Do scale insects live in the soil? Yes. But they’re often found in tree branches and leaves because they can feed and shelter easily on plants and trees.
Scale insects are known as pests that live on plants and trees. Many species cause damage and can kill plants, especially if the infestation is large.
In the U.S., there are over 50 types of scale insects, ranging in size from microscopic to more than an inch long. There are many different kinds of scale insects depending on the species, which live and feed in different areas of a plant, including on a tree’s bark, leaves, flowers, and shoots.
They leave a white, waxy residue found on these infested plants. Most people who see the white residue on their plants believe that insect invaders have taken up residence in their indoor or outdoor environments. But the truth is that these little guys only lay their eggs under their shells so it appears as if the insect is feeding off its food source.
Despite their relatively small size (they are usually no bigger than 1/8 inch), they can cause a lot of damage to our prized plants, whether by sucking out all of the nutrients they need to survive or by essentially sucking them dry — quite literally.
In this article, we are going to discuss different types of scale insects, their appearance, life cycle, etc, and whether they can live in the soil. We will also learn how to control scale insects.
What are Scale Insects?
Scale insects are small, oval-shaped insects that suck the leaves and stems of a plant. They are often found on the underside of branches and leaves, under the bark of trees, or on fruits and vegetables. If they are not controlled early, they can kill plants and destroy crops. Scale insects can be found all over the world, but they are more common in warm climates than in colder ones. Most species of scale insect feed on only one type of plant or tree.
They can be either round or oval. They are brown, gray, or black. They affect the growth of plants by sucking sap from plants. There are more than 8000 species of scale insects that are available in different colors and shapes. Adult female scales are generally immobile, wingless, and covered with waxy shell-like coverings.
The adult males are very small winged gnat-like insects that live for only a few days and die after mating with females.
The eggs hatch under the protection of the female’s shell or cover into very small crawlers on their legs that eventually locate new feeding sites on the plant by dispersing through wind, raindrops, crawling, or being carried by other insects or animals.
The most common types of scale insects are:
- Armored scales
- Soft scales
Armored scales have shell-like protection on their back. Once they grow, they can’t move from one place to another place. They are attached to the plant throughout their life cycle. The male armored scales have wings and these scales reproduce sexually while the female armored scales reproduce asexually.
Soft scales do not have a shell-like covering on their back and they can move from one place to another place. Soft scales secrete large amounts of honeydew that lead to sooty mold development on plants. These scales can reproduce both sexually and asexually.
Do scale insects live in the soil?
Scale insects can live in the soil if conditions are right for them to do so. Scale insects feed on sap from plants by sucking it through their mouthparts which are needle-like tubes.
The scale insect pierces the plant’s tissue with its mouthpart and withdraws sap from the plant’s phloem (food) vessels. The feeding process is known as “Stylized feeding”. The plant sap is rich in sugar and other nutrients that the scale insect needs for growth. Scales in the garden or greenhouse can cause stunted growth, yellow leaves, and even death.
Some types of scale insects do live in the soil while others do not. For example, Cyclamen mites with their close relatives are tiny eriophyid mites that can cause damage to many commercial crops including fruit trees and ornamentals such as roses and carnations.
They feed on the vascular system of their hosts by piercing leaf tissues to suck out cell contents.
Soft scales are one type that may live in the soil. Soft scales produce a waxy layer to protect their bodies. As they grow, they molt their waxy layer and move around a little more than armored scales. Another type of scale insect that may live in the soil is the mealybug.
Mealybugs are covered with a white cottony wax layer (mealy means “wooly”). They tend to congregate on stems and leaves where they suck plant juices from new growth.
The basic life cycle of scale insects
All stages of a scale insect spend their entire lives attached to the same plant. No stage of the life cycle spends any time in the soil, although some scales do use soil organisms to help them spread.
The adult female (which is what you see on your plants) never moves from the plant it was born on. It is just an egg-laying machine that doesn’t even have mouthparts! The adult male does move around, but only to find females to mate with. After mating, it dies shortly after. Neither the male nor female feeds at all during its life.
The eggs hatch into immature nymphs called crawlers (first instar). These crawlers hatch from under the waxy outer shell of their mother and are very small and mobile. They crawl around for a little bit until they find a good place to attach.
How do they cause damage?
Scale insects suck the juices out of plants and trees through their mouthparts. They grow rapidly once they get into the soil or onto plants. Scale insects do not have wings so they cannot fly but they crawl to other plants where they feed on the sap inside the leaves and branches of these plants.
They usually leave behind honeydew which is a sticky liquid that attracts ants, flies, and wasps to your garden or lawn area. This honeydew is a food source for these pests and so you will find them hovering around your garden area quite often if you have a serious infestation of scale insects in your yard or garden area.
How to control scale insects
You can control the scale with insecticidal soap or neem oil, but you must spray repeatedly. To prevent scale insects from spreading and destroying your yard, here are a few tips on how to control scale insects.
The best way to control scale insects is by using insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils. Both of these products can be applied directly to the plant. However, you should be careful when applying them, since they can damage the plant if used incorrectly.
When using insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils, try to spray them on all parts of the plant including the leaves and stems. You can use a regular spray bottle for this purpose. Spray once every three days until you see no more signs of scale insects on the plant.
A less effective method is to use neem oil or other natural oils like rosemary oil or cinnamon oil. These oils are not as effective as insecticidal soaps and horticultural oils, but they can still kill some scale insects. Make sure you spray them on all parts of the plant including the leaves and stems. You can use a regular spray bottle for this purpose. Spray once every three days until you see no more signs of scale insects on the plant.
Another option is to prune off any branches that have scale insects on them. Usually, however, natural enemies keep scales in check by feeding on them or by laying eggs under the scale covering.