The Scale is Crawling!

For as long as there have been trees, there have been pests to attack them. Just like in the animal kingdom everything has a predator, or something that is out to get them. With trees this comes in many different forms. There are insects, fungus, and natural events that will kill them. Some insects weaken trees and allow other insects, fungus and diseases to get in. Other insects can kill trees. Drought and other environmental events can weaken trees to allow insects an easier target. Once some damage occurs, it often opens the door for other types of disease or insect. With this year’s lack of snow, a very dry spring, and the monsoons still weeks away, the bugs are out in full force.

The bug of the week is spruce and pine scale!

Image: William M. Ciesla, Forest Health Management International,

This little critter feeds on the needles of our beautiful conifer trees.They are only about an ⅛ of an inch long and attach themselves to the needles in a white protective covering. The actual bug is underneath the white “scale” you see on the needles. They will suck nutrients from the needle causing needles to die and in severe cases kill an entire branch.

To give you another idea of what they do, they are like ticks of spruce and pine trees. They attach to the needle with their mouth parts and suck the trees “blood”. The protective white shell is like that of the hard shell of the tick, which makes it difficult to kill these little guys. Scale doesn’t typically kill the tree but it definitely makes them look unhealthy and can open the door to other pests.

During the scale life cycle the only time we can treat the trees to kill scale is when the new eggs have hatched and nymphs are crawling along the needles to find a nice tasty one to feed on. At this time they do not have a protective shell and are susceptible to pesticide treatments.That being said, it is imperative that we treat trees with scale during the short time the bugs are crawling. And that time is NOW! Once they have attached and formed their white protective layer, sprays will no longer be effective and treatment will have to wait until the next crawl cycle, which may be next year.

If left untreated your trees could drop interior needles and leave the branches looking bare.

If you think your trees have scale, give us a call. We will come by and take a look and see what services we can offer you to keep your trees healthy.

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