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Tuliptree scale is one of the largest soft scale insects in the United States. It is often misidentified as the magnolia scale that is larger and has a similar life cycle, but only attacks magnolias. The tuliptree scale is a key pest of yellow poplar or tuliptree, magnolia, and occasionally linden. This soft scale insect is so prolific that it quite often covers twigs and branches.
Mature females grow as large as 6-7 mm in diameter. They are oval, convex, and have a distinct flange around the margin of its protective waxy cover. The waxy cover of a mature female varies from light grayish green to pinkish orange mottled with black . The body fluid of a live female is also pinkish orange. Adult males are small and only have one pair of wings. Adult males may look like tiny wasp parasitoids as they crawl across the surfaces of an infested plant. The crawler stage of this insect is dark red and about 0.5 mm long.
Life cycle:This pest overwinters as second instar nymphs. It resumes feeding in early spring. Males mature in June. Males emerge from the waxy scale covering as small, two winged individuals. They mate with females, and then die. In August mature females give birth to first instar nymphs called crawlers. Each female may produce as many as 3,000 crawlers over several weeks. Crawlers are capable of moving around in a tree.
They may be spread to new host trees by wind or on the plumage of songbirds. If a suitable host is not found in three days, crawlers usually die. Once crawlers find a favorable site, they insert their piercing-sucking mouthparts into the vascular system beneath the bark and begin to feed. Crawlers feed for a short time before molting into the overwintering second nymphal instar stage. There is one generation produced each year in Pennsylvania.
Damage:Large numbers of these soft scales may give an infested twig a warty appearance. One of the first indications of an infestation of this pest is the abundance of honeydew (sticky, sugar-rich material) secreted by developing soft scales during the growing season. Ant and wasp populations that seek the honeydew are often found in association with this soft scale insect. The sooty mold may turn the leaves, twigs, and other surfaces beneath an infestation black. Feeding by this pest may weaken young trees by removing plant fluid. In some instances this species may be so prolific that it covers all of the twigs and branches. This could result in a rapid decline of an infested tree
Control:Scales tend to thrive on stressed plants. Following a recommended fertility program and watering regime will promote plant health. However, over-fertilization favors scale buildup. If practical, improve plant sites to reduce stress and promote growth. Severely prune back heavily infested branches and protect new growth with insecticide applications.
Dormant oils are typically applied during February or March but may not be very effective against armored scales. Highly refined supreme, superior, or summer oils can be used on many trees and shrubs during the growing season. Read the product label for guidelines on plant sensitivity and temperature restriction before buying and using these products.Insecticidal soaps are long chain fatty acids that kill susceptible insects through direct contact. Like horticultural oils, they require thorough coverage. Soaps leave no residue so repeated applications may be needed for some pests. These products may burn the foliage of sensitive plants, such as Japanese maple, so check the label for information about the plant species that you intend to treat.
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