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Peppercorn scale - Epelidochiton piperis

By N A Martin (2017 revised 2018)

Classification

Class:
Insecta
Order:
Hemiptera
Superfamily:
Coccoidea
Family:
Coccidae
Scientific Name:
Epelidochiton piperis (Maskell, 1882)
  • Mature females and nymphs of Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Mature females and nymphs of Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Puriri, Vitex lucens (Labiatae) leaves with Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on the underside of a leaf and sooty mould growing on the honeydew on the upper side of a leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Puriri, Vitex lucens (Labiatae) leaves with Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on the underside of a leaf and sooty mould growing on the honeydew on the upper side of a leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
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Common Names

Peppercorn scale
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Synonyms

Ctenochiton piperis Maskell 1882
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Biostatus and Distribution

This distinctive endemic scale insect is found on the underside of leaves of its tree and shrub host plants. It lives in lowland forests and on urban trees in northern North Island and northern South Island.

Conservation status: Not endangered, often abundant even on urban trees in Auckland.

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Life Stages and Annual Cycle

Lifecycle of a soft scale, Coccidae (Hemiptera). The male propupae and pupa live under the male second instar cover. In this example there are three nymphal stages before the adult female. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Diagram adapted from Figure 2 in Hodgson C.J. and Henderson R.C. 2000. Fauna of New Zealand. 41
Lifecycle of a soft scale, Coccidae (Hemiptera). The male propupae and pupa live under the male second instar cover. In this example there are three nymphal stages before the adult female. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Diagram adapted from Figure 2 in Hodgson C.J. and Henderson R.C. 2000. Fauna of New Zealand. 41

Peppercorn scale insects have several overlapping generations per year in Auckland. The life history in the South Island is not known. Unlike most other adult female New Zealand Coccidae, adult female Peppercorn scale insects are not entirely sessile and can walk off the underside of the leaves (their preferred feeding site) when disturbed. It is thought that this is an adaptation for moving to new feeding sites, particularly after overwintering on older leaves.

The bodies of adult females and female and male nymphs are covered by a test, glassy wax plates, secreted by the upper surface of the insect’s body. On the underside of the body are three pairs of legs and a pair of antennae. There is also a short rostrum which houses the stylets that are used for feeding. When a nymph is fully grown it moults, shedding its old skin, but it stays beneath its test. It may walk to a new site where it settles down to feed, grow and enlarge the test.

The first instar nymphs of males and females are identical. The first instar nymphs, often called crawlers, are the main dispersal stage of Peppercorn scale. When it is fully grown, it moults, changes its skin, but keeping the test. The second instar nymph is also a feeding stage. The males and females can be distinguished. The male nymphs develop a more elongate, glassy test. When the male has finished feeding it may move to a new site where it secretes a wax base that firmly attaches it to the plant surface. Under the test the male nymph moults into a propupa, a non-feeding stage with short wing buds. Later the propupa moults into a pupa which has larger wing buds. When the adult male has fully formed, the pupal skin is shed. It has one pair of wings and emerges backwards from beneath the test, wingtips first, by means of the upwardly flexing plate on the posterior end of the test. It is a non-feeding stage and only lives for a few days while it finds and mates with a female.

Females have three nymphal instars (stages). They all feed and the only difference between them is size. The young adult female is the size of the fully grown third instar nymph and grows to about 2-3 times that size. The young adult is rather flat and round with a glossy test of wax plates. It becomes more convex when mature. The body of the young female is light green but gradually becomes dark grey. It can be seen through the glassy wax plates. Each wax plate is convex, composed of layers of wax, uppermost layers at centre of each plate is the smallest and narrowest (secreted when insect was small); most basal layers of each plate are the broadest, filling plate area (and secreted most recently). The mature female has a central brood chamber into which eggs are laid and in which the nymphs hatch before leaving.

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. 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 insect inserts its stylets into the phloem, the plant vessels for transmitting sap from the leaves to other parts of the plant. The sap has a high volume of water and sugars, more than the insect needs. It excretes the excess water and sugar, which is called honeydew.

