Scale Insects Difficult to Control


Scale Insects Difficult to Control

Scale Insects Difficult to Control

There is one type of insect that troubles even the most experienced gardeners. Scale insects don’t even look like insects. Have you ever noticed a whitish-looking growth on a branch or twig that looks more like a tiny bump on a log? If so, you have probably seen a type of scale.

Several scale plant-insect samples have recently been brought into the Master Gardener office for diagnosis. I noticed recently that several hollies in downtown Gulfport were suffering

severely from these dreaded pests. Indian hawthorn, camellias, magnolias, and many other broadleaf evergreen shrubs suffer from a scale bug.

Correct identification is essential for control. First, you need to realize that scale insects are sucking insects rather than chewing ones. Scales produce a sticky, sweet substance called honeydew as they suck the sap from plant tissue. Aphids produce honeydew, too.

This honeydew provides just the right nutrients for black sooty mold to grow on it, which causes your plants to look like they have been dusted with black sooty powder. The sooty mold is the first thing usually noticed. Many people believe that this is the problem, but the scales are really to blame.

There are two types of scales: hard and soft. Oak scale, tea scale, holly scale, euonymus scale, and pine needle scale are just a few of the hard scales. Many of the broadleaf evergreens suffer from the hard scale. Soft scales include wax and magnolia scale. These soft scales are even more difficult to control than the hard ones.

Scale insects hatch from eggs and the tiny “crawlers” move to tender plant parts when the weather warms in the spring. Here they attach themselves permanently to the plant and shed their six legs. As this process occurs, they develop a waxy shell-like covering over their bodies.

This shell is what makes scale insects so hard to control. Pesticides simply cannot penetrate the waxy coverings.

Scale insects are most often found on stems or the underside of leaves. You must direct your spray to these areas to obtain good control. Thankfully, there is hope for controlling them.

Insecticides containing carbaryl or malathion can be used in the springtime to kill the crawlers before they produce that waxy shell. Be very careful in your insecticide selection, as some products can harm particular plant types. For example, diazinon can injure gardenias and cygon will harm Chinese hollies such as Rotunda, Burford, and Dwarf Burford cultivars. The label will tell you the precautions you should take for your situation.

A summer-weight oil spray such as Oilicide, Volck, or Sunspray will smother the insects by cutting off their oxygen supply. Use this product if you failed to kill the crawlers or missed treating them altogether.

Pay very close attention, however, to the label of the product you choose to use. When temperatures are too high, damage to plant material can occur with some oil-based products.

In the fall, you should follow up with another oil spray. Follow the same temperature restrictions and precautions you used earlier in the season.

It is much easier to target plants that have a history of scale infestation with preventive sprays each spring and fall. Preventing scale is much easier than trying to get rid of it.

Read More: How to Get Ride Household Insect Pests

Scale Insects Described Species

Insect glitter is a large and diverse group (about 8,000 species described) of the Coccoidea superfamily of the order of Hemiptera, closely related to aphids and alegones, but they are very different from their typical insect (bed bugs are also part of this superfamily, but they are not included in this article). These small insects vary greatly in size (1/16 to 3/8 inches wide) and appearance, but they all grow under a wax blanket resembling an individual reptile or fish scales, hence the common name. This cover that protects the insect under it can be a flattened oval, domed, in the form of an oyster shell, look like small mussels, or have a fluffy layer.




Juniper scales are light gray or white in color, very small (about 2 mm) in diameter, and nearly circular. These insects become abundant on the needles, especially the undersides. The scales always attach themselves to needles rather than bark.


Juniper scale is a pest of ornamental junipers, especially the pfitzers. Badly infected plants show a yellowish-brown foliage color and the overall appearance of the plant is similar to a plant badly in need of fertilizer or water. Portions of dead branches may be visible. Taking a closer look at the branches that show these symptoms may reveal the scale insects on the undersides of the needles. Plants decline over time and maybe killed by severe infestations.


The scale insects overwinter as nearly full-grown individuals and mature in the spring. Under her scale covering the female lays eggs in the spring. She dies soon after egg-laying but the scale cover remains attached to the needle, often for several years.

The crawlers (immature scales) hatch from the eggs and leave the scale cover to search for a place to feed. The crawler stage may last for as short as 24 hours and after finding a feeding site the small, straw-colored crawler attaches itself to a needle and begins to feed. Soon it develops a coat of armor (the scale covering).

The immature scales continue to feed and grow during the summer and during this growing period, the skin is shed several times. The shed skins make up the hard protective cover for the scale insect. By late fall the scales are nearly full-grown and ready to overwinter. The cycle is repeated year after year.


