The Q&A Archives: Sticky Cotton growth

Question: I have several Bougainvillea platnts. I live in the Northeast so these plants are outside in the summer but spend the winters inside. I have noticed a very sticky cotton-candy like white fluffy stuff that starts in the joint of a branch and a leaf. Right away the leaves start to dry out and fall off. I have tried insecticide but that has not helped at all. I have kept these plants alive by constantly washing them but within 24 hours the stuff comes back. When I used the Q-Tip to remove the stuff I also noticed some brown flakes. Are these cottny scale or mealy bugs? I have not seen any bugs on the plants though. Will repotting with fresh soil help? I hope I don't loose these beautiful plants. Thanks.

Answer: Based on your description I think this is a scale insect infestation. These can be treated with a light horticultural oil, sold at garden centers. Read and carefully follow all of the label directions.

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