Walking, flying and dispersal
The nymphs and adult females retain legs and can walk, though the adult female and the second and third instar (stage) nymphs are much less likely to walk than the first instar which is commonly called a crawler. It is the main stage for dispersal. Most crawlers walk to a place on the leaf or another leaf on the stem or branch. Some crawlers disperse to other plants; most long 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 have legs and wings. They can walk over a leaf in search of females with which to mate. They can also fly to nearby colonies, and may be carried further by wind.

  • Mature females and nymphs of Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Mature females and nymphs of Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of an adult female Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae): note the egg shells on the body by the brood chamber. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Underside of an adult female Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae): note the egg shells on the body by the brood chamber. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of an adult female Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae): note the crawler (first instar nymph) on the body by the brood chamber. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Underside of an adult female Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae): note the crawler (first instar nymph) on the body by the brood chamber. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Nymphs of Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae): note the crawler (first instar nymph) and a round female nymph present. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Nymphs of Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae): note the crawler (first instar nymph) and a round female nymph present. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Young adult females and nymphs of Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Young adult females and nymphs of Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Three sizes of nymphs of Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae): note the crawler (first instar nymph). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Three sizes of nymphs of Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae): note the crawler (first instar nymph). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae): note the circular female scale, 2 male scales and two younger nymphs. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae): note the circular female scale, 2 male scales and two younger nymphs. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae): note the male scale with upwardly flexing section of the test at the rear end. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae): note the male scale with upwardly flexing section of the test at the rear end. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Male Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae): note the pupa under the test (scale cover) (left) and the pupa in the upturned test (right). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Male Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae): note the pupa under the test (scale cover) (left) and the pupa in the upturned test (right). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Male Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae): note the pupa removed from the scale cover (right). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Male Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae): note the pupa removed from the scale cover (right). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Two images of an adult male Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Two images of an adult male Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Male Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae). The empty teste (scale cover) has upwardly flexing section at the posterior end of the test (left). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Male Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae). The empty teste (scale cover) has upwardly flexing section at the posterior end of the test (left). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
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Recognition

The mature female Peppercorn scale are distinctive; almost circular, convex and darkly pigmented. In slightly younger females the dark pigment is only in the centre of each wax plate.

Male scales are similar in appearance to those of other species of soft scale insects (Coccidae) and are found in colonies with females. Younger female scales are not as round, flatter and shiny.

  • Mature females and nymphs of Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Mature females and nymphs of Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
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Natural Enemies

Three kinds of natural enemy have been found associated with Peppercorn scale insects, fungal pathogens, two wasp parasitoids and predators.

Pathogens
At least three fungal pathogens have been seen on Peppercorn scale insects. The brown fungus, Tompetchia webberi may infect and kill all or most of the scale insects on the underside of a leaf. It is associated with Coccidae. Two white fungi have been found infesting Peppercorn scale insects. They are awaiting identifiaction.

Parasitoids
At least two species of wasp parasitoids have been reared from Peppercorn scale insects. The only named wasp parasitoid, Aphobetus nanai (Pteromalidae) has mainly been reared from Coocidae.
The female parasitoids lay an egg in a scale insect. The larva lives in or on the body of the scale insect. When the with wasp larva is fully grown it kills the scale insect and pupates under the scale cover. The adult wasp chews a hole in the scale cover though which it emerged.

Predators
Larvae of an unknown lacewing and three ladybirds have been found associated with Peppercorn scale insects. The lacewing and one of the ladybirds, Serangium maculigerum, were probably feeding on the first instar (stage) nymphs of the scale insect. The other ladybirds may also feed on larger scale insects.

