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Lac Insect Cultivation

In this lac insect cultivation post we have briefly explained about lac insect product, host plants of lac insect culture, life cycle, types of lac insect culture and applications. 

Lac insect product cultivation involves the scientific control of lac bugs to produce a large quantity of lac. Lac insect product cultivation involves selection and care on host plant species, inoculation host plants with lac insect, the collection as well as processing lac as well as defence against harmful insects.

Lac Insect Cultivation

The human race has been taking pleasure in animals due to their many purposes. Not just domestic animals, but wild animals can benefit humans in a variety of ways. Animals of all types and sizes are beneficial to us in various ways. The variety of goods we obtain from both live and dead animals is likely to never end. One fascinating and tiny creature is the lac and provides products that are used in a variety of ways. This time we will look at the species, its history, and its value for us.

What is Lac Insect Culture?

The natural substance lac is, resinous liquid secreted by insects, also known as lac insects. The management and rising of lac insects to produce quality lac insect product that can be used to sell is known as lac cultivation. Management includes the selection of hosts, inoculation of the plants with lac insect and rearing of lac insect, pest management, processing and harvesting of lac.

Host Plants of Lac Insect Culture

Lac insect is an insect that ectoparasites and feeds on sap of the plant that is sucked out from the tender shoots in the plants. Therefore, they can be raised on certain trees exclusively, and these plants are referred to as host plants. The lac culturist should be aware of hosts and which best suit the specific geographical environment of the location. The management of lac insects includes the cultivation in healthy hosts at an environment that is suitable for the lac bugs to sucking the sap. The lac hosts plants that lac insects include:

NameScientific name
KusumSchleichera trijuga/oleosa
PalasButea frondosa or Butea monosperma
Ber (plum)Zizyphus jujuba
BabulAcacia arabica
Khair (Ranjeeni)Acacia catechu
ArharCajanus indicus

Life Cycle of Lac Insect Culture

Lac insect product culturist needs to know how life cycles work for the lac insect and should be able discern the point in which lac production is at its at its highest and is ready to harvest. Lac insect product insects exhibit distinct morphological as well as sexual dimorphism. The life cycle of the Lac insect product insect includes 4 stages described below.

Eggs

Larva

Pupa

Adult

Lac Insect Cultivation

Life cycle of lac insect diagram

Egg-laying: Egg-laying Following fertilization, the female’s size increases quickly until it can lay eggs. Females lay on average 2000 or 500500 eggs following fertilization. The eggs then deposit them in the chambers that incubate cells of the female.

Egg Hatching: Within 6 weeks the eggs hatch into first-instar larvae. The massive motion of these larvae looking for an appropriate place to sucking sap from plants is known as “swarming.

Pupa: A larva is a slow and constant feeder. It covers itself and the twig, by releasing resinous fluid from its body. The secretion is hardened when it comes into contact with air and is referred to as the lac cell. Within the lac cells, larvae undergo three moultings. When molting occurs, males and females shed body organs.

Adults: Adults the male larvae transform into adult insects. They have no mouthparts, which means they are not able to feed. A male adult insect is able to fertilize multiple females and shortly after fertilization it ceases to exist. The adult female is smaller than males and is lacking wings and legs. The female larvae are unable to get out of the cell after they have settled down after having swarms.

Lac Insect Product

Lac insect product is the only commercially available resin of animal origin. It is a resinous substance that is secreted by the lac insect. Lac glands, which are special glands, are found within the skin of larvae and adults.

Lac insect product is a blend of several different substances; however, the resin is the primary component. Lac insect product is believed to be polyester made of a straight chain of multifaceted fatty acids, containing 14 to 18 carbon atoms.

The approximate percentage of different constituents of lac is resin 68 to 90%, dye 2 to 10%, wax 5 to 6%, mineral matter 3 to 7%, albuminous matter 5 to 10% and water 2 to 3%. Lac insect product also contains sugar, proteins, soluble salts, debris of lac insect and some woody material.

Lac Insect Product

Lac Cultivation

Lacturing starts by inoculating the plants with female cells, where eggs are beginning to hatch. Once the eggs hatch and the first instar larvae appear and infest the host plant through an action known as swarming. Once they have found the areas to feed the larvae begin releasing the resinous substance around their bodies. The material appears shiny in the beginning, but it becomes hard when it comes into the contact of air. The lac casing forms wrapped around the body of the larva, as well as the twig that it feeds. A large number of lac cells in nearby larvae join together and a lac-incrustation is created. This is the type of lac culturist would be attracted to.

Steps of Lac Cultivation

Inoculation: inoculation means the introduction of lac insects to the host plant. Inoculation can be natural (without any human intervention) or artificial.

Cultivation of host plants: since the larvae of lac insects suck the plant sap from the tender shoots of host plants, proper cultivation and pruning become important in lac culture.

Lac Crop: the life cycle of lac insects of 6 months and hence two crops in a year are regular. There can be four lac crops as lac insects behave differently on Kusum and non-Kusum host plants.

Harvesting and Extraction of Lac: the twigs with thick encrustations are cut and removed from the site. b. Then the lac cells are scraped from the twig, and the lac is the granular lac. If the cutting and scraping is done before swarming, it is ‘Ari lac’, and if it is done after swarming, it is ‘Phunki lac’. c. The scraped Lac Insect Product is washed thoroughly with water. Drying and bleaching of lac are done by exposing it to sunlight. d. Lac Insect Product are melted in a pot over an open charcoal fire. e. The molten Lac Insect Product is then spread in the form of sheets. The sheets are dried, broken into pieces and sold in the market as flakes.

Types of Lac Insect Culture

Kusumi Lac: insects are reared on Kusum plants, and lac is harvested from these plants.

Ranjeeni Lac: when the lac insects are reared on non-Kusum plants, the lac is known as Ranjeeni lac.

lac insect culture

Different Types of Lac Lac Insect Product 

Lac Culture Applications

Lac insect product is used to create Bangles, toys, and bracelets to fill the ornaments sealant wax, gramophone recordings, etc. Lac insect product is also used in making grinding stones to make paints and varnishes, for silvering the mirror’s back and for wrapping cables (due to the insulation properties of lac), and many more. In the process of washing scraped lac, a color is kept in the water that is later used for dyeing to serve as a dye. Examples of by-products from Lac insect product nail polish as well as the lithographic ink, shoe polish, etc.

Problem with Lac Culture

Some chalcedonic and lepidopteran insects lay eggs inside the mists. The nymphs of lac insects are eaten up by their larvae. Proper selection of seed lac, killing of predator eggs in harvested lac, and use of insecticides greatly minimise damage to the crop.

Further Readings