Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Let's Tip the Scale

I have had a bunch of trouble with scale type insects in the past. Matter of fact, I almost lost my Variegated Eureka Lemon to a bad case of scale. Scale insects are one of the hardest to control in horticulture. There are SO many kinds that affect SO many different types of plants. For instance, you have Tea Scale (Fiorinia theae Green) on Camellias. It is the most common and probably the most destructive insect pest of Camellias. They are sometimes hard to find because they infest the undersides of the leaves. They harm the plant because they suck juices form the plant itself. Symptoms of infestation include yellow chlorotic splotches on the upper leaf surface.

ADULT TEA SCALE


It's almost a gimmee that your camellias will get scale, but you can keep it from progressing to major proportions with proper control measures. Scale infestations are more difficult to control when populations are heavy. You should take action and make spray applications when the first sign of scale is seen. Horticultural Oil, particularly, Neem Oil, sprays and Insecticidal Soap will help control the scale if applied properly. Both of these can be found on Amazon by following the links. Always follow label directions. This IS the LAW! Both of these products are considered a contact insecticide. For them to be effective, the plants must be thoroughly covered. This way they smother the insect. Hort oils should only be applied during the Spring and Fall when the temperature is above 40, but less than 85 degrees. Spraying in the heat of the day may result in leaf burn.

When it comes to Citrus, we can REALLY Tip the scales here: Snow Scale (Unaspis citri), Florida Red Scale (Chrysomphalus aonidium), Purple Scale (Lepidosaphes beckii), Glover's Scale (Lepidosaphes gloveri), and Chaff Scale (Parlatoria pergandii). Some of the soft scale insects include Caribbean Black Scale (Saisseta neglecta), Brown Soft Scale (Coccus hesperidium), Cottony Cushion Scale, (Icerya purchasi) and Florida Wax Scale (Ceroplastes floridensis).
Luckily the only scale from this list that I have had to deal with is the Brown Soft Scale and the Cottony Cushion Scale.
I found this interesting information about the Cottony Cushion Scale from the University of Florida Website:
The adult female cottony cushion scale is capable of self-fertilization and lays about 500 to 800 eggs. Eggs are laid within an egg sac and are red and oblong. The eggs can hatch within a few days during the summer months but can take up to two months during the winter. The cottony cushion scale population increases most rapidly during the drier months and requires about four months for a generation. Fortunately, there is a heavy natural mortality among the eggs and the first instar nymphs.
Want to see what one looks like?


These things are usually big enough I can just smash them. They are kind of ugly, don't you think?

BROWN SOFT SCALE


The Brown Soft Scale is what almost took out my lemon tree. Brown Soft Scales are protected from insecticides or sprays by waxy coverings, so spray control measures should be aimed at unprotected crawlers. Spot treatments should be applied when scales are present. Applications of insecticidal soap or horticultural oil will kill scales, but at least three treatments are needed to control an infestation. Repeat every six to seven days until scales have been eradicated. Dead scales do not fall from plants, so you'll have to examine plants to determine whether the scales are dead or alive. Crush the scale - if it's dry, the scale is dead; if the body is juicy or leaves a streak when smeared on a piece of paper it was alive. How's that for being gross?!
The major point I want you to take from today's post is this. Take the time to inspect your plants regularly, the old adage of "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" really hits home here. Scale insects are a real pain to deal with, if they get out of control it can be almost impossible to eradicate them. Look for anything unusual, small bumps, discoloration, or anything small that is crawling. If you do all this, you too can "Tip the Scales" in your favor!
Happy Growing!
Darren

33 comments:

  1. Thank you for posting this info. I was going over our nagami kumquat tree thinning out fruit and found one of the cottony cushion scales beneath a Y in some of the younger branch growth, and thought perhaps it was a chrysalis of some kind, but it didn't react at all to being poked and it felt extremely squishy. Rather randomly coming across your photo of one helped me to identify what it was and (obviously) determine it wasn't something we wanted to just leave be.

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  2. thanks for your post! ive been dealing with Brown soft scale for several weeks now, but this is the first site that i've found that gave these fiends a name. I've been treating with insectisidal soap so far... i know i will overcome.

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  3. Good day! First of all I would like to tell that you actually have built a beautiful site. Also I wanted to ask you one thing that I am interested of. Do you have an idea to write professionally or your blog is solely a kind of hobby?

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    Replies
    1. FriskyBrainiac,
      I would love to someday write professionally. I do currently write occasionally for Carolina Gardener Magazine, like once a year, but nowhere close to full time. Why do you ask?
      You can e-mail me directly at TheCitrusGuy@netzero.com

      Delete
  4. when cleaning off the scale from leaves and stems, etc, what is the best thing to use?, alcohol or vinegar??? or something else.? I am really tired of these horrible, messy bugs and want to restore the meyer lemon and tanagerine plants to good health. We live in Colorado and the only time the plants are outside is after the frost no longer is an issue.

