[Taxacom] Mystery insect

John Steel john.steel at botany.otago.ac.nz
Sun Nov 4 13:23:33 CST 2012

I ran this past a colleague, Tony Harris of the Otago Museum, and this was his response.

"This is a male scale insect, in the superfamily Coccoidea (Insecta; Hemiptera; Sternorrhyncha).  The two purple tails are caudal filaments of extruded wax, probably reflecting an unusual colour due to the flash (?).  If so, the association with the Pterostylis orchid is coincidental. 
It could be a male in the family Coccidae, such as Aphenochiton inconspicuous, which looks structurally very similar. However, the size may rule that out, because all New Zealand male coccids are small, 1.0 - 2.3 mm long.
The white markings on the abdomen will be from extruded wax; note that they appear at the boundaries of abdominal sclerites (segmental plates of chitin, sternites and pleurites).
The underlying deep red colour of the head and thorax is visible.
The antennae look very conspicuous.  If the antennae are non-hairy, the insect will possibly be in the family Coccidae.  If the antennae have long bristles projecting at right angles, the insect may be in the family Margorodidae (O. Hemiptera; superfamily Coccoidea), eg, as is Icerya purchasi.  
Margorodids are relatively large.
Definitely - Insecta, Hemiptera, Sternorrhyncha, Coccoidea;
Possibly Coccidae (first guess), Margorodidae (second guess), Eriococcidae (third  guess).
Male coccids do not feed and are very short-lived and are unlikely to be involved in pollination of the orchid.
All the best,

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