A dormant oil or oil plus ethion may be used to help manage this pest. The oil should be sprayed on in mid to late April, but before new growth begins. This should be followed by two sprays of malathion plus methoxychlor or carbaryl (Sevin) spaced 10 to 14 days apart beginning in late June for crawlers. If these sprays are missed, one application of Metasystox-R can be made in late July against the adults.

MAGNOLIA SCALENeolecanium cornuparvum (Thro)
Neolecanium cornuparvum (Thro)

The magnolia scale belongs to a group of insects described as soft scales. Scale insects are immobile for most of their life cycle and thus show little resemblance to the usual form of insects.


Often people do not realize the magnolia has a scale bug infestation until leaves and twigs turn black with sooty mold. Severely infected twigs and branches are weakened, growth stunted, and repeated infestations may result in the death of the branches or entire small trees.

Scale insects feed by inserting their syringe-like mouth-parts into the plant’s vascular system, sucking out sap and other vital plant fluids. Large amounts of these fluids are withdrawn, concentrated in the gut of the scale, and excreted as a clear, sticky liquid — honeydew. The honeydew drips onto the leaves and stems making them sticky as well as providing an ideal place for the black sooty mold fungus to develop. The honeydew also attracts ants and wasps which feed on it.


“Bumps on the twigs” is a phrase which can be used to describe these insects. The mature female scales are large, up to 1/2 inch (12.5 mm) in diameter, elliptical and convex in shape. Adult scales are permanently affixed to the branches of the host.

They range from pink-orange to dark brown in color. Immature and mature females are often covered with a white waxy bloom. The presence or absence of the wax is the major field character used to distinguish between the magnolia and the tuliptree scale, both of which feed on magnolia.

Immature scales are much more flattened than the adults, but still elliptical in shape. The overwintering nymphs are dark bluish-black, about l mm long, and clustered on twigs in incredible numbers.


The magnolia scale reaches maturity in August each year. The females give birth to living young which remain under the parent scale covering for a short time. These young (the first instar nymphs) are known as crawlers. Crawlers move from the shelter of the female and migrate to the undersides of young twigs where they spend the winter.

Once the crawler settles and begins to feed, it remains in the same spot for the remainder of its life. As the insect ages, the exoskeleton hardens making it less susceptible to contact insecticides.

In the spring two molts occur, one is usually in mid-May and the second in early June. The nymphs continue growing during July but at a slower rate, usually reaching maturity in August. There is one generation per year.


Most scale insects can be controlled by appropriately timed insecticidal sprays. Where severe infestations exist, pruning out heavily infested branches can also be helpful. In severe infestations, an insecticide program should be continued for two consecutive years.

Insect Control at Scale Insects: How to Get Rid of Scales on Plants

This article is a guide to insect control at scale. Using the suggested products and methods, you will get control over the flaking of insects on plants. Follow this guide and use the recommended products and we guarantee 100% insect control at scale.

There are many pests that feed and damage our plants, but some that often go unnoticed are insect scales. Insect scales are small pests that normally fly under the radar of most owners and gardeners until their damage is apparent.

Insect scales on plants can kill or block plant growth, cause the formation of black mold on the leaves, or even attract the activity of other pests, such as ants or wasps. The scale can be small, but if not treated, it can become a big problem for healthy plants. If you have noticed insect scales damaging your plants, you will need to act quickly to eliminate the infestation.

Toxic Methods of Scale Control

Before applying the insecticide, make sure that the plants receive proper cultural care and take measures to preserve natural enemies. Check some of the scales to make sure they are alive and evaluate the extent of parasitism as described above.

To learn how and when to apply effectively, learn more about the insecticides available and the biology of your pests. Read completely and follow the instructions on the product label for safe and effective use of the insecticide.

Insecticides can have adverse effects, such as contaminating water, poisoning natural enemies and pollinators, and causing secondary outbreaks of pests.

Scale Insects Harm Plants

Use pesticides in landscape plants only if the scales significantly damage plants. Always consider removing, destroying, and replacing heavily infested shrubs and ornamental trees. Insecticides labeled for the control of insect scales can harm beneficial insects.

Non-residual Contact Insecticides

where plants can be sprayed, full spray coverage of infested parts of plants with horticultural oil at the right time allows control of most scales. Horticultural oils (e.g., Bonide Horticultural Oil and Monterey Horticultural Oil) are particularly refined petroleum products, often referred to as narrow, superior, or superior oils.

Other non-persistent contact sprays for garden and landscape plants include Safer Brand II Insect Soap Concentrate, Neem Oil (Bayer Advanced Natria Neem Oil Concentrate, Green Light Neem, Garden Safe Brand Neem), Canola Oil (Bayer Advanced Natria Multi-Insect Control), and other botanical oils ( derivatives).

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