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    1. The best thing to use would be neem oil or some other kind of horticultural oil. Then a good spray of water from the hose.
      It is rather time consuming, but it will be worth it in the end.

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  5. I have had brown scale for years now. I live in Idaho and my citrus trees live indoors. I am having trouble getting rid of the scale for good. I have had the citrus trees out in the summer and then sprayed them with an insecticide that has gotten rid of the scale for a while. The scale has come back in the middle of winter every year when I cannot spray my trees indoors. I have tried to religiously squish the scale off the branches and spay soap suds using dish soap on my trees in the house. But still the scale will come back. Can you tell me any thing about their cycle, sprays, etc. that might help me get rid of them for good?

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous, I am going to assume your tree has not or does not produce fruit yet? The best thing I can suggest is this product:
      http://www.domyownpestcontrol.com/bayer-advanced-fruit-citrus-and-vegetable-insect-control-p-2033.html
      Bayer Advanced Fruit, Citrus and Vegetable Insect Control
      The link above is so you can get it online. Google search the product, you might find it cheaper.
      I doubt VERY seriously that you will find it available in Idaho, though I guess anything is possible.
      It should help.

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  6. I live in Nova Scotia ,Canada.I have a potted citrus tree that that lives outside for the summer and resides inside during the winter.This is the second year I've had the tree. Every time it is bought inside I have scale issues with it.It's covered with blossoms and scale.I have showered it in my shower,picked them off and tried peroxide.What can I use inside to get rid of the scale.?I also have a blue fronted amazon bird which also lives in the same space.So anything toxic is out of the question.Thanks

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    Replies
    1. Patricia,
      There is a systemic product out called Fruit, Citrus and Vegetable Control put out by Bayer. You can see the listing here: http://www.bayeradvanced.com/insects-pests/products/fruit-citrus-vegetable-insect-control
      I have used it in my potted plants, though I am not sure yet if it has been approved for container plants, so THEORETICALLY, I can not endorse this product. Some people are also a little squeemish about using an insecticide that is taken up into the tree. From what I understand, it does not go into the fruit.
      The best advice I can give you is, just before you bring it into the house for the winter, hose the scale off with a very strong stream of water. Check all the undersides of leaves, stems, nooks and crannies. If you blow a leaf or two off with the water, no big deal. You will get wet, so pick a fairly warm day. I have done this, especially on my Key Lime, they really like that one. Then, keep an eye on it, check it at least once a week. If you see anything that remotely looks like scale, use a Q-tip and some rubbing alcohol and dab at the offending insect. This is a little time consuming, but should be effective. Hope that helps.

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    2. Darren,
      Have you tried this product? I am excited to see it it works. Bayer says to use it only once per season, so I was curious whether you had success with it. Like Patricia, I have two indoor citrus trees that are annually attacked by scale. I take great pains to clean the plant before bringing it into the house at the end of the summer season but the darned scale shows up with its sticky residue around February or March and starts destroying my plants. I am hopeful that the systemic will take care of this problem. By the way, Bayer seems to play a little game on its site by suggesting it is a good product for indoor citrus while the label suggests only using it on outdoor plants. I'm all in for using it because the sticky residue makes me nuts.

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  7. Thanks so much for this blog post! I've noticed something happening to my prize potted bearss lime and, after reading your post, I recognize it as an infestation of soft brown scale! I will meticulously scrape it off the branches/leaves and treat repeatedly with neem (really hope this works). I just had a question about its propogation, and wondered if you knew how it spreads. I've never seen anything live on the plant (aside from occasionally some tiny flies, though they seem to come from the potting mix). How does brown scale move around the plant? Thanks so much once again for your blog!!!

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  8. Simon,
    Glad you liked the post and have discovered what is wrong with your bearss lime.
    It is very hard to see the scale moving. You have to catch it, just right. What happens is, the mother scale has the babies under her armor. When they get a little older, they crawl out from under her (crawlers)...they then move on and find a good spot to hunker down and feed. Then the whole process starts again. The timing is rather difficult to predict. The crawlers are active at different parts of the year in different locales. What you have planned, sounds good. Scout the plant often and you might see the crawlers. Use a magnifying glass on occasion. When you see them, make a note of when they are active and you will know to spray around that time every year to get rid of them.
    Thanks!

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  9. I noticed some of these on small orange plant I have on the window sill of my house (like your second picture), the branches are covered in a hanging, glistening, sugary, web like substance, I swear I could sell it as cotton candy. Anyway, do you think it will do me any harm eating the sugary web like substance. I have already eaten quite a bit of it so I would appreciate your feed back.

