Photo 1. Large number (dead) of male scales, Pseudaulacaspis pentagona, on paper mulberry, Broussonetia papyrifera.
White peach scale, mulberry scale
Worldwide. Asia, Africa, North, South and Central America, the Caribbean, Europe, Oceania. It is recorded from Australia, Guam, Federated States of Micronesia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Northern Mariana Islands, Fiji, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Wallis & Futuna.
In Pacific island countries, it is common on bele, chilli, capsicum, cassava, and passionfruit. It has also been found causing heavy infestations on paper mulberry (Broussonetia sp.) on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands (Photo 1). Mulberry is a main host, and paper mulberry is in the same family.
The scale feeds on plant sap, and infestations on passionfruit cause yellow leaves, small fruit, and premature fruit drop. Heavy infestations can result in stunting (cassava), and the death of branches and dieback (chilli and capsicum).
Egg laying begins 2 weeks after mating, and about 100 eggs are laid over 8-9 days. The first eggs laid become female; those laid later become male. 'Crawlers' emerge after 3-4 days.
The crawlers have three pairs of legs and prominent antennae. The females are more active and wander further than the males. After about 12 hours, they settle down to feed, and go through two moults before they become adult. Females are covered by a roughly circular protective covering, called the armour, about 2-2.5 mm across (Photo 2); beneath the scale is the insect itself, 0.8-0.9 mm long, pink to yellow, and without legs. Males begin building their armour after their second moult; theirs is a long white to yellowish coloured shell. They moult three more times, eventually emerging as an orange coloured adult and living only 24 hours. Unlike females of this species, adult males possess wings in order to find females and mate, attracted by chemicals (pheromones). The adult male body length is approximately 0.7 mm with a 1.4 mm wingspan. They do not have mouthparts, and do not feed.
Spread is by crawlers on the wind, and infested cuttings used for planting. The life cycle lasts about 45 days (see Fact Sheet no. 52).
The scale is often seen in large numbers on the bottom of stems; there are often so many that farmers think the mass of insects is a white fungus on the plants (Photos 3&4). When they occur in large numbers like that it is likely that crop yields are affected, but there have been few studies to detail losses. In Samoa, damage to passionfruit was so severe what biocontrol agents were introduced to manage the scale.
Look for the heavy infestations that occur as thick crusts on stems or tree trunks. Leaves and fruits are not usually colonised. The white colonies of females and males are easy to recognise when infestations are high.
Species of ladybird beetles and lacewings are known to feed on white peach scale in other parts of the world and probably these insects do the same in Pacific island countries. Encarsia diaspidicola, a wasp, has been successfully released in Samoa, and more recently in Hawaii, with good results. In addition, the encyrtid wasp Encasia berlesi has also been used to controlwhite peach scale populations. It is present in Tonga, and Waterhouse records that two strains, "from Europe and Tonga, were liberated in Western Samoa in 1986, with unknown results". Another Encasia species, from Florida was also introduced to (Western) Samoa, and "was causing at least 50% mortality within a few months".
Insecticides should be avoided, unless control by natural enemies is ineffective. Note, too, insecticides are not always effective against females, as they live under a protective scale of wax.
AUTHORS Helen Tsatsia & Grahame Jackson
Information from Waterhouse DF, Norris KR (1987) Biological Control Pacific Prospects. Inkata Press. Assistance. Photos 2&4 Graham Teakle, Canberra.
Produced with support from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research under project PC/2010/090: Strengthening integrated crop management research in the Pacific Islands in support of sustainable intensification of high-value crop production, implemented by the University of Queensland and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.
This fact sheet is a part of the app Pacific Pests and Pathogens
The mobile application is available from the Google Play Store and Apple iTunes.