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Question: how to defeat cochineal
Good evening I live in Rome and I have a balcony completely exposed to the south. Despite the use of anti-parasites found on the market every year my plants are completely invaded by cochineal. What can I do? I thank you for your availability, waiting for an answer I greet you
Cochineal on the terrace: Answer: a sneaky insect
cochineal is an insect that develops in particular climatic conditions, that is hot, dry air and poor ventilation; a south-facing terrace will surely receive the sun's rays during the hottest hours of the day, and will remain very hot and dry even at night, without being able to enjoy the cooling of the night air; if in addition to this you bring outdoors plants that already show signs of infestation by the cochineal, within a few weeks all your plants will be full. To give you an example, my south-facing terrace has a trachelospermum on a corner that receives a lot of sun and scarce watering, and that often presents the typical little cochineal egg bags, if I don't take care of it before taking other plants outdoors, to 2-3 days are all already completely infested.
Therefore, first of all check if the plants already present on the terrace are already infested with cochineal; this insect is quite sneaky, it hides on the underside of the foliage and at the axil of the small branches, so well that we often fail to see it. If you see cochineal on these plants, cure them before setting up the terrace with geraniums or other, so that the infestation does not spread.
The product used against cochineal is white oil, a purified mineral oil capable of killing insects and ruining small egg bags; if the cochineal infestations are large, the white oil is activated with an insecticide product based on pyrethrum, or pyrethroids; white oil and activated white oil are used when there are still no flowering plants, and on the terrace you will have to be careful to sprinkle the plants already infested with cochineal, because it does not work as a prevention, but simply kills the insects already present and the eggs, so it conjures the presence of future generations over a short period of time.
Since on your terrace the plants will be grown in pots, you can use a systemic insecticide in the following months, or an insecticide that enters the sap of the plants and kills any insect that tries to feed on such plants. There are systemic insecticides to dissolve in the water of the waterings, or even products in tablets, to be inserted in the jar. Look for one that is also active against scale insects.
These products cannot be used for plants in the open ground, but only for plants and pots, so as to spread the insecticide in a well-defined and contained area.
Once the cochineal has been eradicated and the possibility that it returns with a systemic insecticide is averted, you can also remember to vaporize your plants from time to time, to try to increase the humidity of the air, since scale insects do not like fresh and humid air .