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Long-fringed Astelia mealybug - Rastrococcus asteliae

By N A Martin (2017)

Classification

Phylum:
Arthropoda
Class:
Insecta
Order:
Hemiptera
Superfamily:
Coccoidea
Family:
Pseudococcidae
Scientific Name:
Rastrococcus asteliae (Maskell, 1884)
  • Two mature female Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia hastatum (Asteliaceae) leaf, note the short white wax anal tube on the left end of each insect.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Two mature female Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia hastatum (Asteliaceae) leaf, note the short white wax anal tube on the left end of each insect. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Colony of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia (Asteliaceae) leaf.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Colony of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia (Asteliaceae) leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
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Common Names

Long-fringed Astelia mealybug
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Synonyms

Pseudococcus asteliae Maskell, 1884
Phenacoccus asteliae (Maskell, 1884)

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Biostatus and Distribution

This distinctive endemic mealybug lives on the underside of leaves of its endemic host plants Astelia species (Asteliaceae), and renga lily, Arthropodium cirratum (Asparagaceae). It is found on these plants in the North Island.

Conservation status: Widespread in the North Island on its host plants in native ecosystems.

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Life Stages and Annual Cycle

Diagramme of the life cycle of a typical mealybug (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae).  Image: JM Cox © Drawing published in Fauna of New Zealand 11:1-228, Fig. 1.
Diagramme of the life cycle of a typical mealybug (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae). Image: JM Cox © Drawing published in Fauna of New Zealand 11:1-228, Fig. 1.

This mealybug 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.

The adult female is oval, about 2 mm long and 1 mm wide. It is yellow-brown and covered with white flocculent wax that extends into 16 pairs of wax filaments. The wax is produced by numerous glands with pores in the skin (epidermis). The lateral filaments have a core of thin, stiff wax rods that are covered with flocculent wax. The insect has three pairs of legs and two antennae. There is no distinct division between the head or thorax (middle section of the body) and abdomen. On the underside of the body there is a short rostrum that guides the feeding stylets.

Adult females give birth to live nymphs. The nymphs are like small adults in appearance. There are three female nymphal instars (stages) and two male nymphal instars. These feeding stages grow by moulting (changing skin). The second instar male makes a fluffy white cocoon in which develop two pre-adult non-feeding stages, a prepupa and a pupa. The prepupa and pupa have wing buds. The adult male emerges from the pupa. The adult male does not have a rostrum or stylets and does not feed. It has one pair of simple wings. When it is ready to emerge from the cocoon, the back end of the cocoon is pushed open and the male backs out. After it has opened the back of the cocoon, it grows two pairs of long wax tails. It is presumed that the wax tails help balance the insect in flight. The male may mate with females of the same colony or fly to another colony to mate.

Feeding and honeydew.
Mealybug 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 mealybug 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 the phloem (nutrient transport vessels) of the plant. The mealybugs suck the plant’s sap, which is high in sugars and low in other nutrients. Mealybugs excrete the excess sugary liquid, which is called honeydew, through a short white wax anal tube.

Walking, flying and dispersal.
The adult male has legs and wings. It can walk around its colony and it can fly to other colonies on the same or different plants. Adult females and nymphs also have legs and can walk. They may move about the leaf where they were born, or they can move to a new leaf in the same clump. In other insects with a none flying adult female, the first stage larvae or nymphs are able to disperse to new host plants. They usually do this the using wind. It is likely that some first instar mealybug nymphs climb to a prominent place on a leaf and await a gust of wind.

