Scale Insects are Lions in Winter

Flowering Cherry 2
photos by iStock/Getty Images Plus: Daniela Korn

One of the many beneficial changes associated with the cooler season in the Tallahassee area is the severe reduction in insect activity.

Unlike grasshoppers and other pest species, which leave eggs and then die, the scale insects continue to operate. Their pace of life is slowed by the cold, but they remain active as tiny plant vampires hiding in the protective foliage.

Scale insects vary drastically in appearance, but most are small and frequently escape notice without the aid of a magnifying glass. In Florida, there are over 180 species of scale insects.

Several family groupings of this pest species can be divided into two main categories: armored and soft. Northwest Florida, including Tallahassee, has both types of species.

The local scale insects are plant parasites, which feed on the sap and juices drawn directly from the plant’s vascular system. Some are very particular about their choice of host plants, while others are far less selective. All use their hair-like mouthparts like a soda straw to suck up the nutrient-laced juices. Check the underside of leaves and tender stems for signs of these insects. Effective treatments are easy, inexpensive and readily available at local garden centers and nurseries.

Les Harrison is a retired University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Wakulla County extension director.

Categories: Gardening