Exploring Central Valley and a bit about mealybugs …

We have now moved on to Central Valley and THE SUN IS FINALLY SHINING! We are working with the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Centre who have been kind enough to provide us with lab space and also some vine mealybugs.

squash.png
This is an example of a mealybug culture being grown on squash. These are some citrus mealybugs in L.A., California (with my hand for scale…)

The image above shows how mass cultures of mealybugs are reared in institutes such as Kearney – on butternut squash! These bugs feed well on squash and it is large enough to accommodate high numbers of individuals, making it the perfect food source for generating lots of mealybugs to work with. The females produce honeydew and their egg masses are deposited in a white fluffy material which makes the whole thing look kinda gross and sticky. Males and females of this species look completely different and so you can only really see the females (and their egg masses, white and fluffy) in the image above. I have included some images (below) from our lab in Edinburgh to show the differences between male, female and crawler stage mealybugs (these are all citrus mealybugs).

mating
This is a female mealybug (big, round & orange) mating with a male mealybug (small, black & winged). Yes, these are the same species and yes, sometimes the male gets squashed …
male
This is an image of an adult male mealybug under a dissection microscope
embryos
These little orange things are the young mealybugs (“crawlers”). They are just emerging from the white “fluff” in which females deposit their embryos.

We also had a look around some of the vineyards out here in Central Valley but it just seems too early in the year to find these bugs in their natural habitats.

IMG_4348
One of the vineyards at Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Centre

We are now organising the final details of our trip down to LA. We plan to drive there which will take all day (5 hours driving with some stops in between) but hopefully we will see some nice scenery along the way!

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