Tree Scaling – Types, Symptoms & Treatment Options

Here, we’re focusing on tree scaling.

This condition is caused by sap-sucking insects that can weaken the host tree. Sometimes, this pest action could even lead to the tree’s death.

In this article, our discussion will include tree scaling symptoms, treatment, and signs,

Scales on Trees

As trees grow, they’re exposed to several conditions or diseases that could affect their health. This could negatively impact healthy growth.

While accurate, preventive measures can be implemented to check the spread of diseases, rot, or adverse conditions on trees. However, that isn’t our focus.

Tree Scale Types

Because tree scaling involves sap-sucking pest action on trees, the results can be significantly damaging.

Now tree scaling conditions are categorized into soft and armored (hard scaling). So are these conditions characteristic of the insects involved?

Let’s find out.

i. Soft Tree Scaling

The names have a lot to do with the characteristics of the pest. Here, the name soft scale applies because the insects involved do not have a hard shell.

These secrete cotton-like substances as a protective cover over their bodies. Part of the characteristics of soft scales is the sugary substance produced.

Soft scale species include European fruit titanium, oak titanium, tulip tree scale, calico scale, crape myrtle bark scale, magnolia scale, and cottony camellia scale.

Others include the Indian wax scale, European elm scale, azalea bark scale, cottony maple scale, Fletcher scale, spruce bud scale, etc.

In terms of size, soft tree scales tend to be larger than armored scales and appear as rounded bumps in shape. Are these more or less damaging than armored scales?

You’ll find more details as you read on.

ii. When Soft Tree Scales Infest

Tree infestation by soft tree scales tends to damage the tree as they absorb quite a lot of tree sap.

This is excreted as a sticky substance on the tree known as honeydew. This further leads to other conditions that could negatively impact the tree.

One of those is the formation of sooty mold on the tree. This fungus is formed due to the sugary, sticky substance on the tree.

One of the reasons why soft scales tend to be more destructive is the high number of eggs laid by smooth female scales.

Between 1,000 and 2,000 eggs are laid each year. Immediate attention is needed to eliminate these pests to prevent further spread.

iii. Armored or Hard Tree Scaling

As the name suggests, armored scales tend to have a hard protective shell. Unlike soft scales, these don’t produce honeydew.

As mentioned earlier, armored shells are smaller compared to soft scales. However, this doesn’t take anything from the level of damage they can cause to trees.

Armored scale types include the white prunicola scale, Japanese maple scale, greyscale, pine needle scale, euonymus scale, and oyster shell scale, among others.

Whichever type infests your trees, you’ll need to act fast to eliminate them before they become a significant problem.

Remember, we earlier said severe tree scaling could lead to the tree’s death. Appropriate treatments are needed to combat the problem.

  • What Happens when Armored Scales Attack

When armored scales get to your trees, they feed on sap while reproducing the next generation. Female armored scales can produce as many as 50 eggs a season.

This means the problem could worsen within a short period if not tackled immediately.

Tree Scaling Symptoms

When pests infest a tree, you’re likely only to notice when such damage has reached an advanced stage. At this stage, symptoms begin to show.

For tree scaling, common symptoms include slow growth, small bumps covering branches, branch dieback, and the appearance of brownish or yellowish leaves.

Having noticed these symptoms from afar, a closer look is necessary to determine the causes further. Here, the small bumps you find on branches are these pests.

When this is seen, it’s overwhelming proof that immediate treatment is required to save the tree. There’s also likely to be premature leaf drop among the symptoms.

As earlier mentioned, soft scale presence on trees is likely to lead to the appearance of sticky honeydew on the tree. This will likely attract beneficial insects and other pests like bees, flies, and ants.

The appearance of any of these is a clear sign you need help with treatment.

Treating Tree Scaling

We’ve severally mentioned that tree scaling can worsen when it isn’t quickly attended to.

Luckily there are lots of approaches to treatment that help combat the problem. You can pick what works best for you to address the issue.

Treatment steps for tree scaling conditions vary and include preventive control, chemical treatments, the introduction of natural predators, insecticide injection, insecticidal soaps, and horticultural oils.

  • Preventive Control

Preventive control tends to be the most effective way to fight tree scaling. This proactive measure doesn’t wait until the condition appears.

Instead, it involves the provision of enhanced maintenance to trees. These involve proper watering, proper pruning of affected branches, and the inspection of new plants.

  • Use of Chemical Treatments

There may be cases of toxicity with this type of treatment.

Also, those with protective scales may be unfazed by the treatments applied. Hiring a professional arborist for this treatment will give more results.

  • Introduction of Natural Predators

One of the best ways of treating tree scaling is by adopting the natural approach. This includes the introduction of natural predators like lacewing and ladybugs, which prey on scale insects.

  • Injection of Insecticides

Specific treatment approaches may involve the injection of insecticides in soils or the tree trunk. An arborist should be hired for this type of treatment.

  • Use of Insecticidal Soaps & Horticultural Oils

Another treatment approach that could help combat tree scaling includes insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils. Although they require multiple applications, they’re effective in smothering tree-scaling insects.

Our discussion on tree scaling has touched on several aspects, including symptoms, treatment, and types of tree scaling.

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