The Q&A Archives: Red Orchid Scale

Question: I raise epiphyllums as a hobby and have seen dark red, circlular-shape, bloches the size of scales, on my plants. It seems to be spreading and only appears on the top part of the plant. What is it, and how do I treat it? Thank you, Jim

Answer: It sounds suspiciously like red orchid scales. The adults attach themselves to leaves and stems and the youngest generation, called crawlers, move about as they look for their permanent homes. Because of their outer shells, adult scales are almost impossible to control with insecticides and should be peeled, scraped or rubbed off the plants. Insecticidal soaps are effective against crawlers because they do not yet have the tough armor like shells. I would begin by isolating the plants that are obviously infested with the insect pests and then scraping off the scales or dabbing each one with a Q-Tip soaked with rubbing alcohol. The alcohol will permeate the shell and effectively kill the adult scales. It may take several treatments, but eventually you will be able to control these pests. Good luck with your plants!

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