Table: Natural enemies of Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), from Plant-SyNZ database (28 November 2017). The reliability index shows the quality of evidence for the host association (0-10, 10=high quality).
Scientific NameCommon NameClassificationEnemy TypeReliability IndexBiostatus
Aphobetus nana (Boucek, 1988) (Wasp)Hymenoptera: Pteromalidaeparasitoid10endemic
Tompetchia webberi (H.S. Fawc.) Subram.Ascomycotapathogen9indigenous, non-endemic
Halmus chalybeus (Boisduval, 1835)Steelblue ladybird (Beetle)Coleoptera: Coccinellidaepredator10adventive
Neuroptera sp.Lacewing (Lacewing)Neuroptera: predator5unknown
Rhyzobius sp. (Beetle)Coleoptera: Coccinellidaepredator7unknown
Serangium maculigerum Blackburn, 1892Citrus whitefly ladybird (Beetle)Coleoptera: Coccinellidaepredator10adventive
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), killed by the brown fungus, Tompetchia webberi (Fungi: Ascomycota) on underside of a leaf of Pigeonwood, Hedycarya arborea (Monimiaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), killed by the brown fungus, Tompetchia webberi (Fungi: Ascomycota) on underside of a leaf of Pigeonwood, Hedycarya arborea (Monimiaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), killed by the brown fungus, Tompetchia webberi (Fungi: Ascomycota) on underside of leaves of Pigeonwood, Hedycarya arborea (Monimiaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), killed by the brown fungus, Tompetchia webberi (Fungi: Ascomycota) on underside of leaves of Pigeonwood, Hedycarya arborea (Monimiaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), killed by the brown fungus, Tompetchia webberi (Fungi: Ascomycota) on underside of a leaf of Kohekohe, Dysoxylum spectabile (Meliaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), killed by the brown fungus, Tompetchia webberi (Fungi: Ascomycota) on underside of a leaf of Kohekohe, Dysoxylum spectabile (Meliaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), killed by the brown fungus, Tompetchia webberi (Fungi: Ascomycota) on underside of a leaf of Kohekohe, Dysoxylum spectabile (Meliaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), killed by the brown fungus, Tompetchia webberi (Fungi: Ascomycota) on underside of a leaf of Kohekohe, Dysoxylum spectabile (Meliaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae) killed by a white fungus Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae) killed by a white fungus Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae) killed by a white fungus. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae) killed by a white fungus. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae) killed by a white fungus. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae) killed by a white fungus. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae) killed by a white fungus. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae) killed by a white fungus. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae) killed by a white fungus. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae) killed by a white fungus. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae) killed by a white fungus.. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae) killed by a white fungus.. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of leaf of Puriri, Vitex lucens (Labiatae) infested with a white fungus. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of leaf of Puriri, Vitex lucens (Labiatae) infested with a white fungus. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae) infested with a white fungus. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae) infested with a white fungus. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Black pupa of a parasitic wasp (Hymenoptera) from under a male cover of a Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Black pupa of a parasitic wasp (Hymenoptera) from under a male cover of a Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Two images of a parasitic wasp (Hymenoptera) from a male Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae): upper side (left) underside (right). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Two images of a parasitic wasp (Hymenoptera) from a male Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae): upper side (left) underside (right). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Two female Peppercorn scales, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), right way up (left) and turned over (right) to show larva of a parasitic wasp (Hymenoptera). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Two female Peppercorn scales, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), right way up (left) and turned over (right) to show larva of a parasitic wasp (Hymenoptera). