It used to occur to me that scale insects were a plant disease. However, that is not the case at all! Scale insects are small, plant-eating insects that can be found all year round among plants and trees.
It’s amazing how sometimes the tiniest, smallest insects can be the most destructive. I think it has to do with their ability to multiply so quickly and the difficulty in keeping up with their reproduction rate.
You need a way to combat an enemy that is barely noticeable, grows before your very eyes and destroys your plants the way scale does. Here’s how you can get rid of scale and preserve your plants’ health.
What is Scale?
It might surprise some people to learn that scales are not associated with plant disease. Scales are small insects that remove the sap from plants, eventually losing all of the essential nutrients that plants need for survival.
In addition to their affinity for warm, dry conditions, these bugs are commonly found in houseplants. Since interior interiors are typically dryer than outdoors, tropical plants require environments that are difficult to replicate in an indoor environment.
Among the three types of scale bugs (and thousands of species!), hard and soft bodied species, as well as mealybugs are among the most common. Almost all scales feature an oval shape and tend to be brown in color-though insect colors vary significantly depending on the species of insect.
As soon as an infestation has begun, hard-shelled scale bugs are difficult to control since their protected bodies are not as susceptible to pesticides and other chemical controls, natural or otherwise.
Insects known as scales often hover around foliage areas, where they feed upon plant sap.
The Scale Lifecycle
Women scale insects have a sophisticated egg-laying system meant to provide total protection for their eggs. They lay their eggs underneath their own bodies, allowing the eggs to be protected at all times.
Although removing eggs is one of the most effective things you can do to minimize insect pests, it isn’t possible with scale insects. You should target them as soon as they hatch and as soon as the nymph-stage crawlers look for appropriate feeding areas.
The species reproduce rapidly, and there are often several generations in a season. Reproduction is simpler since the females do not need a male in order to lay eggs.
Signs of Scale Activity
It’s not surprising that plants looking sickly and diseased are infested with scales. Unfortunately, there are numerous reasons why plants look out of place.
Whenever your plants look sick, you need to check them for bugs. You ought to begin by checking for the presence of pests.
Usually smaller, oval-shaped insects, this species of insect lives on the undersides of plant leaves. The insect species tend to cluster together in large groups, even though they are small.
The bugs can look like fungi sometimes, and when collectively they form clusters, their waxy shells resemble a fungus, causing people to mistake these insects for diseases.
It may not be as easy to spot scale infestations as it is to spot bugs. Here are some signs you may have missed:
- The leaves of your plant are turning yellow: When the leaves begin to fall off, this indicates a problem.
- Branches that appear stressed and are dying: Trees with scale often shed limbs and exhibit signs of extreme stress.
- No new growth on plants: With yellowing leaves and a falling off of their leaves, scale affected plants fail to produce much new growth.
Why is Scale Bad For My Garden?
Scale insects aren’t just destructive to plants, they also carry diseases. Some types of scale insects produce a substance called honeydew (clearly not the yummy fruit!). Further depletion of plant health is caused by mold growth, which encourages moist conditions that suppress photosynthesis.
Scale infestations can eventually lead to plant death if not dealt with properly.
Scale bugs are attracted to different types of plant life, and different species attack different types of plants. Certain scale species, such as those found in trees and shrubs, are more likely to attack them, while others may prefer common houseplants.
How to Deal with a Scale Infestation
Insects with scales typically lack wings (except for some male plants), so they cannot fly away when attacked. However, this doesn’t prevent them from scattering away and hiding when they choose.
The following methods can be used to remove these annoying, plant-killing insects:
- Use Sticky traps. Infested plants can be protected by double-sided tape by placing it along their stems and branches that harbor bugs. You can also use this method to identify an infestation.
- Relocate infected plants. Houseplants infested by insects should be isolated from healthy plants, especially in the case of houseplants, in order to avoid the insects infecting the healthy plants.
- Manually remove bugs. An unpleasant remedy, this involves picking off insects or dislodging them from resting places by manually flicking them off. It is recommended you toss them into soapy water so they don’t come back.
- Implement alcohol swabs. This method is appropriate when dealing with light infestations of insects. It involves soaking a cotton swab in alcohol and killing the insects.
- Use chemical controls. Insecticidal soaps and neem oil are effective at getting rid of scale, however these products might not work on all species of scale insects.
- Prune plant material. Using pruners, remove the affected plant material without completely destroying the plant.
- Introduce or encourage predator insects. Predator bugs can work to prevent scale insects from heavily infesting outdoor plants by providing ground cover for hungry predator bugs.
- Get rid of heavily infested plants. All other treatment methods have been exhausted and the infestation persists, then plants with a serious infestation should be thrown out.
Timing is Important
You must apply insecticidal soaps and sprays at the right time when dealing with a scale infestation.
You are less likely to be successful in eradicating insects if you apply insecticides when the insects are fully mature rather than when they are in their crawling stage.
During this stage, you will see newly hatched nymphs crawling around your plant for a place to latch onto and feed.
It is important to keep in mind the rapid reproduction rate of scale insects, which means that repeated treatments are necessary to eliminate the insects from your garden or houseplants. Whenever you notice a scale issue, it is important to pay close attention to your affected plants.
How to Prevent Scale
One of the easiest ways to attract scale is to bring home a plant that is infested by mistake. When you buy plants at your favorite nursery around springtime, be sure to thoroughly inspect all areas before bringing them home.
Ensure that your garden plants and houseplants are regularly inspected. Preventing or controlling scale infestations starts with spotting the problem in its early stages.
If your plants are happy and healthy, you are more likely to prevent any kind of insect infestation, including scale. If your plants receive sufficient light, nutrients, and water, they are also more likely to survive an infestation.
In the past, some gardeners recommended washing indoor plants’ foliage to prevent scale infestations. This method, however, does not apply to outdoor plants in a garden, but it is an effective preventative measure for houseplants.
The leaves of houseplants collect a lot of dust, so you can wash the leaves to keep them cleaner.