Commonly found on plant stems, fruit and trunks, Scales are sap-feeding insects that suck sap from plants, robbing them to collect essential nutrients. Scales has the ability to make trees weak and at worse might lead to complete loss of the plant. In most cases, the infestation becomes severe before damages can be noticed.
Scale insects have a size of 1/8 to 1/2 inch small enough to be unnoticeable most of the time. They are flat or spherical, oval in shape and have a protective shell-like covering. Color may vary with the species but they are mostly seen in brown, dark brown to black.
Scale Insect Groups
Soft Scales: This type of scales release cottony soft thin wax-like layer up to 1/2 inch long covering them which can’t be removed from their body. They hardly move but produce a large amount of honeydew.
Hard Scales: Hard scales has an armored shell-like covering 1/8 inch of their body but is not actually attached to them. It is made from wax and shed skins that serve as their protection. This type of scale lives and eats under this armor and does not move nor releases honeydew.
Scales live a simple life. Female scales lay eggs underneath their covering. When the eggs hatched, nymphs with tiny legs and antenna emerge. They will move to another place to create a new feeding site, place their sucking mouthparts and begin feeding themselves on the plant’s sap. The other characteristics of nymphs particularly the shell-like cover develop as soon as they begin feeding. Mostly, the legs and antenna are removed as they grow towards adulthood. Male scales are small flying insects that travel to see female scales for mating.
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Damaged plants caused by scale appears withered, leaves turn yellow and may fall from the plant. There can also be black fungus and sticky sap on the stem and leaves. Heavy infestation may restrict the growth of the plant and also causes a loss in vigor leading to its unpleasant look. If remained uncontrolled, the scales can cause injury to the plant and in the worst case might lead to death.
It’s not easy to cure scales however there are lots of different ways on how to do it ranging from using homemade insecticidal soap to using natural insecticides available in the market. If none of this work, your last resort would be getting the help from a trusted professional specialized in pest control services.