Not sure if you have scale on your plants? What is scale on plants? What do they look like? And How can you rid your plants of scale?
Scale is a relatively common issue that can appear on your indoor plant. These little insects are from several sources. Sometimes this insecticide-resistant pest can be difficult to get rid of, but with patience, persistence and diligence, you’ll be able to treat the problem and keep your plant healthy.
Scale is an insect that causes huge amounts of damage to houseplants. They feed on the sap from the leaves and stems of plants. This can lead to stunted growth and yellowing leaves among other problems. With their piercing mouthparts, they suck sap from the plant’s vascular system, causing yellowing and stunting of new growth; in severe cases, the plant may die.
Scale can infest any number of houseplants, but some species are more vulnerable to these pests than others. Some plants that are often affected by scale include African violets, asparagus ferns, begonias, coleus, English ivy, ficus trees (commonly called fig trees), gloxinias and kalanchoes.
If left untreated for long periods of time, scale can kill a plant. These tiny insects are very hard to see because of their small size and because they blend in with the plant itself. The good news is that there are a number of ways to combat scale.
What is Scale On Plants?
Scale is a small insect that feeds on the sap inside your plant. Scale insects get their name from the waxy substance they produce to protect themselves. Scale (or scurf) make your plant look dirty and can even cause the leaves to yellow and drop off.
Soft scales are soft-bodied insects that suck juices from plant tissue. They excrete a sticky substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which encourages the growth of sooty mold on the foliage.
Sooty mold is not harmful to plants, but will leave them looking blackened or dirty. It may look like black or brown patches or little bumps on the stems and leaves of your plants, but it’s actually an insect called scale.
The female scale attaches itself to your plant and secretes a hard shell around her body for protection. It appears as a small raised bump on your plant, and can be yellow, brown or black in color. The male scale has wings and looks like a tiny flying gnat.
Scale insects are related to mealybugs and aphids, and they too suck the sap from plants. They’re called scale because of the hard shell-like coverings they produce over their bodies for protection. These shells are usually brown or tan in color, and they may be slightly fuzzy or waxy looking. Some scales look like small bumps on the stems of a plant, while others resemble tiny barnacles clinging to the leaves and stems.
Scale is most commonly found on houseplants that are brought outdoors during the summer months and then brought back inside around October or November. Scale insects thrive in humid conditions, and this is particularly true when daytime temperatures hover around 80 degrees F (27 C.)
Although there are more than 2,500 species of scale insects, they all have a similar life cycle. The females lay eggs underneath their body (or “scale”), then die. In six weeks or so, the eggs hatch into tiny nymphs, called crawlers. The crawlers move around until they find a good spot to settle down and feed. Crawlers can survive only three days without feeding before they die.
Once they begin feeding, the crawlers lose their legs and antennae and develop a hard shell over their bodies for protection. Most scale insects remain in that spot for the rest of their lives (scale bugs don’t crawl around), although some species can move from place to place by hitching rides on birds and people.
Although some species feed on only one type of plant, most scale insects are not at all fussy about what they eat. The first sign of scale insect infestation is often the presence of ants crawling over the plant. The ants feed on the honeydew excreted by the scale insects and will even protect the insects against their natural enemies such as parasitic wasps. They can become a nuisance themselves when they begin to crawl over household surfaces in search of food or honeydew sources.
How to control and eradicate scale on plants
If you are having issues with scale insects, there are several things you can do to eradicate them from your houseplants. If you only see a few scales infesting your plant, you can remove them by gently rubbing them off with your thumb. If you have already used insecticides on the plant, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after touching any part of the plant.
To prevent scale from reoccurring, spray the plant with insecticidal soap once per week for three weeks in order to kill eggs that may be present.
If you discover a small amount of scale on your plant, you can try to remove them with gentle rubbing alcohol. Dip a piece of cotton wool in rubbing alcohol and dab each scale with it until they detach from the plant. You can also apply neem oil or insecticidal soap spray on your affected plants every 7 days for up to 4 weeks if the problem persists.
If you want to try a DIY insecticide for scale, mix 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 2 teaspoons dish soap in 1 gallon of water. Spray both the top and bottom sides of the leaves and stems at least once per week for three weeks. Be sure not to apply this treatment during the heat of day or when temperatures exceed 90 degrees F.
Scale insects attach themselves permanently to the stem or leaves of a plant and feed off the sap. They look like tiny bumps on the stems or leaves of a plant and they generally do not move around like other types of pests do.
Scale bugs feed by sucking plant juices from leaves, stems, and twigs. As they suck the juices from the plant, they excrete a sticky substance called honeydew, which attracts ants and sooty mold.
The damage caused by scale can reduce plant vigor and make the plant more susceptible to diseases. It is also possible for scale insects to spread disease from one plant to another if they crawl from one plant to another. Scales on plants are hard to spot at first.
They are a bit like lice on a dog — you might not notice them until there is a big infestation. When you do spot scale insects, it is important to treat them immediately so they don’t spread to other plants in your home.