Photo 2. Close-up of Photo 1 to show the male and female lesser snow scale (lower centre), Pinnaspis strachani.
Lesser snow scale, hibiscus snow scale
Worldwide. Asia, Africa, North, South and Central America, Europe (glasshouses), Oceania. It is recorded from Cook Islands, Fij1, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
Wide. Many shrubs, trees and ornamentals are hosts, and weeds too. The most commonly infested are asparagus, avocado, capsicum, cassava, citrus, coconut, Cordyline, cotton, hibiscus, mango, oil palm, and yam.
An armoured scale which produces a cover or 'armour' above its body for protection. It often occurs in large numbers (Photos 1&2), sucking the sap from leaves, stems and fruit, weakening plants and causing distortions. The appearance of infested fruit affects market sales.
Eggs are laid under the armour of the female; they hatch producing crawlers, which leave the armour and as they have legs move to other parts of the plant. After a short time, they settle, feed, build the armour, and go through several moults before becoming adult (Photo 3). The armour of the adult female is 1.5-2.5 mm long, mussel-shaped, slightly curved, and white to grey. That of the male is shorted, elongate, narrow, snow-white, with three longitudinal ridges. The males are more common and noticeable than the females. After several more moults than the female, the males become tiny, winged insects with eyes and legs, but no mouthparts. Their task is to find females and mate. The life cycle is about 30 days.
Spread occurs when crawlers disperse over short distances, or longer when carried by wind currents, vehicles, animals, birds, or on clothing. All stages are spread in the horticultural trade of plants or plant parts.
Occasionally, a pest of citrus, hibiscus, coconut, mango, but usually not serious in Pacific countries, as it is under biological control.
Look for the characteristic shape of the armour of both sexes. Look for the yellowish-brown spot at the narrow end of the female scale that is the remains of the moulted skins. As with other armour scales, identification is done after the insects are slide-mounted and examined by a specialist.
There are several predators and parasitoids used in biological control of the lesser snow scale. In Hawaii, for instance, the ladybird beetle, Telsimia, was introduced and has become established, and the parasitoid wasp, Aspidiotiphagus cinnus, has also been used to bring the scale under control. Other parasitoids used in biological control programs are Aphytis diaspodis and Arrhenophagus chionaspidus. In Fiji, it is heavily parasitised by Aphytis chrysomphali and Aspidiotiphagus citrinus, which were introduced from French Polynesia in 1920.
The management of the lesser snow scale is based on biological control, and in some countries the use of insecticides.
Crawlers are more susceptible to insecticides than other stages, but they very small and difficult to see. There are also overlapping generations, so adults are always present, and this means that several applications of chemicals are necessary to obtain control. And adults are difficult to kill because of their protective scales. (Note dimethoate, once recommended in Pacific island countries, is under suspension in Australia for use on many crops.)
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.