It can be tricky to identify scale as the cause of your plant’s deterioration because there is generally no movement throughout a scale insect’s life cycle. If you suspect scale, the best thing to look for is unusual bumpy growth on the stems and undersides of the leaves. Brown shell-like scale, shown in this photo, can indicate an infestation. You might also see evidence of a sticky substance called honeydew or sooty mold. Ants might also appear on these plants as they’re attracted to the honeydew.
Type of Scale Insects
Three types of scale can affect houseplants:
- Armored scale bugs—These scale insects have a round, oval shape, and hard-shell cover. The tiny sap-sucking pests hide under their protective scale while feeding and laying eggs.
- Soft scale insects—These destructive pests are larger than armored scale. They have a soft, furry covering and—unlike armored scale—produce honeydew from plant sap.
- Mealybugs—These nasty little houseplant pests crawl on plants leaving a cottony-wool like substance behind. Mealybugs also secrete honeydew and cause sooty mold.
When plants have a scale infestation, isolating and pruning the infected leaves and stems to get rid of the pests, but there are also effective pesticides that can assist in the attack.
The best way to fight a scale infestation is through prevention. It’s important to apply a few Horticultural oil applications throughout the year to disrupt their reproductive systems. Crawlers, the tiny scale bugs that emerge from eggs, are most active in the Spring and Summer.
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