Scale can be a scary word. Especially for those of us who haven't left the house much over the last couple of months due to the Covid-19 quarantine. However, this blog isn't about that thing in your bathroom that you may be afraid to step on; these scales may be getting fat on your favorite plants.
There are dozens of kinds of scale bugs in Central Florida. Three of the most common in our neighborhoods are armored scales, soft scales, and mealybugs. Each type of this treacherous trio is small and hard to see on your plants, a big one is only 1/8 an inch in diameter, but the damage they do is easy to spot. Do you see black spots on your plants' leaves? Are there pimple-like, white growths on stems? If you do, you have scales.
Scale damage begins as bumps, turns into yellow leaves, then even black mold, and ultimately death. The tiny bugs do their work in secret, on the underside of leaves and, in the crevices of new growth. They can usually be seen sucking the lives out of leaves in a perfectly straight line, resembling a military formation. Scales favorite targets are crape myrtle, gardenia, and oaks.
Before we formulate a strategy to get rid of these pests, let's learn a little more about these minuscule monsters. Armored scales get their name from a waxy like substance that surrounds their bodies while they feed. This gross shield makes the already microscopic menace even more difficult to see.
Soft scales are small too, they appear flat, and range in color from yellow to brown. Here's a big difference; soft scales produce a honeydew while they eat. Besides being a gross liquid, that dew if a defense mechanism. The dew attracts ants and the ants protect their dew producing buddies from their natural predators. Isn't nature fascinating?
The last scale to go over is mealybugs. They are the easiest to spot because of the white fibers that cover their bodies. If it looks like your plant or tree is covered with a tiny layer of cotton, it's probably mealybugs at work. Unlike the other two, mealybugs are mobile their whole lives and move around their entire host plant.
How to beat the bugs
Scales can be challenging to control, but here are a few tips. The most common is the horticultural soap. Spray infected leaves with the safe concoction, but be sure to read the instructions; each manufacturers' mix is different.
Double-sided tape is another way to attempt to treat the problem. Wrap the tape near the new growth of an infected plant. The crawling scales will stick to it and die. This tactic works well when used with soap treatments.
The last is the most natural and designed to keep the scales away for good. Wasps, ladybugs, and green lacewings love the taste of scales. Attract them to where the scales seem to show-up every year by planting flowers.
Pruning is another way to stop scales, but it doesn't always work. Those buggers may be hiding out in the stems of the tree. New ones will come out and take over the plant's new growth. Remember, scales are tiny and hard to see.
We wish you luck in smashing scales on your property. If you want more help or need some ideas on redesigning a pest-resistant landscape, please, contact us for a free estimate.