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Scale insects, are small, immobile insects with no visible legs or antennae, pressed tightly against the plant on which they are feeding. Many are common and serious pests of trees, shrubs and indoor plants.
Scale insects are generally divided into two categories: Soft scales produce a soft cottony, powdery or waxy substance that cannot be separated from the insect body. Armored scales have a hard shield-like cover composed of shed skins and wax that is not attached to the body of the insect. Depending on the species, scale insects may be found on plant stems, twigs, foliage, or fruit.
A large quantity of a sweet sticky liquid called honeydew is excreted by scale insects. Honeydew can make a sticky, shiny mess on the plant and nearby furniture and floors. A black fungus called sooty mold may grow on the honeydew.
Life Cycle :Scale insects have three distinct life stages (egg, immature, adult), and several complete generations may occur in a single year. Eggs are produced by adult females beneath the scale covering or in a cottony material, and in many cases, the cold winter months are passed in this stage. Tiny, six-legged crawlers emerge from the eggs, move to newer growth on the plant, insert their mouthparts, and begin to feed.
A scale-like covering produced from waxy filaments and feces then forms over each individual. Scale species are identified by the color and shape of the covering. The covering protects scales from predation by other insects and from insecticides. The male scale is often a slightly different shape than the female and passes through a tiny, winged stage. Casual observers seldom see this winged stage. Females are wingless and usually remain in one place after inserting their mouthparts into plant tissues.
Damage :Scale insects feed by sucking sap from trees and shrubs through piercing-sucking mouth parts. Sap feeding by scale insects may cause yellowing or wilting of leaves, stunting or unthrifty appearance of the plants, and eventually death of all or part of the plant when infestations are heavy. Weakened plants may lose vigor and become more susceptible to injury caused by drought, severe winters, attack by other insects (such as borers), or infection by diseases.
While feeding, soft scale insects excrete a sweet, sticky substance called honeydew. Honeydew on leaves and stems may make the plant appear shiny and wet which serves to attract flies, ants, bees, and other insect scavengers. The honeydew may encourage a fungus called sooty mold that gives the plants a characteristic black, â€śsootyâ€ť appearance. Honeydew can foul sidewalk, cars, and houses beneath scale-infested trees.
Cultural Control: To minimize scale problems, inspect plants before purchase or installation. If some scales are found, prune off the infested branches or leaves. Destroy any culled or discarded plant material, and thoroughly clean the area where the infested plants were located (especially important in greenhouses and nurseries). Scale insects often thrive in warm, humid environments, so increase air flow or decrease plant density in the area to make conditions less conducive. Avoid over-fertilizing; scale insects often lay more eggs and survive better on plants receiving a lot of nitrogen.
Biological Control: Under natural conditions, predators (ie., ladybird beetles, green lacewings) and parasitoids (ie., tiny wasps) can suppress scale populations enough so that insecticide use is unnecessary. Some parasitic fungi can also reduce populations. However, sometimes these natural enemies are killed by adverse weather or pesticide applications, or scales infest areas where the natural enemies donâ€™t exist, which may lead to a scale outbreak.
Scale insects Damage
Scales that have been killed by a parasitoid usually have a small, round, pin-head sized hole in them. Predators tend to make more jagged holes when feeding. If signs of parasitism or predation are present, try to preserve the natural enemies and use less-toxic, more selective controls (e.g., horticultural oils) rather than broad-spectrum insecticides. If possible, delay applying a pesticide and give the beneficials a chance to suppress the pest population.
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