Aussie woman puzzled by 'thing' slowly moving across driveway

An expert told Yahoo that while the insects are often 'called giant mealybugs', they are not closely related.

The colourful bright orange insect covered in white fluff crawling across the Sydney woman's driveway.
A Sydney woman was stunned on Friday morning to find a bizarre insect slowly moving across her driveway. Source: Facebook

A woman leaving her home one morning last week was forced to come to sudden a halt when she stumbled upon a “thing” slowly moving across her driveway. The confused Sydney resident said the colourful insect with a layer of white fluff on top was about the size of a thumbnail.

“I didn’t kill it. Moved it onto nature strip so I didn’t run over it. Had gone from where I’d placed it when I checked later,” she posted on a Facebook page dedicated to Australian native animals on Friday in an attempt to identify the creature.

The woman’s photos of the insect’s striking orange shell amazed others online, with some Aussies claiming it could be a mealybug — a small, sap-sucking scale insect and well-known garden pest.

“That is awesome!” one person commented, while another asked “Is it sick or is that normal?”.

“Omg that’s rad. I hope I see one of these. It looks like a chiton but on land,” a third person said, referring to the marine molluscs. “Looks like a Balmain bug that escaped from the freezer,” someone else joked.

The cottony cushion scale, a well-known pest that can be found worldwide where citrus crops grow.
A separated species of the Monophlebidae family named Cottony cushion scale is considered to be a serious commercial pest for its ability to destroy citrus. Source: Auscape/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

After reviewing the images of the creature, Professor Sassan Asgari told Yahoo he agreed it looked like “a giant mealybug”. “They are surly orange with some black ornaments,” he said.

However, insect expert Associate Professor Lyn Cook said the woman’s driveway visitor is likely an adult female “member of the scale insect family Monophlebidae”. Although they are “sometimes called giant mealybugs, they are not closely related to true mealybugs,” she explained.

“Monophlebids can range in colour from pale yellow species, through orange and to nearly red. This one is probably the genus Monophlebulus, which feeds on eucalypts.”

A separated species of the family named Cottony cushion scale is considered to be a serious commercial pest for its ability to destroy citrus. The honeydew excreted by the scales encourages sooty mould growth, which downgrades fruit quality, according to the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

“In severe infestations, [the insect] causes leaf drop, twig dieback and deterioration of tree health,” its website states.

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