Scale Insect (Lepidosaphes ulmi)
Infestations of Buxus by Scale Insect
(Lepidosaphes ulmi), also commonly referred to as 'Oyster scale' or
'Mussel scale', are frequent and will kill Box plants if left uncontrolled.
|Buxus semper virens parterre infested by Scale
Insect (Lepidosaphes ulmi)
||Colony of mature Scale Insects (Magnification X 15)
Identification of Scale
Positive diagnosis is essential, leaf drop and plant death may
occur for a variety of reasons such as Box Blight (Cylindrocladium buxicola),
physiological damage, root death, or cultural problems and any remedial treatment
must be specific to the problem.
Plantsprayers offer a free diagnosis service, for details click
||Mature Scale Insect (Lepidosaphes ulmi)
|Magnification X 30
||Magnification X 15
Description of the Scale Insect
The 'cover' of Scale Insect resembles a small oyster shell.
The adults are usually clustered together and in severe infestations may cover
the bark of infested branches completely. On buxus commonly a small
localised area (or a single plant within a row of plants) will exhibit leaf
drop and dieback and examination of the stems below will show numerous small
(1-2 mm) dark/black marks, examination of these marks through a magnifying
glass ( X4 to X10) will show that these are actually individual (or clusters)
of mature scale insect which have now embedded themselves into the surface
of the plant, become static, and are feeding on the sap.
Description of damage to Buxus
Infestation of Buxus by Scale Insect frequently goes
unnoticed until colonies are established and the plants begin to die and show
pronounced leaf drop. To the untrained eye the effect on the plants is frequently
confused with that caused by Box Blight (Cylindrocladium buxicola)
|Damage caused by Box Blight (Cylindrocladium buxicola)
||Damage caused by Scale Insect
The bark may become cracked and scaly, trees loose vigor, foliage
is dwarfed and spotted with yellow. All phases of the insects feed on Sap
and in effect starve the host of nutrients, frequently the stems above where
the scale is embedded appear to be dead with severe leaf drop etc.
Populations tend to congregate on one or a few branches or on
an individual plant, seldom a few scales scattered over the host. If scale
is widespread then it has probably been present for a long period (years).
Therefore it is prudent to examine newly purchased/acquired plants before
introducing them to your garden.
Life cycle of Scale Insect
Eggs are laid in late autumn, 40-150 per female and as these
are physically deposited below the insect,in the internal structure of the
plant, the overwintering eggs are difficult to treat by conventional contact
insecticides. Hatching occurs in late spring. Crawlers (larva stage) move
around 1-2 hours to 1-2 days before settling and usually do not travel very
far (possibly up to 1 meter ) before embedding themselves into the bark and
metamorphosing into adult scale insects.
Nb. There is not a phase in the life cycle when the insects
are able to fly, consequently Scale will not spread very quickly and usually
form clusters in a localised area. The Scales are light in colour at first
but become brown with maturity about the middle of July.
Treatment/Control of Scale
The adult Scale insect is difficult to control,
however it can be effectively treated by use of powerful systemic
insecticides, these are not commonly available to the general
public. This treatment will also control the 'Crawlers' (larvae)
and should be applied at time of crawler hatch , repeat applications
will usually be required. This treatment is effective throughout
the growing season whilst the insects are feeding on the sap.
Plantsprayers offer spray treatments for control of adult
and larva Scale Insect.
Overwintering eggs are difficult to eradicate. Specialised spray
treatments are possible during the 'dormant' period but these should be considered
with caution and applied by an expert. During the 'Crawler' (larva) phase
the insects are at their most vulnerable and can be controlled by non persistent
Careful observation is needed to determine when the crawlers
are active ( depending on climate/temperature this will usually be in late
spring) it may be useful to wrap some black electrical tape around a stem,
coat it with vaseline/grease, and the light coloured crawlers can be seen
stuck to it. Repeat sprays (approx 2 weekly) will be required.
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