  • Two mature female Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia hastatum (Asteliaceae) leaf, note the short white wax anal tube on the left end of each insect.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Two mature female Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia hastatum (Asteliaceae) leaf, note the short white wax anal tube on the left end of each insect. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Female Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) note the stiff wax rods on which the flocculent wax is attached.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Female Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) note the stiff wax rods on which the flocculent wax is attached. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Drawing of the underside of female Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae). The small drawings are of pores, some of which secrete wax. Image: JM Cox © Modified from drawing by JM Cox published in Fauna of New Zealand 11:1-228, Fig. 112.
    Drawing of the underside of female Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae). The small drawings are of pores, some of which secrete wax. Image: JM Cox © Modified from drawing by JM Cox published in Fauna of New Zealand 11:1-228, Fig. 112.
  • Drawing of the upper side of female Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae). The small drawings are of spines and pores. The dense clusters of pores secrete the wax filaments.  Image: JM Cox © Modified from drawing by JM Cox published in Fauna of New Zealand 11:1-228, Fig. 112.
    Drawing of the upper side of female Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae). The small drawings are of spines and pores. The dense clusters of pores secrete the wax filaments. Image: JM Cox © Modified from drawing by JM Cox published in Fauna of New Zealand 11:1-228, Fig. 112.
  • Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia (Asteliaceae) leaf, note the second stage (instar) juvenile moulting.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia (Asteliaceae) leaf, note the second stage (instar) juvenile moulting. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Male Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia (Asteliaceae) leaf, note the wings and four long wax ‘tails’.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Male Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia (Asteliaceae) leaf, note the wings and four long wax ‘tails’. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Male Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), note the wings and four long wax ‘tails’. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Male Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), note the wings and four long wax ‘tails’. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) colony with a cluster of male cocoons on the right.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) colony with a cluster of male cocoons on the right. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Male Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) in its cocoon; note the tips of wings and four wax ‘tails’.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Male Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) in its cocoon; note the tips of wings and four wax ‘tails’. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Male Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) in its cocoon; note the tips of wings and the absence the wax ‘tails’.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Male Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) in its cocoon; note the tips of wings and the absence the wax ‘tails’. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
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Recognition

The Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae, lives on the underside of young and old leaves of its endemic host plants Astelia species (Asteliaceae), and renga lily, Arthropodium cirratum (Asparagaceae). It may also be found down between closely appressed leaves, which is where the Short-fringed Astelia mealybug, Laminicoccus asteliae Cox, 1987, is also found. It lives between the youngest leaves. The length of the lateral fringes distinguishes the two species.

  • Two mature female Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia hastatum (Asteliaceae) leaf, note the short white wax anal tube on the left end of each insect.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Two mature female Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia hastatum (Asteliaceae) leaf, note the short white wax anal tube on the left end of each insect. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Colony of Short-fringed Astelia mealybug, Laminicoccus asteliae Cox, 1987 (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on young leaf of Astelia trinerva (Asteliaceae).  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Colony of Short-fringed Astelia mealybug, Laminicoccus asteliae Cox, 1987 (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on young leaf of Astelia trinerva (Asteliaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
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Natural Enemies

No pathogens of the Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae, are known.

Parasitoids
One small wasp (Hymenoptera) parasitoid has been reared from long-fringed astelia mealybugs. The female wasp lays an egg in a mealybug. When the wasp larva is fully grown it kills the mealybug and the skin of the mealybug swells up and hardens forming a ‘mummy’ in which the wasp pupates. After the adult emerges from its pupa, it chews a hole in the skin of the mummy through which it leaves.

Predators
Several predators of the Long-fringed Astelia mealybugs are known. A spider was found feeding on a male Long-fringed Astelia mealybug. Several other predators feed on nymphs and adult females. These include two ladybirds and one hoverfly. The larvae of the Yellow haired ladybird, Adoxellus flavihirtus, feed on several kinds of insects, while the larvae of the smaller Native mealybug ladybird, Rhyzobius sp. 1, appears to specialise on mealybugs and larvae have been most commonly found associated with Long-tailed Astelia mealybugs. In Auckland, larvae of hoverflies, (Diptera: Syrphidae), were the commonest predators found feeding on the Long-fringed Astelia mealybug. Adults of one species, Allograpta sp. Have been reared. The cocoon of a moth, Batrachedra arenosella (Lepidoptera: Batrachedridae), whose caterpillars are predators of scale insects and also appears to feed on Long-fringed Astelia mealybugs.

