Lac Culture: Definition, Types, Uses, Importance - Embibe
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  • Written By Shilpa Madhukar Pachapurkar
  • Last Modified 24-06-2022
  • Written By Shilpa Madhukar Pachapurkar
  • Last Modified 24-06-2022

Lac Culture- History, Meaning, Types and Uses

Lac Culture is a scientific method of controlling lac insects. Lac insects are used by humans to obtain a large quantity of high-quality lac. Animals have long been prized by humans for their many uses. Wild animals, as well as domestic animals, are beneficial to mankind in a variety of ways. Humans benefit from animals of various sizes and sorts in a variety of ways.

The list of items we receive from both live and dead animals is possibly endless. The lac bug is a fascinating and tiny insect that provides us with a product that may be used in a variety of ways. This article can be used by students who want to learn more about Lac Culture.

What is Lac Culture Definition?

Lac is a natural resinous secreted by insects called lac insects. Lac culture definition is the scientific management and rearing of lac insects for high-quality lac to be used for commercial purposes are called lac culture. Management involves the selection of host plants, inoculation of plants with lac insects, rearing of lac insects, pest management and harvesting and processing of lac.

Twig Encrusted with Lac

History of Lac Culture

Indians have been using lac for ages. The epic Mahabharata mentions the detail of the famous  ‘Lakshagruha’, a house built of lac, which was built to burn the Pandavas. So, one can assume that Indians know the inflammable nature of lac and its other uses too. Other than this, Indians have been using lac for making toys and ornaments. Evidence also suggests the use of Lac by ancient Romans and Greek people. The scientific study of lac was started by Father Tachard in \(1709.\) The name Laccifer lacca was finalized after many changes.

Systematic Position of Lac Insect

The lac insect is classified as follows:
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order Hemiptera
Superfamily — Coccoidea
Family — Kerriidae
Genus — Laccifer
Species — lacca

So, the binomial name of lac insects is Laccifer lacca.

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Host Plants of Lac Insects

Lac insect is an ectoparasite and feeds on the plant sap sucked from the tender shoot of the plant. So, they can be reared on specific trees only, and these trees/plants are called host plants. The lac culturist must know the host plants and which plants suit the geographic conditions of the place. The lac management includes the rearing of healthy host plants in a stage that is suitable for the lac insects to suck the sap. The host plants of lac insects are:

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

Lac Culture Life Cycle of Insects

A lac culturist must have knowledge of the life cycle of lac insects and must be able to identify the stage at which lac is produced maximum and to be harvested. The lac insects show very distinct morphological differences and sexual dimorphism.  The life cycle of lac insect has \(4\) stages as-

  1. Eggs
  2. Larva
  3. Pupa
  4. Adult

The phases of the lac culture life cycle of insects are as follows:

  1. Fertilisation: the male adult walks over the female incrustations and inserts itself into the female cells, where it fertilizes the female.
  2. Egg-laying: After fertilization, the female grows rapidly till it becomes capable of egg-laying. A single female lays an average of \(200\) to \(500\) eggs after fertilization and deposits inside the incubating chambers of the female cell.
  3. Egg Hatching: After 6 weeks, the eggs are hatched into first instar larvae.  The mass movement of these larvae in search of a suitable place to suck plant sap is called swarming.
  4. Pupa: A larva is a sluggish and continuous feeder. It encases itself and the twig by secreting a resinous secretion from the body. The secretion hardens upon contact with air and is called a lac cell. Inside the lac cell, the larva undergoes three moultings. During moulting, male and females lose some body parts. 
  5. Adults:  Male larvae develop into male adult insects and are without any mouthparts and thus do not feed. One adult male insect can fertilize several females, and soon after fertilization, it dies. The adult female is smaller in size than the male and is without legs and wings. The female larvae never move out of the cell once they settle down after swarming.
Lac Culture Life Cycle of Insect

Lac Secretion and Composition

Lac is the only known commercial resin of animal origin. It is a resinous material secreted by the lac insects. Special glands called lac glands are present in the skin of the larvae and the adults. Lac is a mixture of several substances, but resin is the main constituent. It is thought to be a polyester of a straight chain of complex 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 \(3\%.\) It also contains sugar, proteins, soluble salts, debris of lac insect and some woody material.

