Family: Eriococcidae

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Common name: Felt scales or eriococcids

Field Characters: Felt scales are very diverse and comprise a number of apparently unrelated groups. The most commonly intercepted eriococcids at U. S. ports-of-entry are those of the Eriococcus type. They produce a white, gray, or yellowish ovisac that encloses the pyriform body of the adult female. Body color varies from pink or red to purple, green or brown. The posterior end of the sac has a small opening that allows the first instars to emerge. Other eriococcids occur under the bark of the host, produce little or no ovisac secretion and often are pink or red. Many species produce galls including one of the most interesting genera, Apiomorpha which induces very ornate structures on various species of Eucalyptus.

            Eriococcus coccineus                  Eriococcus coccineus               Eriococcus sp.            
link to Eriococcus Composite image image map rectangle link to glossary defintition image map rectangle link to glossary defintition image map rectangle link to glossary defintition

Diagnosis: Because of great structural diversity there is no single diagnostic character that can be used to define this family. Characters that often are present on felt scales include: microtubular ducts; strongly protruding anal lobes; enlarged setae; cruciform pores; translucent pores on hind legs.

Notes: Recent molecular research (Cook, Gullan, and Trueman 2002) has shown that the family Eriococcidae is not a single monophyletic group but is an aggregation of different groups. In several instances, species that look very similar morphologically are apparently only distantly related and species that look different belong together. Considerably more research is required before the relationships of the organisms currently labeled as eriococcids can be sorted into logical family groups. Eriococcidae Targioni Tozzetti was first used as a family by Brues and Melander (1932).

Distribution: Felt scales occur in all zoogeographical regions of the world. Click here for a list of genera and species from the Australasian region, Afrotropical region, Nearctic region, Neotropical region, Oriental region, and Palearctic region. They are most speciose in the Australasian region, and are nearly absent from the Afrotropical region.

Hosts: Eriococcids occur on a wide diversity of hosts including trees, shrubs, and even grasses. They are found on all parts of the host with the possible exception of small diameter rootlets. The greatest diversity in the southern hemisphere is on older families such as the Myrtaceae whereas in the northern hemisphere they are most diverse on more advanced plant groups such as the Asteraceae.

Life History: Felt scales have 3 instars in the female and 5 in the male. Most eriococcus-type species have 1 or 2 generations each year. The overwintering stage usually is the adult female or egg in the ovisac. First instars appear in early spring and settling often occurs within hours of emergence from the ovisac. Second-instar males feed for a short period then produce a narrow, felt sac that encloses the body. Development of the prepupa, pupa, and adult male occurs within this sac. Soon after molting, the adult female mates and produces the ovisac several days later. Usually 50 to 100 eggs are laid. Some eriococcids have very unusual life histories. One example is the gall-forming genus Apiomorpha which can have females that live for a year or more and produce separate male galls that often are induced on the gall of the female.

Important references: Cook, Gullan, and Trueman 2002; Ferris 1955a; Gullan 1984; Hoy 1962,1963; Miller and Gimpel 2000.

Diversity: Click here for a check list of all eriococcid genera and species.

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