Table: Predators of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), from Plant-SyNZ database (3 January 2017). The reliability index shows the quality of evidence for the host association (0-10, 10=high quality).
Scientific NameCommon NameClassificationEnemy TypeReliability
Index
Biostatus
Adoxellus flavihirtus (Broun, 1880)Yellow haired ladybird (Beetle)Coleoptera: Coccinellidaepredator10endemic
Allograpta sp.(Fly)Diptera: Syrphidaepredator7endemic
Batrachedra arenosella (Walker, 1864)Flax scale eating caterpillar (Moth or Butterfly)Lepidoptera: Batrachedridaepredator9endemic
Cryptachaea veruculata (Urquhart, 1886) (Spider)Araneae: Theridiidaepredator8adventive
Rhyzobius sp. 1 (Kuschel 1990)Native mealybug ladybird (Beetle)Coleoptera: Coccinellidaepredator9endemic
  • Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia banksii (Asteliaceae) parasitised by a tiny wasp (Hymenoptera). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia banksii (Asteliaceae) parasitised by a tiny wasp (Hymenoptera). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Larva of Native mealybug ladybird, Rhyzobius sp. 1 (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) in a colony of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia banksii (Asteliaceae) leaf.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Larva of Native mealybug ladybird, Rhyzobius sp. 1 (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) in a colony of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia banksii (Asteliaceae) leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Dorsal (top) side of wasp (Hymenoptera) parasitoid of the Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Dorsal (top) side of wasp (Hymenoptera) parasitoid of the Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Ventral side (underside) of wasp (Hymenoptera) parasitoid of the Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Ventral side (underside) of wasp (Hymenoptera) parasitoid of the Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Small larva of yellow haired ladybird, Adoxellus flavihirtus (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) on underside of Astelia banksii (Asteliaceae) leaf.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Small larva of yellow haired ladybird, Adoxellus flavihirtus (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) on underside of Astelia banksii (Asteliaceae) leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Large larva of yellow haired ladybird, Adoxellus flavihirtus (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) in a colony of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia banksii (Asteliaceae) leaf.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Large larva of yellow haired ladybird, Adoxellus flavihirtus (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) in a colony of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia banksii (Asteliaceae) leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Adult of yellow haired ladybird, Adoxellus flavihirtus (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Adult of yellow haired ladybird, Adoxellus flavihirtus (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of adult of yellow haired ladybird, Adoxellus flavihirtus (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Underside of adult of yellow haired ladybird, Adoxellus flavihirtus (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Adult of yellow haired ladybird, Adoxellus flavihirtus (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) leaf.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Adult of yellow haired ladybird, Adoxellus flavihirtus (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Adult of yellow haired ladybird, Adoxellus flavihirtus (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) leaf.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Adult of yellow haired ladybird, Adoxellus flavihirtus (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Larva of Native mealybug ladybird, Rhyzobius sp. 1 (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) in a colony of long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Larva of Native mealybug ladybird, Rhyzobius sp. 1 (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) in a colony of long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Larva of Native mealybug ladybird, Rhyzobius sp. 1 (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) in a colony of long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Larva of Native mealybug ladybird, Rhyzobius sp. 1 (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) in a colony of long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Pupa of Native mealybug ladybird, Rhyzobius sp. 1 (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae), note the white larval skin at the base of the pupa.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Pupa of Native mealybug ladybird, Rhyzobius sp. 1 (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae), note the white larval skin at the base of the pupa. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Adult Native mealybug ladybird, Rhyzobius sp. 1 (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) about 2 mm long.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Adult Native mealybug ladybird, Rhyzobius sp. 1 (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) about 2 mm long. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of an adult Native mealybug ladybird, Rhyzobius sp. 1 (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Underside of an adult Native mealybug ladybird, Rhyzobius sp. 1 (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Egg of hoverfly (Diptera: Syphidae), predator of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) by mealybug colony. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    Egg of hoverfly (Diptera: Syphidae), predator of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) by mealybug colony. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
  • Hoverfly larva, Allograpta sp. (Diptera: Syphidae), predator of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia trinerva (Asteliaceae) leaf.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Hoverfly larva, Allograpta sp. (Diptera: Syphidae), predator of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia trinerva (Asteliaceae) leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Hoverfly larva, Allograpta sp. (Diptera: Syphidae), predator of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia trinerva (Asteliaceae) leaf.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Hoverfly larva, Allograpta sp. (Diptera: Syphidae), predator of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia trinerva (Asteliaceae) leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Hoverfly larva, Allograpta sp. (Diptera: Syphidae), predator of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia trinerva (Asteliaceae) leaf.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Hoverfly larva, Allograpta sp. (Diptera: Syphidae), predator of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia trinerva (Asteliaceae) leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Pupa of Hoverfly, Allograpta sp. (Diptera: Syphidae), predator of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia banksii (Asteliaceae) leaf.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Pupa of Hoverfly, Allograpta sp. (Diptera: Syphidae), predator of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia banksii (Asteliaceae) leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Dorsal (upper) side of adult hoverfly, Allograpta sp. (Diptera: Syphidae), predator of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Dorsal (upper) side of adult hoverfly, Allograpta sp. (Diptera: Syphidae), predator of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Ventral side (underside) of adult hoverfly, Allograpta sp. (Diptera: Syphidae), predator of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Ventral side (underside) of adult hoverfly, Allograpta sp. (Diptera: Syphidae), predator of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Cocoon of moth Batrachedra arenosella (Lepidoptera: Batrachedridae), caterpillars are predators of scale insects and of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia banksii (Asteliaceae) leaf; note the opening of the cocoon, (arrow) through which the moth emerged.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Cocoon of moth Batrachedra arenosella (Lepidoptera: Batrachedridae), caterpillars are predators of scale insects and of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia banksii (Asteliaceae) leaf; note the opening of the cocoon, (arrow) through which the moth emerged. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Adult moth Batrachedra arenosella (Lepidoptera: Batrachedridae), caterpillars are predators of scale insects and of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia banksii (Asteliaceae) leaf.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Adult moth Batrachedra arenosella (Lepidoptera: Batrachedridae), caterpillars are predators of scale insects and of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia banksii (Asteliaceae) leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
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Host Plants

This Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae lives on the underside of leaves of its endemic host plants Astelia species (Asteliaceae), and renga lily, Arthropodium cirratum (Asparagaceae).

Mealybug adult females and nymphs feed by inserting their stylets into the phloem, the nutrient transport vessels of the plant. The mealybugs suck the plant sap. Plant sap is high in sugars and low in other nutrients. Mealybugs excrete the excess sugary liquid, which is called honey-dew, through a short white wax anal tube. This may make the plant leaves sticky, but has not been noticed in association with colonies of this species.

Table: Host plants of the Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) from Plant-SyNZ database (3 January 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
Coastal astelia, Shore kowharawhara, Horahora, Kōwharawhara, Pūhara, Pūwhara, Pūwharawhara, WharawharaAstelia banksii A. Cunn.Asteliaceae10endemic
Bush flax, Bush lily, KakahaAstelia fragrans ColensoAsteliaceae10endemic
Kahakaha, Kōkaha, Pūwharawhara, Puwherowhero, TākahakahaAstelia hastatum ColensoAsteliaceae10endemic
Kahakaha, Kōhaha, KōwharawharaAstelia solandri A. Cunn.Asteliaceae10endemic
Kauri grassAstelia trinervia KirkAsteliaceae10endemic
  • Two mature female Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia hastatum (Asteliaceae) leaf, note the short white wax anal tube on the left end of each insect.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Two mature female Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia hastatum (Asteliaceae) leaf, note the short white wax anal tube on the left end of each insect. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Colony of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia (Asteliaceae) leaf.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Colony of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia (Asteliaceae) leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
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Honeydew Feeding

The Argentine ant, Linepithema humile (Mayr, 1868) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) was found associated with a mealybug colony and may have been feeding on the mealybug honeydew. When ants tend insects for honeydew they usually protect the insects from predators and parasitoids.