    Many thanks,
    Niall

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  10. Hello Niall,
    Other than EEWWWW! I can't think of a reason why it would harm you.
    I may regret asking this, what does it taste like?

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    1. It's sweet tasting and....moist. Strangely pleasant.
      Anyway, the small potted orange tree is covered in the web stuff, also a lot of them things shown in your second picture. When I mush them up there is a thick bright orange fluid inside them, so i'm guessing they're still alive.
      I told my mum to let me bag the sugary, webby goodness (so I can enjoy it at my leisure later) and then throw out the plant but she seems determined to keep it. Can it be saved? No one in the house knows the first thing about gardening or plants or whatever so we're all stumped.
      I can take some pics if youre interested!

      Thanks Darren!

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    2. You are a braver soul than I. I am not sure I would have tried it.
      Anyway, is the plant suffering? I would like to see some pictures. Please send them to: TheCitrusGuy@netzero.com
      I am sure the plant can be saved. I also need some more info.
      Where do you live?
      How old is the plant?
      How often do you feed it, water, etc?
      We will get this thing growing well yet.
      Oh, and by the way, yes, it is still alive.

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    3. Sounds like a type of aphid - they produce cotton-candy like tufts of sugar, which is why ants farm them. A simple insecticide should get rid of them.

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  11. Pest Control Fairfax VaAmiable articles and the blogs really helped me a lot, thanks for the valuable information.

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  12. Hi Darren, My question is this, Does scale start from the soil going up to the trunk then to the leaves? If so, can we kill them before they hatch in the soil first?

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    1. Hello Phillip, Sorry, I did not get a notification that you asked a question.
      More than likely, yes. Ants usually farm the scale, so I would think they would have to come from the soil.

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    2. Scale can move in multiple paths, from both the ground and air. I have one tree that was infested by a nearby tree that I'm still finding and killing the scale on. There was no direct ground contact. The scale will establish themselves in any place that is exposed and it is easy to get to the sap, I find they prefer the stems of leaves, new growth, and joints. They will build up in places that they are not easily found or flushed. Once they form their shell, they do not move, sealing themselves against the tree. In areas where that does not expose them to excessive cold or heat, they may be set into the bark itself, provided they live that long.

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    3. Thank You Anonymous, you reminded me that scale can drop from one tree to another when they are in the crawler stage.

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  15. On my 3 foot potted dekopon plagued by the little buggers, I tried a solution of 2 ounces of Phillips Sonocare BreathRx (Amazon) made by adding 2 ounces of the mouthwash to 14 ounces of rubbing alcohol in a hand sprayer. I saturated the entire tree by spraying it from all angles. I resprayed twice at one or two week intervals as rain washed the residue off the leaves. A few emerging scale were noted, but the residue killed them as they fed. Very satisfying. 5 months later the tree is looking great, producing fruit, and is still scale free. Oddly, none others of my other types of citrus were ever affected - just the dekopon, which was from a different supplier.

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  16. Darren, you are a wealth of info. Thank you. I successfully ended a major infestation of brown scale on my meyer lemon when I discovered it this summer (or at least I thought so). I live in zone 4, so now it is indoors and just discovered a few scales - saw the sticky sap first. I have blossoms and lots of big and little lemons. What can I use indoors to kill them?

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    1. Thank You for the kind words, Nancy!
      If you are worried about spraying the tree and it is only a few scale, dip a q-tip in neem oil and dab them with it. or, just squish them with your finger. Gross, but effective.

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  17. Thanks for going into so much detail on this, Darren! Your advice, especially from your replies to comments will help me a lot. Hopefully my indoor orange tree will start growing again! (It's still only a few inches tall and I haven't noticed any damage yet, but the leaves have been sticky for a while and it hasn't grown any for about a month or so.)

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Sam! I do appreciate it!
      Keep me posted as to how your orange tree progresses.

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  18. Have you tried this product? I am excited to see it it works. Bayer says to use it only once per season, so I was curious whether you had success with it. Like Patricia, I have two indoor citrus trees that are annually attacked by scale. I take great pains to clean the plant before bringing it into the house at the end of the summer season but the darned scale shows up with its sticky residue around February or March and starts destroying my plants. I am hopeful that the systemic will take care of this problem. By the way, Bayer seems to play a little game on its site by suggesting it is a good product for indoor citrus while the label suggests only using it on outdoor plants. I'm all in for using it because the sticky residue makes me nuts.

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  19. I always use insecticides and mitecides to treat this insect -- like chlorpyrephors or abamectin or imidaclopride -- it is very effective

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