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Black pupa of a parasitic wasp (Hymenoptera) from under a female cover of a Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Black pupa of a parasitic wasp (Hymenoptera) from under a female cover of a Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Female Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), exit hole made by an adult parasitic wasp (Hymenoptera). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Female Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), exit hole made by an adult parasitic wasp (Hymenoptera). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Female Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), exit hole made by an adult parasitic wasp (Hymenoptera). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Female Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), exit hole made by an adult parasitic wasp (Hymenoptera). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Two images of a parasitic wasp (Hymenoptera) from a male Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae): upper side (left) underside (right). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Two images of a parasitic wasp (Hymenoptera) from a male Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae): upper side (left) underside (right). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Two images of a parasitic wasp (Hymenoptera) from a male Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae): side view (left) upper side (right). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Two images of a parasitic wasp (Hymenoptera) from a male Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae): side view (left) upper side (right). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Lacewing larva (Neuroptera) feeding on first instar (stage) Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Lacewing larva (Neuroptera) feeding on first instar (stage) Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Larval skin and pupal case of steelblue ladybird, Halmus chalybeus (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) on a puriri, Vitex lucens, leaf with pepper corn scale insects Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae); larvae were feeding on the scale crawlers. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Larval skin and pupal case of steelblue ladybird, Halmus chalybeus (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) on a puriri, Vitex lucens, leaf with pepper corn scale insects Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae); larvae were feeding on the scale crawlers. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Larvae of citrus whitefly ladybird, Serangium maculigerum (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) feeding on first instar (stage) Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Larvae of citrus whitefly ladybird, Serangium maculigerum (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) feeding on first instar (stage) Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Larvae of citrus whitefly ladybird, Serangium maculigerum (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) feeding on first instar (stage) peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Larvae of citrus whitefly ladybird, Serangium maculigerum (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) feeding on first instar (stage) peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Larva of native ladybird, Rhyzobius sp. ‘Epelidochiton’ (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) feeding on first instar (stage) Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae).
    Larva of native ladybird, Rhyzobius sp. ‘Epelidochiton’ (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) feeding on first instar (stage) Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae).
  • Larva of native ladybird, Rhyzobius sp. ‘Epelidochiton’ (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) feeding on first instar (stage) Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae).
    Larva of native ladybird, Rhyzobius sp. ‘Epelidochiton’ (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) feeding on first instar (stage) Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae).
  • Larva of native ladybird, Rhyzobius sp. ‘Epelidochiton’ (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) feeding on an upturned adult female Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae).
    Larva of native ladybird, Rhyzobius sp. ‘Epelidochiton’ (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) feeding on an upturned adult female Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae).
  • Prepupal larva of native ladybird, Rhyzobius sp. ‘Epelidochiton’ (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) that had been feeding on female Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae).
    Prepupal larva of native ladybird, Rhyzobius sp. ‘Epelidochiton’ (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) that had been feeding on female Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae).
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Host Plants

