Something Strange In The Bushes

x4 images. Double click to enlarge.

I have a Hawthorn bush growing in the back garden, and I discovered these strange things stuck to the branches. They are around 5-7 mm (1/4 inch) long.

As you can see they are brown and wrinkly with what looks like a cotton wool ball tucked at the back of them. They were something I had never come across before.

I had my suspisions they were some kind of scale insect. Scale insects belong to the order of insects called Hemiptera – the true bugs, which include the shieldbugs and the likes. I discovered these belong to a family called Coccidae – the soft scales.

These strange insects are called the Woolly Vine Scale Insect (Pulvinaria vitis). They have a a soft shell of protection attached to the body which helps prevents them from dying out and gives them protection from potential predators like parasites. A cottony wax coating is produced that is used to conceal the eggs. Once these insects are attached to a tree they become immobile, feeding on the sap of the host plant. The images show females with cottony ovisacs. The smaller males (1.5 mm long), which possess wings, are rarely seen.