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San Jose Scale

San Jose scale is an extremely important indirect pest of apples, pears, peaches, and plums. It is a sucking insect that injects a toxin into the plant as it feeds causing localized discolorations.

San Jose Scale

San Jose Scale

The presence of reddish blemishes on fruit at harvest indicates potentially damaging numbers on the trees. Left uncontrolled, San Jose scale can kill the entire tree in a couple years.If such damage is noted, inspect trees for scale, especially one year-old wood. Purplish-red halos on young bark are indications of scale infestation.

This very small insect goes unnoticed until large populations have developed.San Jose Scale overwinter as immature scales. In the spring, the tiny winged males emerge and mate with the wingless females, and about one month after the begin of the male flight, the first crawlers can be seen.Eggs are not seen because females give birth to live crawlers. These tiny yellow insects move around randomly on bark and foliage before settling down permanently.

Life cycle:San Jose scale has two generations a year in Washington. It overwinters in the black-capped, immature stage. Being unable to move, the scales must survive wherever they happen to be on the tree, and in severe winters many may be killed. Scales that are further developed than the black-cap stage in the fall are usually killed by cold weather. Increased scale problems can be expected after mild winters. In the spring, surviving scales continue to mature.

After developing through larval and pupal stages, the males mature and back out from their scales about 4 to 6 weeks after birth. Adult males fly for only a few days and are capable of mating immediately with the females, which remain under their scales. Female scales release a pheromone to attract males for mating. Each female produces several hundred live crawlers over a 6-week period. Timing of the different stages varies from year to year, depending on temperatures. Usually, crawlers of the first generation appear in early June and may continue to be produced until early August.

The young crawlers move over the plant during the first few hours of their lives. They can be carried to other trees by the wind, on the feet of birds, on the clothing of farm workers or on orchard equipment. Within a few hours they settle on the bark, leaves or fruit, insert their long, bristle-like beaks, and begin feeding and forming a scale covering. Females of the first generation mature in late July, and second generation crawlers appear in August. The two generations often overlap, and during the summer all stages can be found on the tree at the same time. Second generation crawlers continue to be produced until October or November.

Damage: Scale populations can quickly grow into a problem because the insect multiplies so rapidly. An infested apple can have 1,000 or more scale on it. A red spot will appear around the scales as they start to feed on the fruit, and often the feeding causes a slight depression. The spots are a brilliant red at first, but as the fruit grows and the spots increase in size, they fade to light red or pink. On red apples, spots are difficult to see. Trees infested with San Jose scale produce small, immature apples, and infested apples do not color properly. If the trees are seriously infested, the apples crack and have a musty smell. The pest can be detected in an orchard bin or in the packing house by the odor.

Besides making fruit unmarketable, San Jose scale kills twigs and limbs. If not controlled, it can kill the tree. More commonly, infestations of San Jose scale are light in commercial orchards. A small number of scales will infest an occasional fruit in or near the calyx. These scales may be difficult to locate on the sorting table. Packed fruit may be rejected, particularly in export markets, if it has scale or markings from scale feeding.

San Jose Scale

San Jose Scale

Control:Several parasites and predators attack San Jose scale. In Washington, the parasitoids recorded from San Jose scale include Encarsia perniciosi and Aphytis sp. Although they destroy many scales, they do not provide enough control to prevent damage. Natural enemies may become numerous in orchards that are not sprayed with insecticides, but even under these conditions biological control has not been adequate. Currently, biological controls are only a supplement to chemical control.

If heavy scale infestations are left unchecked, trees may be seriously damaged, resulting in reduced vigor, thin foliage, cracked or dying branches, and the eventual death of the tree. Young trees may be killed before fruiting. Infested fruit develop a reddish purple ring surrounding each spot where a scale settles.

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