Peppercorn scale insects are found on the underside of leaves of trees and shrubs. Some species of tree regularly have many scale insects on their leaves while other have only ever have a few. All known hat plants are indigenous to New Zealand except Lawson's cypress, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana (Cupressaceae). The infested Lawson’s cyrpus tree was growing under old native trees which were the likely source of the scale insects.

Feeding and honeydew
Like other Hemiptera, Peppercorn scale insects have sucking mouth parts. The long stylets, special shaped rods, are held in a short rostrum on the underside of the body. When the insect wishes to feed the stylets are then gradually pushed into the plant. The inner pair of stylets, form two tubes, one through which saliva is injected into the plant and a second through which plants juices are sucked up into the insect. The Peppercorn scale inserts its stylets into the phloem, the plant vessels for transmitting sap from the leaves to other parts of the plant. The sap has a high volume of water and sugars, more than the insect needs. It excretes the excess water and sugar, which is called honeydew.

Table: Host plants of the Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae) from Plant-SyNZ database (28 November 2017). The reliability score shows the quality of evidence for the host association (1-10, 10=high).
Common Name(s)Scientific NameFamilyReliability IndexBiostatus
New Zealand ash, Tapitapi, Tītoki, Tītongi, Tokitoki, Tongitongi, TopitopiAlectryon excelsus Gaertn.Sapindaceae10endemic
Wineberry, Mako, MakomakoAristotelia serrata (J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.) W.R.B.OliverElaeocarpaceae10endemic
Tawa, Tawa rautangiBeilschmiedia tawa (A.Cunn.) Benth. & Hook.f. ex KirkLauraceae10endemic
Lawson's cypress, Port Oreford cedar, lawson cypress, LawsonianaChamaecyparis lawsoniana (A.Murray) Parl.Cupressaceae10naturalised
Mexican orange blossomChoisya ternata KunthRutaceae10cultivated
Coprosma acutifolia Hook.f.Rubiaceae10endemic
Large seeded coprosma, Kākaramū, Kākarangū, Karamū, Kāramuramu, KarangūCoprosma macrocarpa CheesemanRubiaceae10endemic
Glossy karamu, Kākaramū, Kākarangū, Karamū, Kāramuramu, KarangūCoprosma robusta RaoulRubiaceae10endemic
Karaka nut, Karaka, KōpīCorynocarpus laevigatus J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.Corynocarpaceae10endemic
New Zealand mahogany, Kohe, Kohekohe, Koheriki, Kohepi (flowers), Kohepu (flowers), Māota (flowers)Dysoxylum spectabile (G.Forst.) Hook.f.Meliaceae10endemic
Pigeonwood, Kaiwhir, Kaiwhiria, Kōporokaiwhiri, Pōporokaiwhiri, Pōporokaiwhiria, Porokaiwhiri, Porokaiwhiria, PoroporokaiwhiriaHedycarya arborea J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.Monimiaceae10endemic
Lacebark, Hohere, Hoihere, Houhere, Houhi, Houhi ongaonga, Houī, Ongaonga, Whauahi, WheuhiHoheria populnea A.CunnMalvaceae10endemic
Norfolk island hibiscus, Pyramid tree, WhitewoodLagunaria pattersonii (Andrews) G.DonMalvaceae10naturalised
Pukatea, PuketeaLaurelia novae-zelandiae A. Cunn.Atherospermataceae10endemic
MāhoeMelicytus sp.Violaceae7unknown
Aka, RātāMetrosideros sp.Myrtaceae7unknown
Pepper tree, Kawa, KawakawaPiper excelsum G.Forst.Piperaceae10endemic
Lemonwood, Kīhihi, TarataPittosporum eugenioides A.Cunn.Pittosporaceae10endemic
Seven-finger, Kohi, Kotētē, Patate, Patatē, Patē, PatētēSchefflera digitata J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.Araliaceae10endemic
New Zealand oak, Kauere, PūririVitex lucens KirkLabiatae10endemic
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Glossy karamu, Coprosma robusta (Rubiaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Glossy karamu, Coprosma robusta (Rubiaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Lacebark, Hoheria populnea (Malvaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Lacebark, Hoheria populnea (Malvaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Lacebark, Hoheria populnea (Malvaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Lacebark, Hoheria populnea (Malvaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Lemonwood, Pittosporum eugenioides (Pittosporaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Lemonwood, Pittosporum eugenioides (Pittosporaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Titoki, Alectryon excelsus (Sapindaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Titoki, Alectryon excelsus (Sapindaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaflet of Puriri, Vitex lucens (Labiatae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaflet of Puriri, Vitex lucens (Labiatae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • A Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Seven-finger, Schefflera digitata (Araliaceae).
    A Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Seven-finger, Schefflera digitata (Araliaceae).
  • Several Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Large seeded coprosma, Coprosma macrocarpa (Rubiaceae): note in the top scale the round exit hole made by an adult parasitic wasp.
    Several Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Large seeded coprosma, Coprosma macrocarpa (Rubiaceae): note in the top scale the round exit hole made by an adult parasitic wasp.
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Honeydew Feeding

Peppercorn scale insects have sucking mouth parts. The stylets are inserted into the phloem, the plant vessels for transmitting sap from the leaves to other parts of the plant. The sap has a high volume of water and sugars, more than the insect needs. It excretes the excess water and sugar, which is called honeydew. Honeydew lands on leaves and plants below. When a lot of honeydew is excreted, black sooty mould fungi grow on the sticky leaves.

Some insects such as bees and wasps feed on honeydew, but none have been recorded feeding on Peppercorn scale honeydew.

