The Shellac Story - The Lac Insect - www.shellac.in
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The lac insect belongs to the family of a scale insect and mealy bugs of the super family 'coccoidea'.

Large number of tiny red larvae of about 0.5 mm. long come out of each mother cell and settle on the tender portions of fresh twigs of certain trees called lac hosts. The larva is sufficiently mobile to crawl along the branches of trees to find fresh succulent twigs. When it has fixed its position and inserted its probocis into the trees it secretes a protective coating consisting of a dark red chitinous scale and a yellow to reddish resin called the lac resin. The insects mature under the protective covering of the resin which becomes hard. Wax glands near the vital pores - the oval region, the breathing pores and the anal pore keep them open by secreting wax filaments.

The larvae mould thrice inside the cell and becomes sexually mature male and female insects in about eight weeks. The female cell is roundish and the insect remains fixed to the twig. The male cell is somewhat longer with a round trap door through which the insect, sometimes winged, comes out, walks over the females, fertilising several of them and dies. Their direct contribution to resin production is insignificant.

The female insect increases in size to accommodate her large number of growing eggs. The secretion of the resin and wax now proceed at a faster rate and a continuous layer is formed by coalescence and coatings. in another 14 weeks, when the female insect is about to lay eggs, she begins to contract, allowing light into the cell which shows up as yellow spots. When hatched, the larve emerge to begin a new life cycle of about six months. Thus, the insect completes two life cycles in a year yielding two lac crops. On an average three hundred thousand insects produce one kg. of lac resin.

The insects thrive in certain species of trees under suitable climatic conditions. in India two strains of lac insect occur, namely, the Rangini and the Kusmi.
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