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Culture Technique of Lac Insect

Culturing of lac begins when the farmer inoculates a plant with a female cell where eggs are ready to hatch. As soon as the eggs hatch and first instar larvae emerge, they infest the host plant by a process called swarming. After finding the spots for feeding, the larvae start secreting the resinous material around their body. This material appears shiny in the beginning and hardens when it comes in contact with air. The lac casing is thus around the body of the larva and the twig on which it is feeding. Many lac cells of nearby larvae fuse together, and a lac incrustation is formed. This is the lac that a lac culturist is interested in.

Heavy Lac Encrustation

The culture technique of lac insect involves the following steps:

  1. Inoculation: inoculation means the introduction of lac insects to the host plant. Inoculation can be natural (without any human intervention) or artificial.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Harvesting and Extraction of Lac:
    • The twigs with thick encrustations are cut and removed from the site. This is stick lac.
    • Then the lac cells are scraped from the twig, and the lac is the granular lac.  If the cutting and scraping are done before swarming, it is ‘Ari lac’, and if it is done after swarming, it is ‘Phunki lac’.
    • The scraped lac is washed thoroughly with water. Drying and bleaching of lac are done by exposing it to sunlight.
    • Lac granules are melted in a pot over an open charcoal fire.
    • The molten lac 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

Depending on the host plant, lac is of two types:

  1. Kusumi Lac: insects are reared on Kusum plants, and lac is harvested from these plants.
  2. Ranjeeni Lac: when the lac insects are reared on non-Kusum plants, the lac is known as Ranjeeni lac.
Types of Lac

Lac Culture Uses

Lac is used for making toys, bracelets or bangles, for filling the ornament,  sealing wax, gramophone records etc. It is also used in making the grinding stones, for manufacturing varnishes and paints, for silvering the back of a mirror, for encasing cable wires (due to insulating property of lac) etc. During the washing of scraped lac, a dye is left behind in the water which is then used for dying purposes. Some examples of by-products of lac are nail polish, lithographic ink, shoe polish etc.

Position of Lac Culture

  1. Globally lac is produced in many countries like India, Thailand, Myanmar, China, Indonesia, Vietnam and Laos.
  2. India and Thailand are the major producers, producing an average of \(1700\) tonnes annually, followed by China.
  3. Until \(1950,\) India held the monopoly in lac production, accounting for almost \(85\%\) of the global production.
  4. In a later period, Thailand became one of the major competitors.
  5. Now India’s contribution to global lac production is about \(70\%.\)
  6. Roughly \(200\) million rupees is the net export of lac from India
  7. \(3-4\) million people, including tribals, are engaged in lac culture in India
  8. In India, Bihar is the highest producer of lac.
  9. Other states like Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Assam and Odisha also produce lac.
  10. Some pockets of lac cultivation also exist in Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Gujarat, and Mirzapur and Sonebhdra districts of Uttar Pradesh

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Summary

A lesser-known but economically sustainable part of animal husbandry, lac culture makes a worth-attention topic of applied zoology. A small insect of the order Hemiptera, lac insect, is reared for the resinous material that it secretes during its life cycle. Larva and pupa are the main stages that produce lac. Lac is the only known commercial resin of animal origin.

Scientific management of lac insect, which includes rearing of insect and its host plants, pest management and cultivation and harvesting of lac is together known as lac culture. Economically, lack of culture is a stronger option of self-employment, and many villagers, including tribals, are in this business. India holds the first position in the world for commercial production of lac.

FAQs

Find below frequently asked questions related to lac culture:

Q.1: What are the lac culture uses?
Ans:
Lac is used for various purposes like filling ornaments, making bangles, sealing wax, making toys, gramophone records, making grinding stones, silvering the back of mirrors and encasing cable wires. Many by-products such as nail polish, varnish, and dying colours are also obtained from lac.

Q.2: What is the major function of lac culture?
Ans:
The major functions of lac culture are:
a. Cultivation of host plants of lac insects
b. Pest management of host plants
c. Rearing of lac insects
d. Pest management of lac insects
e. Harvesting the lac
f. Production of commercially usable lac

Q.3: What is meant by Lac?
Ans:
Lac is a resinous material secreted from the body of an insect called lac insect. In fact, it is the only commercial resin of animal origin known so far.

Q.4: What is the binomial name of lac insect?
Ans:
Laccifer lacca is the binomial name of lac insect.

Q.5: What is lac culture definition?
Ans:
 Lac culture is the scientific management and rearing of lac insects for high-quality lac to be used for commercial purposes.

We hope this detailed article on Lac Culture helps you in your preparation. If you get stuck do let us know in the comments section below. We will get back to you at the earliest.

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