  • Puriri, Vitex lucens (Labiatae) leaves with Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on the underside of a leaf and sooty mould growing on the honeydew on the upper side of a leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Puriri, Vitex lucens (Labiatae) leaves with Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on the underside of a leaf and sooty mould growing on the honeydew on the upper side of a leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Lacebark, Hoheria populnea, (Malvaceae) leaves with sooty mould growing on the honeydew on the upper side of a leaf and Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on the underside of leaves. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    Lacebark, Hoheria populnea, (Malvaceae) leaves with sooty mould growing on the honeydew on the upper side of a leaf and Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on the underside of leaves. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
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Information Sources

Hodgson CJ, Henderson RC. 2000. Coccidae (Insecta: Hemiptera: Coccoidea). Fauna of New Zealand. 41: 1-264.

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.

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Other Images

  • Nymphs and an upturned adult female Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae): note the crawler (first instar nymph) on the females body. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Nymphs and an upturned adult female Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae): note the crawler (first instar nymph) on the females body. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of an adult female Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Underside of an adult female Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Nymphs and two adult female Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae): note the dark adult female is parasitised. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Nymphs and two adult female Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae): note the dark adult female is parasitised. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), killed by the brown fungus, Tompetchia webberi (Fungi: Ascomycota) on underside of leaves of Pigeonwood, Hedycarya arborea (Monimiaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), killed by the brown fungus, Tompetchia webberi (Fungi: Ascomycota) on underside of leaves of Pigeonwood, Hedycarya arborea (Monimiaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), killed by the brown fungus, Tompetchia webberi (Fungi: Ascomycota) on underside of leaves of Pigeonwood, Hedycarya arborea (Monimiaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), killed by the brown fungus, Tompetchia webberi (Fungi: Ascomycota) on underside of leaves of Pigeonwood, Hedycarya arborea (Monimiaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), killed by the brown fungus, Tompetchia webberi (Fungi: Ascomycota) on underside of a leaf of Pigeonwood, Hedycarya arborea (Monimiaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), killed by the brown fungus, Tompetchia webberi (Fungi: Ascomycota) on underside of a leaf of Pigeonwood, Hedycarya arborea (Monimiaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), some of which have been killed by the brown fungus, Tompetchia webberi (Fungi: Ascomycota), on underside of a leaf of Pigeonwood, Hedycarya arborea (Monimiaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), some of which have been killed by the brown fungus, Tompetchia webberi (Fungi: Ascomycota), on underside of a leaf of Pigeonwood, Hedycarya arborea (Monimiaceae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A. Martin
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae) killed by a white fungus. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae) killed by a white fungus. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae) killed by a white fungus. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae) killed by a white fungus. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of leaf of Puriri, Vitex lucens (Labiatae) infested with a white fungus. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of leaf of Puriri, Vitex lucens (Labiatae) infested with a white fungus. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae) infested with a white fungus. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae), on underside of a leaf of Karaka, Corynocarpus laevigatus (Corynocarpaceae) infested with a white fungus. Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Lacewing larva (Neuroptera) feeding on first instar (stage) Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Lacewing larva (Neuroptera) feeding on first instar (stage) Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Three larvae of native ladybird, Rhyzobius sp. ‘Epelidochiton’ (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) feeding on Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae): one larva had just moulted.
    Three larvae of native ladybird, Rhyzobius sp. ‘Epelidochiton’ (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) feeding on Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae): one larva had just moulted.
  • Larva of native ladybird, Rhyzobius sp. ‘Epelidochiton’ (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) feeding on first instar (stage) Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae).
    Larva of native ladybird, Rhyzobius sp. ‘Epelidochiton’ (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) feeding on first instar (stage) Peppercorn scale, Epelidochiton piperis (Hemiptera: Coccidae).
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Update History

1 August 2018, NA Martin. Photos on 2 host plants added.

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Suggested Citation

Martin NA. 2017, revised 2018. Peppercorn scale - Epelidochiton piperis. Interesting Insects and other Invertebrates. New Zealand Arthropod Factsheet Series Number 117. http://nzacfactsheets.landcareresearch.co.nz/Index.html. Date Accessed. ISSN 1179-643X.

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