The Q&A Archives: White Scale Questions

Question: I have an unidentified bush in my yard that I has been infested, I believe with scale. I was inspecting it as it has not been growing back at all this spring, except at the base. I had thought what I had seen this winter was dried sap, it looked like crystalized white bumps. This time I was surprised to see the bumps move.

The creatures are white, pretty much oval in shape with no distinct top or bottom. I cut the bush back over the winter. I had believed that it was not leafing out on the bottom because it was over grown and in the shade. I do remember that the bush seemed to be infested with gnatty insects last summer as well.

My first reaction, when I saw them crawling was to soak them with soapy water from my garden sprayer. It's what I had on hand. The next day I soaked what I saw with pepper wax spray. I've done that twice. Today, about a week later I really hit the shrub with the jet spray from my hose. It seems to have gotten all of them removed.

My question is, do they live in the soil? I would hope they did not survive the blasts. Could I have made the problem worse? Would it be worth my while to treat the surrounding plants with a type of oil? I am new to gardening and would not know what kind to choose.

I am concerned that they may have move to my yew nearby. It's dropping needles in the area facing the bush. I have not seen any scales on the bark or branches yet.

The bush seems to be coming back already. There are tiny shoots starting already.

Thanks, I really appreciate anything you can give me. I'm really gardening by muddling through and researching a lot on the internet

Answer: It is best to have a definite identification of both the pest and the plant before you begin to treat it. (You want your efforts to succeed without harming the plant or your cure may possibly be worse than the ailment!) The reason for this caution is that some treatments will not be tolerated by some plants, and some pests will not respond to some treatments.

Your county extension should be able to help you identify the pest (and the plant) and determine the best way to treat it -- or even determine if it needs to be treated or can be left as is as is the case with some pests that cause unsightliness but do not seriously harm the plant.

It is true that scale should probably be dealt with and it can often be treated with horticultural oil, but this must be timed correctly -- often it is most effective if done in late winter or early spring while the plant is dormant. Some plants also object to the oil or to use of the oil in warm weather.

Your yew may be losing a few needles as a seasonal occurrence, or there could be a problem there as well. I woudl suggest you take samples and consult with your county extension (690-2655) prior to continuing any treatments. Good luck with your plants.

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