Sunday, 6 January 2008

A cottony cushion

The other day I was resting one hand on the ground while taking a photo and a viscious bull ant got me and wouldn't let go! My little finger was inflamed and itchy for several days and I was asked if I'd applied bracken. No, I hadn't but I should have, because what I was photographing was on a bracken stem.

A while ago my daughter was stung by a bull ant and an uncle suggested the bush remedy - break off a frond of bracken and apply the bracken 'juice' to the site of the bite. It worked, in that the crying stopped. Was it mind over matter or does it really work?

The bull ant bit me while I was having a close look at a Cottony Cushion Scale Icerya purchasi on the stem of a bracken. (I didn't identify the bull ant, but it was big, very big. In fact the more I think about it, it was huge.) But I did identify the scale. The mother scale is at the top of the object and apparently up to 1000 red eggs are laid into the sac below. They can be clearly seen in the photo. Some ants - don't know whether they were the type that bit me - were feeding on the mould and for a while I wondered if they were eating the eggs, but I read that the scale insects secrete a lot of honeydew which attracts the ants. Possibly it is a form of defence for the scale. And I don't know why the scale was on bracken because their normal habitat is a wattle.

Cottony Cushion Scale

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