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Additional Information

Why is there so much white wax?
Most mealybugs produce much white flocculent wax with which they are covered and which also covers the areas of plants they inhabit. To the human eye this makes it much easier to find the colonies of mealybugs. However, does it make it easier for predators and parasitoids to find them, or is the white wax some kind of deterrent and warning colouration? Other insects with a scale stage also cover themselves with white wax. This suggests to me that it may be some kind of deterrent and warning. Recent observations indicate that the wax may impede movement of some ladybird larvae.

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Information Sources

Cox JM. 1987. Pseudococcidae (Insecta: Hemiptera). Fauna of New Zealand. 11: 1-230.

Gardener-Gee R, Beggs JR. 2009. Distribution and abundance of endemic coelostomidiid scale insects (Hemiptera: Coelostomidiidae) in Auckland forests, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Ecology. 33 (2): 138-146.

Williams DJ, Henderson RC. 2005. A new species of the mealybug genus Rastrococcus Ferris (Hemiptera: Sternorrhyncha: Pseudococcidae) from New Zealand. Zootaxa. 1085: 47-60.

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Acknowledgements

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

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Other Images

  • Drawing of a typical male mealybug (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae). Image: JM Cox © Drawing published in Fauna of New Zealand 11:1-228, Fig. 2.
    Drawing of a typical male mealybug (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae). Image: JM Cox © Drawing published in Fauna of New Zealand 11:1-228, Fig. 2.
  • Male Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), note the wings and four long wax ‘tails’.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Male Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), note the wings and four long wax ‘tails’. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Male Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) in a colony of the mealybugs, note the wings and four long wax ‘tails’.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Male Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) in a colony of the mealybugs, note the wings and four long wax ‘tails’. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Male Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) in a colony of the mealybugs, note the wings and four long wax ‘tails’.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Male Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) in a colony of the mealybugs, note the wings and four long wax ‘tails’. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Two female Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), note the stiff wax rods on which the flocculent wax is attached.  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Two female Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), note the stiff wax rods on which the flocculent wax is attached. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Small colony of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae).  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Small colony of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Hoverfly larva, Allograpta sp. (Diptera: Syphidae), predator of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia trinerva (Asteliaceae) leaf Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Hoverfly larva, Allograpta sp. (Diptera: Syphidae), predator of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia trinerva (Asteliaceae) leaf Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Pupa of hoverfly (Diptera: Syphidae), predator of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia banksii (Asteliaceae) leaf.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Pupa of hoverfly (Diptera: Syphidae), predator of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on underside of Astelia banksii (Asteliaceae) leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Dorsal (upper) side of adult hoverfly, Allograpta sp. (Diptera: Syphidae), predator of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Dorsal (upper) side of adult hoverfly, Allograpta sp. (Diptera: Syphidae), predator of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Ventral side (underside) of adult hoverfly, Allograpta sp. (Diptera: Syphidae), predator of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Ventral side (underside) of adult hoverfly, Allograpta sp. (Diptera: Syphidae), predator of Long-fringed Astelia mealybug, Rastrococcus asteliae (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
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Suggested Citation

Martin NA. 2017. Long-fringed Astelia mealybug - Rastrococcus asteliae. Interesting Insects and other Invertebrates. New Zealand Arthropod Factsheet Series Number 65. http://nzacfactsheets.landcareresearch.co.nz/Index.html. Date Accessed. ISSN 1179-643X.

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