cotton aphid

Cotton Stickiness occurs when excessive sugars present on fibers are transferred to equipment and interfere with processing. Sugars may be insect- or plant-derived.

 Though sugars are ubiquitous in lint, they usually occur at levels that pose no processing difficulties. This details the sources and components of problem sugars on harvested lint, the processing  impacts of stickiness, and strategies for avoiding or mitigating stickiness.


Cottons contaminated with stickiness cause multiple problems in the spinning mills. The honeydew present on the cotton lint is able to contaminate all the mechanical instruments used in  the transformation process from fiber to yarn, i.e. opening, carding, drawing, roving and spinning operations. These contaminants are mainly sugar deposits produced either by the cotton plant itself (physiological sugars) or by the feeding insects (entomological sugars), the latter being the most common source of contamination.

Honeydew, when present in sufficient quantity, is the main source of sugars that can result in sticky lint. Honeydew is excreted by certain phloem-feeding insects including such common pests of cotton as aphids and whiteflies. These insects are capable of transforming ingested sucrose into over twenty different sugars in their excreted honeydew. The major sugars in cotton insect honeydew are trehalulose, melezitose, sucrose, fructose and glucose.

Another source of stickiness is free plant sugars sometimes found in immature fibers. Cotton fiber is largely cellulose that is formed from sugars synthesized by the plant. Dry, mature cotton fibers contain little free sugar, while immature cotton fibers contain glucose, fructose, sucrose, and other sugars. If immature cotton fiber is subjected to a freeze, complex sugars may be broken down to release additional simple sugars. Less commonly, oils released by crushed seed coat fragments can also result in stickiness. In this case, raffinose is the characteristic sugar.

Sugars differ in their stickiness. For example, sucrose, melezitose, and trehalulose are all significantly stickier when deposited on fiber than are glucose or fructose. Further, trehalulose-contaminated fiber is stickier than fiber with an equivalent amount of melezitose. Mixtures of sugars, such as occur in honeydew, tend to be stickier than single sugars. Localized concentration of sugars like honeydew is at higher risk of causing stickiness than more evenly distributed sources like plant sugars.

Sticky cotton can reduce cotton gin output (in bales/hr) by up to 25%. At the textile mill, excessive wear and increased maintenance of machinery may occur even with slightly sticky cotton. In severe instances mill shutdown with a thorough cleanup is required.


Aphids are slow-moving, soft-bodied insects. Adult cotton aphids are approximately 1/10 of an inch long and roughly pear shaped. They may possess wings or may be wingless. Cotton aphids have two color phases: yellowish or dark green.

The cotton aphid has two projections which arise from the upper side of the abdomen. These small tubes are called cornicles and are used to excrete defensive secretions.

Both the adult and immature stages (called nymphs) of the cotton aphid have stylet like mouthparts, which they use to suck juices from the host plant. Consequently, cotton aphids are sometimes referred to as plant lice

FIG:cotton Aphid

APHID.jpg (10172 bytes)                                          

The cotton aphid, Aphis gossypii, excretes honeydew rich in melezitose (ca. 30–40%). Their droplets (inset, 50X) tend to be larger than those produced by whiteflies.


FIG: Whitefly

WFLY.jpg (9594 bytes)

Whiteflies, Bemisia spp., also excrete honeydew, but as trehalulose-rich (ca. 40–50%) droplets (inset, 50X).


‘Stickiness’ is the physical process of contaminated lint adhering to equipment . The degree of stickiness depends on chemical identity, quantity, and distribution of the sugars, the ambient conditions during processing—especially humidity —and the machinery itself. Stickiness is therefore difficult to measure. Nonetheless, methods for measuring sugars on fiber have been and are being developed. These measurements may be correlated with sticking of contaminated lint to moving machine parts.  The physical and chemical attributes of the lint and sugars that are correlated with stickiness have been measured in many ways, each with differing efficiency and precision.


Some textile mills use reducing-sugar tests based on reduction of the cupric ion to screen for sugar contamination. These tests are relatively quick and inexpensive. However, some insect sugars are not reducing sugars, and some others are measured at different levels of efficiency by various reducing-sugar methods. Thus conventional reducing-sugar tests are best reserved for screening lint that potentially has high levels of plant sugars. In these cases and with the potassium ferricyanide  (KFeCN) test, lint with reducing sugar levels below 0.3% may be processed without difficulty.


High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) identifies and measures both reducing and nonreducing sugars. The main sugars of insect honeydew, trehalulose (from whiteflies) and melezitose (from aphids), and of plant sugars (glucose, fructose & sucrose) are all readily identified in this test. The benefit of HPLC analysis is the identification of the source of contamination (whitefly, aphid, or plant) which may help identify specific mitigiation measures


The physical interaction of all sugars on lint with equipment can be measured by several types of machines. The primary difficulty with these physical tests is in standardizing the stickiness measurement. As with chemical testing, these tests must be correlated with measures of fiber processing efficiency in order to interpret the results. One of these tests, the minicard, is a physical test that measures actual cotton stickiness of the card web passing between stainless steel delivery rollers of a miniature carding machine. Modeled after a production carding machine, the minicard must be run under strict tolerances. A ‘0’ minicard rating indicates that no sticking was observed, while progressively higher numbers (on a 0–3 scale) indicate progressively greater amounts of sticking during the process. Cottons with high plant sugar contents evenly distributed along the fibers may fail to be measured as sticky in this test. The minicard test is slow and has been replaced as the international standard by the manual thermodetector.

Page 1   2

 Go Back

 Go to Top of Page