Alteration of forest structure modifies the distribution of scale insect, Stigmacoccus garmilleri, in Mexican tropical montane cloud forests

J Insect Sci. 2011;11:124. doi: 10.1673/031.011.12401.


Stigmacoccus garmilleri Foldi (Hemiptera: Margarodidae) is an ecologically important honeydew-producing scale insect associated with oak trees (Quercus spp.) in highland forests of Veracruz, Mexico. The honeydew exudates of S. garmilleri serve as a significant nutrient source to many species of birds, insects, and sooty molds. Oak trees found in the forest interior, forest edge, and those scattered in pasture areas support scale insect colonies, though the pattern of insect infestations on trees within these varying landscape types has not been elucidated. This study aims to describe the distribution of scale insect infestation and any distinctions in honeydew production based on tree location. Scale insect density, honeydew volume, and sugar concentration were surveyed throughout a continuous landscape that included both patches of forest and scattered pasture trees. In addition, the anal filament through which the honeydew drop is secreted was also measured and was experimentally removed to test and measure regrowth. Scale insect densities on tree trunks were greatest on pasture trees, while intermediate densities were found on trees at the forest edge, and low densities on interior forest trees, suggesting that trees in disturbed areas are more susceptible to scale insect infestation. Trees with small diameters at breast height had significantly higher insect densities than trees with medium to large diameters. Trunk aspect (North, South, East, and West) was not a significant determinant of scale insect density. In forested areas higher densities of scale insects were found at three meters height in comparison to lower heights. Sugar concentrations and drop volumes of honeydew in forest and pasture areas were not significantly different. However, scale-insect anal tubes/filaments were significantly longer in pasture than they were in forests. Sugar concentrations of honeydew appeared to be positively correlated with temperature and negatively correlated with relative humidity. Experiments indicated that anal filaments could grow approximately 4 mm every 24 hours, and average tube growth was significantly faster in pasture than in forest, suggesting that there may be a physiological effect on the insect due to landscape disturbance. The results obtained in this study describe the increases in scale insect infestation of trees with forest disturbance. The effect of these increased scale insect densities on the host tree physiology is still to be resolved.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bodily Secretions / metabolism*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Ecosystem*
  • Female
  • Hemiptera / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mexico
  • Population Density
  • Quercus / parasitology*
  • Trees / parasitology*
  • Tropical Climate