By John P. Roche, Ph.D.
The scale insect Fiorinia phantasma, sometimes known as phantasma scale, was first discovered in Florida on Canary Island date palms in 2018. This invasive insect is a pest of palm, ornamental, and fruit trees, and it has a preference for palm trees, which are a $400 million industry annually in Florida.
Fiorinia phantasma is hard to detect because it looks like other closely related species in the same genus; as a result, it might have been present in Florida before 2018 but not detected. It is now known to be present in Miami-Dade County and Palm County in Florida, and it has also been found in Hawaii since 2011. In an article published in September in the open-access Journal of Integrated Pest Management, Zee Ahmed, Ph.D., of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Lance Osborne, Ph.D., of the University of Florida, and colleagues present a summary of the state of the threat of Fiorinia phantasma and recommendations for its control.
Scale insects are in the order Hemiptera, the “true bugs.” Female scale insects lack legs and are covered with a waxy protective scale covering—the “scale” of the insect’s name. Males have legs and look like little gnats. Scale insects feed on plant sap using a long siphon tube. There are two types of scale insects in separate families within the Hemiptera, soft scale insects and armored scale insects. Fiorinia phantasma is an armored scale insect.