If you go out into your landscape today, and make a point of looking closely at the leaves and branches, you may see something that surprises you. Bumps, on the leaves or stems, that may be a range of colors and sizes, but certainly don’t seem like they are part of the plant. Very strange! Many people mistake this condition for a fungal disease. It’s more often actually a type of insect known as scale.
There are over 150 individual types of scale insects present in the state of Virginia. Some have little to no impact on plant health. Others can severely damage or even kill valuable landscape plants, shrubs, and trees. Scale causes damage by attaching to the plant and sucking water and nutrients from its bark or leaves. This takes away from the resources available to support the growth and health of the plant. A heavy infestation can even kill an entire shrub or group of shrubs if left untreated.
Scale insects often have a very specific plant they prefer, others are more open-minded and will attach to a wide range of different groups of plants. One shrub that has drawn attention for being prone to infestation and damage by scale insects in our region is cherry laurel. This versatile evergreen plant has several forms that are common and beautiful in many applications, and it is seen all over, in large hedges for screening, and more compact foundation plantings. It’s a great plant. But yet, it is prone to a scale that attaches to the stems and in many cases causes die-back or death of plants. Another common landscape shrub affected by scale is Euonymus. This scale is particularly unsightly as it can cover the leaves as well as stems of the plant. Both these and other common scale insects in our region do NOT have to be viewed as a catastrophe for your garden. If observed and diagnosed in a reasonable amount of time, each scale can be treated and controlled to prevent frustrating and expensive losses.
Treatment of scale varies widely depending on the type of scale and time of year. Soft scales have a soft covering over their bodies that can be penetrated by appropriate chemical controls. Armored scales secrete a hard covering over their bodies as adults that protect the scale while it feeds on your plants. This armor is impenetrable to certain common pesticides; therefore one must approach treatment in an intelligent and informed manner that is appropriate to the situation. Identifying the specific pest that you have and knowing its unique life cycle and vulnerabilities will enable you to successfully treat your problem. You can use resources provided by the Virginia and Maryland Extension services to help identify your pest and also recommended treatment. Many effective products are available for purchase and application by homeowners.
You can always count on us at Sunrise Landscape and Design to monitor your property and treat for any potential issues, such as scale. We offer a range of options to provide you with Integrated Pest Management services. Our garden visits, and IPM treatments are both aspects of care that help monitor, identify and treat problems in a timely manner so that you won’t have to worry about those strange bumps turning into big issues. We work with you year-round to protect your investment in your home and landscape.
Sunrise Landscape + Design