoptera: Batrachedridaepredator10endemic
Halmus chalybeus (Boisduval, 1835)Steelblue ladybird (Beetle)Coleoptera: Coccinellidaepredator10adventive
Rhyzobius fagus (Broun, 1880)Flocculent flax scale ladybird (Beetle)Coleoptera: Coccinellidaepredator10endemic
Ramichloridium punctatum Mayfield, Batzer & CrousBrown saprophagous fungusFungi: Ascomycota: Eurotiomycetes: Capnodiales: Dissoconiaceaesaprophyte10unknown
  • Adult wasp (Hymenoptera) parasitoid of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), note the round exit hole in a female scale.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Adult wasp (Hymenoptera) parasitoid of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), note the round exit hole in a female scale. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Adult moth of the Flax scale eating caterpillar, Batrachedra arenosella, (Lepidoptera: Batrachedridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Adult moth of the Flax scale eating caterpillar, Batrachedra arenosella, (Lepidoptera: Batrachedridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Webbing of the Flax scale eating caterpillar, Batrachedra arenosella, (Lepidoptera: Batrachedridae) that has been feeding on Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Webbing of the Flax scale eating caterpillar, Batrachedra arenosella, (Lepidoptera: Batrachedridae) that has been feeding on Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • The Flax scale eating caterpillar, Batrachedra arenosella, (Lepidoptera: Batrachedridae) feeding on Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    The Flax scale eating caterpillar, Batrachedra arenosella, (Lepidoptera: Batrachedridae) feeding on Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Webbing of the Flax scale eating caterpillar, Batrachedra arenosella, (Lepidoptera: Batrachedridae) that has been feeding on Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    Webbing of the Flax scale eating caterpillar, Batrachedra arenosella, (Lepidoptera: Batrachedridae) that has been feeding on Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
  • Larva of armoured scale ladybird, Rhyzobius fagus (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) feeding on Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Larva of armoured scale ladybird, Rhyzobius fagus (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) feeding on Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Adult armoured scale ladybird, Rhyzobius fagus (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on which the ladybirds have been feeding. Image: Nicholas A. Martin
    Adult armoured scale ladybird, Rhyzobius fagus (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on which the ladybirds have been feeding. Image: Nicholas A. Martin
  • Adult armoured scale ladybird, Rhyzobius fagus (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) about 2.5 mm long. Image: Tim Holmes
    Adult armoured scale ladybird, Rhyzobius fagus (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) about 2.5 mm long. Image: Tim Holmes
  • Larva of steelblue ladybird, Halmus chalybeus (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae). Image: Plant & Food Research Photographer © Plant & Food Research
    Larva of steelblue ladybird, Halmus chalybeus (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae). Image: Plant & Food Research Photographer © Plant & Food Research
  • Adult steelblue ladybird, Halmus chalybeus (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae), about 4 mm long. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Adult steelblue ladybird, Halmus chalybeus (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae), about 4 mm long. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Brown saprophagous fungus, Ramichloridium punctatum (Ascomycota: Dissoconiaceae) growing on dead Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Brown saprophagous fungus, Ramichloridium punctatum (Ascomycota: Dissoconiaceae) growing on dead Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Brown saprophagous fungus, Ramichloridium punctatum (Ascomycota: Dissoconiaceae) growing on dead Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Brown saprophagous fungus, Ramichloridium punctatum (Ascomycota: Dissoconiaceae) growing on dead Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
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Host Plants

The Flocculent flax scale is most commonly found on the underside of leaves of the two species of New Zealand flax, Phormium species (Hemerocallidaceae). It is also occasionally found on other plants with lilly-like leaves.

Adult females and nymphs have sucking mouthparts. Specially shaped rods called stylets are held in the short sheath-like rostrum. When it wishes to feed, the scale insect moves the tip of the rostrum onto the surface of the plant leaf. The stylets are then gradually pushed into the plant and manoeuvred into cells of the plant leaf. The stylets form two tubes, one down which saliva is pumped into plant cells and the second tube through which it sucks the contents of the plant cells. The dead plant cells turn yellow and the yellow patches of dead cells can be seen on the upper side of plant leaves. Unlike other scale insects they have a blind gut, no join between the stomach and annual opening, so unlike many other scale insects, they cannot excrete honeydew.

