Controlling Scale Insects

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While scale insects don’t only appear in June, the symptoms of this insect are often most noticeable then. The insect feeds on leaves and stems of the plants and excretes a substance known as honeydew that is clear, sticky and sweet. A fungus known as sooty mold that grows on the honeydew is a major indicator of scale insects.

Many times people don’t notice the often tiny, insignificant bumps on the stems or undersides of the leaves until they see the lower leaves and stems beginning to turn black around the middle of the summer. There are many species of soft scale that can be found on several different types of plant. I remember one time walking under a large oak tree and it felt like it was raining a light mist in the middle of a sunny day. When I looked at the stems of the tree they were covered with lecanium scale. I had been called to the area to figure out why there was black stuff growing on the leaves of the flowers growing under the tree.

Controlling scale insects can be as varied as the plants they are growing on. The immatures can often be controlled with insecticidal soap, that is if you know when to spray for them. The adults can often be controlled in the fall and winter with horticultural oil sprays. Many of the soft scales like the lecanium scale in the oak tree can be controlled with a systemic insecticide. If there are only a few scale insects on the plant, hand picking may be an option.