Sometimes in summer, when I go to pick a couple of leaves to put in the soup or stew, I notice a cool detail on the foliage of the laurel trees in front of my house ...
... so I take my camera, mount the macro lens on it, and completely forget about cooking.
Some leaves on the lower branches are regularly covered with white little stars. Although they look more like seeds, aliens, or oversized viruses - these are actually insects.
Ceroplastes japonicus it's an imported little pest.
This strange insect, commonly known as the Tortoise wax scale or Japanese wax scale, is native to Eastern Asia but it's currently pretty common in southern parts of Europe, where can be found on various citrus trees ...
... or like in this case, on the bay laurel (Laurus nobilis ) in my yard.
On one occasion, while photographing the spiky scales, I noticed this hairy, white nymph of some bug, probably from the Rhopalidae family. I can't tell you the exact species, and what I said about the family is dubious at best.
I saw this insect only once. In this photograph, you can see it posing near the empty exoskeleton of some spider.
I often see spider molts among the leaves.
This one was left by some bigger spider.
As you probably noticed by now, the wax scales are present in every shot.
They are the real stars of this post.
Ceroplastes japonicus wax scale feeds and reproduces on a wide variety of plants. It has been reported on over hundred species within Twenty Seven families.
The big scale on this photograph it's an adult female surrounded by second instar male and female nymphs.
Adult females are completely sedentary. They have no legs, while the short-lived adult males can crawl and fly.
When they turn into adults, the winged males appear from under the star-like wax shell. I never saw that moment, or an adult male, in nature. Only on a handful of photographs on the Internet.
When they come out of the egg, the brand new nymphs, both males and females are able to move.
They are called crawlers at this stage.
These, not completely developed insects that look more like real insects than the strange adults, can spread around, by crawling or by wind, reach new trees and establish new colonies.
Scale insects are part of the order Hemiptera, which includes bugs, aphids, leafhoppers, and others. This sentence is here only to give you a general idea about the place of the little waxy oddities inside the insect world, not as a complete definition.
Like most sap-sucking scale insects, the Ceroplastes japonicus excrete droplets of sweet, nutrient liquid called honeydew. This makes them attractive to ants and some other insects that become allies and protectors. The whitefly in this photograph is only casually exploring the scale while passing by.
These hemipterans, the whiteflies, also feed on sap by piercing the leaves.
Here you can see two scales near some translucent thing glued to the leaf. I don't know what is this exactly, but it looks like something produced by insects.
This is the same scene lit differently. The evening sunlight passing through the leaf reveals a beautiful structure.
The Pyralis farinalis moths can be often seen resting on the leaves.
This species is well adapted to living among humans. And create a few problems along the way. Pyralis farinalis is typically found in silos or other grain storage buildings, especially if the grain is stored poorly and moisture is able to infiltrate the grain supply.
The caterpillars grow mostly on cereals, but will also feed upon other types of grain and vegetables, such as potatoes.
The Brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) can be found everywhere in the yard and garden. This is the wingless nymph of this species.
One day at the end of the summer, I found another strange creature on the laurel, this time on the trunk of the tree.
These are also scale insects.
The Icerya purchasi, commonly known as the Cottony cushion scale.
This species feeds on more than eighty families of woody plants. In my yard, they can be found on the laurel and tangerine.
That's the last fantastic creature in this post.
With the last look at the laurel tree, on this photograph taken from the terrace on the first floor, it's time to end the story.
As always in these posts on HIVE, the photographs are my work.