Dusty Pests (Cochineal Scale)

 Dusty Pests (Cochineal Scale)

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If you own a cactus, then chances are that at some point within your plant's lifetime you may start to notice a dusty, cotton-like mass on the surface of your plants. This is one of the signs of a Cochineal Scale bug infestation.

These are a type of insect that feed on the pads of various types of cacti, but particularly Prickly Pears. They are drawn to the juices stored within the plant, and over time can significantly weaken cacti by feeding on them. In fact, if left untreated, Cochineal Scale can be fatal.

Keep an eye out for the white, cottony wax (it may sometimes alternatively appear as a dry white powder) on your cacti, as this is the protective coating that these bugs form to shelter themselves from the harsh sun as well as from potential predators.

Cochineal Scale

Cochineal Scale can look a lot like Mealybugs, however, one way to tell them apart is actually by squishing them! Cochineal Scale will produce a red stain when squashed (this red coloring has historically been used in dyes and paints).

Particularly make sure to check any joints or small crevices on your cacti, as this is where Cochineal Scale is most likely to clump together.