What Are Scale Insects and How Do They Affect My Trees?

What Are Scale Insects and How Do They Affect My Trees?

Are your trees, shrubs or plants experiencing stunted growth and leaf curling, as well as discolored leaves that drop early? These are the main symptoms of a scale infestation. These tiny insects feed by puncturing leaves and stems with their mouth parts and sucking out the sap. Some are too small to identify without a magnifying glass, but their effect on plant healthcare is easily visible.

There are three main types of scale insects: armored scales, soft scales and mealybugs. Unfortunately, there are many subspecies within each type. For example, there are more than 80 species of armored scales that attack woody and ornamental plants in the United States.

Scales do not readily spread from their hosts, but once established they can be difficult to control. Simply hosing off the affected plants with a hard stream of water will not solve the problem. The eggs of scales are capable of sticking in a waxy, protective coating through harsh winter conditions and hatching the following spring.

Proper timing of plant treatment for scales is extremely important. Scales cannot fly, but they are best dealt with during the crawler stage. This is before they grow to adulthood, develop their armored, waxy coatings and start reproducing. Trained professionals, like those at Ostvig Tree Care, can identify the type of scales affecting the landscape and determine the proper timing and application of pesticides.

If you don’t want to use pesticides, one or two applications of horticultural oils may do the trick. Horticultural oils work by coating scales and suffocating them, but are less toxic to the environment and other insects. Certain oils can be used during the plant’s dormant stage to kill overwintering eggs and interrupt an insect’s life cycle.

Because many types of beneficial insects feed on scales, hiring a Certified Arborist is recommended. They can confirm that important pollinators, like bees, are not affected. Ostvig Tree Care has an overall plant healthcare program that will eliminate scale insects and restore overall landscape health.

Tree Care for Scale Bugs