Several different species of insect live within bamboo and feed on it. Because bamboo is a type of wood, the presence of starch and other types of carbohydrates attract insects that eat the wood and use it for nutrients. Over time, insects can significantly degrade the bamboo. Insects that live in bamboo include bamboo mealybugs, powder-post beetles, termites and bamboo spider mites.
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Bamboo Mealy Bugs
The noxious bamboo mealybug, or Antonina pretiosa, is especially prevalent in Australia. Male bamboo mealy bugs have wings and can fly, while females do not fly. These insects feed on the sap of the bamboo and weaken the plants. They also produce sugary honeydew, which can grow molds and attract ants to the bamboo. Bamboo mealy bugs are especially prone to attacking soft, lush new bamboo growth.
Bamboo spider mites, or Schizotetranychus celarius, live and feed on several species of bamboo including pleioblastus, phyllostachys, and sassa bamboo. These mites thrive in dusty, dry climates. They spin durable silken webs within the bamboo and lay their eggs within the webbing in order to protect the eggs and young mites after hatching. Damage by bamboo spider mites can weaken the plant and reduce its ability to photosynthesize.
Termites live in colonies that can have a population of up to a million insects. Both subterranean and drywood termites are known to feed on bamboo, using the natural cellulose within the plant for nutrients. Subterranean termites make tunnels out of soil and their own fecal matter. They build the tunnels to the bamboo and then enter the bamboo culm, chewing at it from within. Drywood termites build their nests within the bamboo culm. Often, because termites eat from the inside out, damage is not noticeable until it is severe.
The powder-post beetle can consume an entire bamboo culm and leave only a thin outer shell of the former plant. The beetle larvae feed on the sugars and starch found within the parenchyma cells of the bamboo culms. The powder-post beetle gets its name because of the powdery dust that it creates when consuming bamboo. This dust falls out of holes within the culm where the beetles have burrowed.