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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Creature Feature: Scale Insects

A friend of mine asked me about a Pokemon named Shuckle last night. Specifically, he wondered exactly what made Shuckle's shell so strong that even Deoxys and Mewtwo had trouble breaking through it. Mind, Bugs do resist Psychic attacks, but it was still a valid question.

Also, Shuckle used to make free Berry Juice. I'll stop nerding out now. Promise.

Given what Shuckle is based off of, its annoyingly high defenses should not be a surprise. Scale insects (order Hemiptera) are notorious garden pests with thick shells. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, and get their name from making plants look scaly with their little bodies. Their shells are made of a waxy coating that makes them immune to many pesticides. It also makes them immune to soap, one of an insect's worst nightmares.

If soap had this face, I'd be scared, too.

Natural pest removal is usually the best way to get rid of these guys. Or girls. They can be hermaphroditic and give birth without a male, but that scarcely matters when they're picking on your roses. Or lemons. Or...y'know, I'm gonna stop there.

Like turtles, they are also perfectly capable of moving around in their houses:

The news is not all bad. One scale insect in particular, cochineal (Dactylopius coccus) has seen a rise in popularity. Way back when, it was used as a crimson dye for foods, cosmetics, and fabrics. Then artificial colors came around, so the bugs got a break. Soon, however, we started fearing manufactured products, and...that 'natural' dye in your yogurt? Thousands of bugs died to make your food red.

Just sayin'.

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