Tree and Shrub Diseases in Michigan – Part 2: Pine Needle Scale and Soft Scale

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Continuing our trees and shrubs diseases series, today will take a look a Pine Needle Scale and Soft Scale.

Pine needle scale is a hard or armored scale – scales are aphid-like insects that produce a hard waxy shell to protect themselves from predators and environmental conditions. Pine needle scale females resemble legless bumps and damage plants with their sucking mouthparts. The smaller male scales have wings and while in the nymph stage also feed on plants. Female scale continues to feed as they produce over a hundred eggs under their shell. The mater female dies, but the eggs survive the winter under the protection of the shell. In the spring and summer of the following year, the eggs hatch into an immature stage called the “crawler” stage. The crawlers, also called nymphs, move out from under the shell and find a new

location on which to feed. As they settle, they begin to produce their hard shell. Pine needle scales feed primarily on the needles of trees. Unlike soft scales and aphids, which feed on the circulatory system of the tree, armored scales feed on the contents of individual cells. Since they destroy cells, they can cause significant dieback of infected stem tissues and in severe infestations, even the death of trees.

Symptoms of pine needle scale may include some or all of the following: thin sparse needles, white spots on needles, white waxy scale coverings, and extensive needle and branch death.

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Soft scale, similar to pine needle scales, are also aphid-like creatures that feed on the sap of trees. Young scales, referred to as crawlers, feed on the

foliage whereas adult scales feed directly on the branches. All soft scales feed on the sap contents of the tree, which means they are susceptible to systemic insecticides. Dormant oils and contact insecticides can also be effective, but only if they are applied to the unprotected crawler stage of the scale. Thus the timing of contact insecticide applications is critical to effective control…

Symptoms of soft scale may include some or all of the following: tip die back in branches, stunted chlorotic foliage, premature leaf drop and branch dieback, honeydew secretions on the tops of branches, and also black sooty mold growth on the honeydew.

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