Cochineals are one of the most annoying and damaging insects that could attack any medicinal plants cultivation. This small yet dangerous parasite can turn into any grower’s worst nightmare, whether it’s medicinal plants or any other plant that they’re growing. But don’t panic. However strong these insects can be, there’s always something we can do to defend our plants and stop them from spreading.
It's true that cochineals are one of the most common pests attacking medicinal plants. That's undeniable. But there's a series of effective preventive and reactive measures that will allow our plants to show their full potential. In many respects, they're very much like bedbugs and aphids. In fact, all three of them belong to the order of Hemiptera (Rhynchota). Their power lies in their ability to hide, making them hard to detect unless the leaves and branches are thoroughly examined.
How To Prevent Cochineals
One method of protecting your flourishing weed plants from a potential cochineal invasion is to create a buffer zone. This option is much more practical in an outdoor setting. Using plants such as rose bushes, growers can create a vegetative barrier around their weed that can take the invasion in their stead.
As well as serving an ornamental function in the garden, growers can check these defensive companion plants regularly to see if cochineals are present, before the pests have the opportunity to reach your medicinal plants.
As mentioned, the cochineal loves dry and warm climates. Therefore, if you act to prevent these conditions, you can create a strategy to prevent their invasion. Obviously, too wet and humid of a climate can create hospitable conditions for other threats, such as mould. With that in mind, a solution could be to uphold conditions wherein the moisture content is just unfavourable enough for mealybugs and brown soft scale cochineal.
Another method of prevention includes introducing the gracious ladybug into your growing environment. These majestic beings will serve as bodyguards for your medicinal plants, as they are natural predators to the cochineal. They will also serve to protect against other pests, such as spider mites.
How To Fight an Invasion of Cochineals
So, let's get to the process of how to kill mealybugs and brown soft scale cochineals if you find yourself with an infestation. Once cochineals have begun to settle on your crop, they will get to draining the sap, affecting the overall health and performance of your plants. As soon as you see an invasion taking place, it is important to separate the infected plants from the rest of the crop to prevent any further spread. Once this has been completed, thoroughly check the rest of your plants to be sure that they are safe.
Some growers may choose to use insecticides at this point to eradicate this pest entirely. However, the cochineal has a protective outer shell that may protect them from this. Additionally, some growers prefer not to use pesticides due to their knock-on environmental effect.
Prevention Is the Best Cure in Fighting the Cochineal
Cochineal, both brown soft scale and mealybugs, can be incredibly damaging to your crop. As with all ailments, avoiding them in the first place is the best way to protect your plants. Measures such as buffer plants and neem oil should help to stop a full-scale infestation. Combine this with the introduction of beneficial fauna, and you should hopefully find your grow pest free.
However, there’s always a chance something slips through your defences. This is why regular health check-ups are so helpful—you want to catch things early. If you identify an invasion, act fast and don’t be afraid to use an aggressive method. Removing them as quickly as possible will cause you, and your plants, the least amount of stress possible.
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