Scale Insects: Wax-Coated Plant Pest

Scale insects appear as small oval patches or bumps on plant stems and the undersides of leaves, but some may be found on the upper surfaces also.  They are difficult to control; however, there are several well-known remedies that can be applied  in an attempt to eliminate scales from a houseplant.

The adults are stationary and have no visible legs. They are covered with a waxy covering which makes them appear as brown or gray bumps. This waxy coating protects them from insecticides.

The young are called crawlers and can barely be seen without magnification.

The crawlers are more susceptible to insecticides.

They damage plants with sharp mouthparts that pierce plant tissue and suck the sap. These bugs excrete a sticky gel called honeydew which encourages the growth of sooty mold. This black coating blocks the leaf pores and prevents photosynthesis, which results in leaves that turn yellow and drop, slow growth, and stunted plants.

How to Get Rid of Scale Insect

1. Scrape  off  individual  bugs by hand and dispose.

2. You can wash them off with a soft toothbrush dipped in soapy water. Use a mild dish washing detergent and dilute solution of 1 Tbs of detergent per quart of water.  Apply with a sprayer  or use a soft cloth while washing infested leaves and stems. Insecticides must be applied  repeatedly (weekly for a month or more) to get good control.

3. Dab insects with a cotton swab that has been soaked in alcohol.  This method is for  lightly infested plants.

4. Thoroughly spray both sides of leaves, stems, and soil with insecticidal soap for serious infestations.

5. Spray plant with a solution of Garden Safe Neem Oil. The oil has systemic benefits and doesn't need direct contact with the bugs. It works as a pest repellent and a fungicide to control powdery mildew. It also affects their life cycle by stopping reproduction. It is non toxic and can be used on vegetables as well as ornamentals.

6. Keep plants healthy and stress-free to fight off these destructive pests.

7.  Finally, many people find it best to start over with a new pest-free plant. Dispose of the  infested plants before the pests spread to other houseplants.


Caution: When treating any houseplant pests with insecticides, read the label carefully and use outdoors when possible. Keep all pesticides out of reach of small children and pets.

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