Cotton Cushion Scale – Identification

Q: I have moved my dwarf orange tree into the garage for the winter. However, this year I have gotten many of these weird insects. I have been using a fruit & vegetable insect killer, and it seems to work a while but they keep coming back.

What are these odd looking things?

A: My friend Tom Wichman in Florida identifies it as cotton cushion scale. The name comes from two visible characteristics of the insect – which you’ve documented. The young “crawler” stage has many waxy filaments covering its body, making a cottony appearance.

A crawler attaches to a plant stem and begins sucking sap. Adult females form a hard, brown, scale-like body and then start producing eggs beneath the shell. The eggs are encased in wax, which grows from under the shell, looking like a white cushion.

“Cotton cushion scale” is an apt name for this insect.

Control involves two steps. First, pick off all of the adults you can find. Alternatively, use a cotton swab to dab alcohol or baby oil on them. This will kill the visible adults…but you will inevitably miss a few.

Your second step is to wrap clear tape, sticky side out, on a few small limbs. Check the tape each week. When crawlers emerge from hiding, they will be caught on the tape. At this time you can spray the entire plant with your insect spray.

If you are vigilant, you can bring the scale under control within six months.

Read more here.

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