Table: Host plants of the Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) from Plant-SyNZ database (22 July 2017). The reliability score shows the quality of evidence for the host association (1-10, 10=high).
Common Name(s)Scientific NameFamilyReliability IndexBiostatus
Renga lily, Rock lily, Māikaika, RengarengaArthropodium cirratum (G.Forst.) R.Br.Asparagaceae10endemic
Cabbage tree, Giant dracena, Grass palm, Palm lily, Sago palm, Ti, Kāuka, Kiokio, Kōuka, Tī, Tī awe, Ti kōuka, Tī para, Tī pua, Tī rākau, WhanakeCordyline australis (G.Forst.) Endl.Asparagaceae10endemic
Three Kings cabbage treeCordyline obtecta (Graham) BakerAsparagaceae10indigenous, non-endemic
Dwarf cabbage tree, Short-stemmed cabbage tree, Ti rauriki, Kōpuapua, Korokio, Mauku, Tī awe, Tī kapu, Tī koraha, Tī kupenga, Tī papa, Tī raurikiCordyline pumilio Hook.f.Asparagaceae9endemic
Blue-berry, Ink berry, Blueberry, Pēpepe (berries), Piopio, Rēua (berries) , TūrutuDianella nigra ColensoHemerocallidaceae7endemic
 Furcraea sp.Asparagaceae7naturalised
New Zealand iris, Mānga-a-Huripapa, Mikoikoi, Tūkāuki, TūrutuLibertia ixioides (G.Forst.) Spreng.Iridaceae10endemic
 Libertia peregrinans Cockayne & AllanIridaceae10endemic
Coastal flax, Mountain flax, Kōrari-tuauru, WhararikiPhormium cookianum Le JolisHemerocallidaceae10endemic
Flax, Lowland flax, New Zealand flax, Swamp flax, Harakeke, Harareke, KōrariPhormium tenax J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.Hemerocallidaceae10endemic
  • Colonies of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant and Food Research
    Colonies of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant and Food Research
  • Upper side of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae), with chlorotic (yellow) areas caused by feeding of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant and Food Research
    Upper side of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae), with chlorotic (yellow) areas caused by feeding of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant and Food Research
  • A colony of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae).  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    A colony of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
  • Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on leaf of Three Kings cabbage tree, Cordyline obtecta (Asparagaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on leaf of Three Kings cabbage tree, Cordyline obtecta (Asparagaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on leaf of Blue-berry, Dianella nigra (Hemerocallidaceae), note the yellow areas of feeding damage on the upper side of the leaf. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on leaf of Blue-berry, Dianella nigra (Hemerocallidaceae), note the yellow areas of feeding damage on the upper side of the leaf. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on leaf of Libertia peregrinans (Iridaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on leaf of Libertia peregrinans (Iridaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
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Information Sources

Henderson RC. 2011. Diaspididae (Insecta: Hemiptera: Coccoidea). Fauna of New Zealand. 66: 1-275.

Plant-SyNZ: Invertebrate herbivore-host plant association database. plant-synz.landcareresearch.co.nz/.

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Acknowledgements

The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited (Plant & Food Research) for permission to use photographs.

Landcare Research New Zealand Limited (Landcare Research) for permission to use photographs.

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Other Images

  • Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on leaf of Three Kings cabbage tree, Cordyline obtecta (Asparagaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on leaf of Three Kings cabbage tree, Cordyline obtecta (Asparagaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on leaf of Three Kings cabbage tree, Cordyline obtecta (Asparagaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on leaf of Three Kings cabbage tree, Cordyline obtecta (Asparagaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on leaf of Blue-berry, Dianella nigra (Hemerocallidaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) on leaf of Blue-berry, Dianella nigra (Hemerocallidaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae).  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Winged adult male Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae). 
 Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Winged adult male Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), on underside of leaf of New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax (Hemerocallidaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Adult wasp (Hymenoptera) parasitoid of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), note the round exit hole in a female scale.   Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Adult wasp (Hymenoptera) parasitoid of Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), note the round exit hole in a female scale. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Webbing of the Flax scale eating caterpillar, Batrachedra arenosella, (Lepidoptera: Batrachedridae) that has been feeding on Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    Webbing of the Flax scale eating caterpillar, Batrachedra arenosella, (Lepidoptera: Batrachedridae) that has been feeding on Flocculent flax scale, Poliaspis floccosa (Hemiptera: Diaspididae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
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Update History

1 August 2017. NA Martin. Host plants updated. Photos of C. pumilo added.

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Suggested Citation

Martin NA. 2016, revised 2017. Flocculent flax scale - Poliaspis floccosa. Interesting Insects and other Invertebrates. New Zealand Arthropod Factsheet Series Number 33. http://nzacfactsheets.landcareresearch.co.nz/Index.html. Date Accessed. ISSN 1179-643X.

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