How to Treat Scale Insects on Houseplants


Are you wondering how to treat scale insects on houseplants? They are indeed a cause for concern. These pests can cause significant harm to ornamental plants in gardens, nurseries, and landscapes.

You have already spent precious time and effort nurturing your cherished plants. Whether you cultivate plants for personal or business reasons, you shouldn’t let your investment go to waste.

It’s essential to take quick action to protect your houseplants by getting rid of these pests. But, what exactly do you need to do to solve this pest problem?

Read on to know more about these pests, the damage they cause, and how to treat scale insects on your plants.

What Are Scale Insects?

Scale insects are tiny, sap-feeding pests. They use their sucking mouthparts, which look like hair, to feed on sap from the leaves or branches of plants. These pests get their name from the waxy, scaly coating they secrete to cover their bodies.

What Are the Two Types of Scale Insects?

The two main types are soft scales and armored scales.

Soft scales:

Soft scales are scale insects with a thin, waxy, or powdery coating covering their bodies. Soft scales usually feed on plant tissue and ooze out honeydew as waste.

Armored scales:

Armored scales are scale insects that coat their bodies with a rigid covering of wax and shed skin. The hardcover of armored scales is not directly attached to their bodies.

It is essential to learn the difference between soft scales and armored scales. Since their body structure is different, you need to treat them with different methods.

What Is the Life Cycle of Scale Insects?

These pests multiply through egg reproduction. The adult female lays eggs under her scale covering. The eggs hatch to reveal babies, also known as nymphs.

You can recognize nymphs by their antennae and legs. They have the nickname “crawlers” since they crawl away from their mother to find other feeding spots on plant surfaces. Once they select a spot, the nymphs start to feed on the plant’s sap.

Once they begin feeding, they will eventually grow their own coverings as well. They also shed their antennae and legs as they transition to adulthood.

Adult females and nymphs usually stay in one spot throughout their lifetime. Meanwhile, adult males travel and fly to various females to mate with them.

Scale insects reproduce on a scale of one or more generations annually. If you do not know how to treat scale insects, they are likely to multiply continuously and endlessly.

How Do Scale Insects Damage Houseplants?

There are more than 180 species of scale insects in Florida alone. However, only a small portion of these species are serious pests towards ornamental plants. Still, these insects can damage your houseplants in significant ways, so you should know how to treat scale insects.

Direct Damage

Scale insects feed on the cells and fluids of plants that contain nutrients and sugars. Their feeding is detrimental to the photosynthesis process of the plant and also stunts the plant’s growth.

By feeding on a plant’s sap, these insects make leaves wither and turn yellow, causing them to drop prematurely. It also gives your plant an overall untidy appearance. The presence of these insects can result in wilting houseplants. In extreme cases, it can lead to the gradual death of the plant or a part of the plant.

Additionally, their honeydew waste can cause sooty mold growth. This type of fungus can turn the surfaces of plants black, which lessens the photosynthesis of plants.

Learn how to treat scale insects to avoid direct damage to your greenery.

Indirect Damage

How to Treat Scale Insects damage

Scale insects can also harm houseplants indirectly. By sapping houseplants of their life force, these pests can make weak plants highly vulnerable to other types of damage. These include damage from plant diseases, insect attacks, dry seasons, and heavy winters.

Find out how to treat scale insects to steer clear of indirect damage to your plants.

Do You Know How To Treat Scale Insects on Houseplants?

Despite their minuscule size, scale insects can be a significant problem to plant owners. These pests are not easy to eliminate. Their scaly, waxy body coverings shield them from their environment and some pest control treatments.

Here are some potential methods for how to treat scale insects on your indoor plants:

How to Treat Scale Insects via Water Treatment

How to Treat Scale Insects water hose

Did you know that water can help reduce the number of scale insects on your houseplants? High-pressure water sprays can wash them away from tree-like plants without harming the leaves and bark.

This method is an excellent way to manage the population of these pests while minimizing your exposure to chemicals.

How to Treat Scale Insects via Chemical Treatment

How to Treat Scale Insects chemical

You can use chemical control to eliminate scale insects if the water method doesn’t work for you. Just be aware that this kind of treatment is costly, so be ready to invest.

Remember to be patient throughout the chemical control process. After all, it may take several years before results are noticeable.

What are the different types of chemical treatments?

Foliar Insecticide

Foliar Insecticide How to Treat Scale Insects

You have the option to use foliar insecticide applications. Apply it during the period when nymphs crawl out of their mothers’ shells. Applying insecticide may be difficult because different crawlers may appear over many weeks or a few months.

Horticultural Oils and Dormant Oils

You also have the choice to use horticultural oils and dormant oils. Oil products can successfully penetrate the covers of scale insects.

Horticultural oils and dormant oils can get rid of insects by smothering them and disintegrating their cell membranes. This method is more appropriate for plants that are easy to give full coverage.

Systemic Insecticides

Acephate and dinotefuran insecticides can be helpful and effective in controlling scale insects. Just take precautions not to use them on flowering plants to keep pollinators safe.

Apply acetamiprid on the bark and leaves of trees and plants. It is also less harmful to good insects compared to other insecticides.

Pyriproxyfen and buprofezin may regulate the growth of the population of scale insects. At the same time, it is also less toxic to beneficial insects.

No matter which insecticide you use, thoroughly treat all parts of the plant for satisfactory results. Please read and follow the instructions and safety precautions on their labels.

Biological Control

Did you know that you can use biological control to minimize the population of scale insects? However, you’ll need some scientific skill and knowledge to balance your indoor garden’s ecosystem if you plan to try this.

To do this, get the help of these pests’ natural enemies, such as lacewings, lady beetles, and predacious midges. Biological control is only suitable if you can offer a sustainable habitat for the natural enemies of these insects.

Cultural Control

As the famous saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The best way to treat scale insects is by preventing outbreaks from happening in the first place.

Too much sunlight, heat, and dryness can play a role in scale infestations. You can avoid or reduce outbreaks by choosing the right spots to place your houseplants. Do your best to irrigate your plants properly, too.

Additionally, too much nitrogen fertilizer can cause these pests to multiply by making the plant a more nutritious food source. Be careful not to use too much fertilizer.

Regularly taking good care of your plants can make them less vulnerable to an infestation.

Quarantine Control

You can prevent infestations from spreading throughout your indoor garden through quarantine control.

Keep infested plants separate from your other plants until you can eliminate the infestation. Double-check to ensure the leaves of each affected plant do not come into contact with unaffected plants.

Inspection Control

Catch infestations early and prevent spreading by regularly inspecting your plants.

Check for scaly insects that look like elevated bumps on the stems and leaves of your plants. They may differ in color, but you can scrape all of them off the plants.

Heavy infestations are evident because, aside from the presence of the insects, the leaves will be yellow and wilted. These plants also exhibit stunted growth due to the lack of nutrition caused by these pests’ parasitic feeding.

Also, check for signs of honeydew and sooty mold growth on the leaves or branches of your houseplants. Immediately apply one of the treatments you learned about earlier if you spot any signs of their presence.

Apply What You Learned About How To Treat Scale Insects on Houseplants

This post covers many methods for how to treat scale insects on indoor plants. The most effective methods are water treatment, chemical treatment, biological control, cultural control, quarantine control, and inspection control.

Each of these methods has its own advantages and disadvantages. Choose the one that best suits your houseplant types, resources, climate, region, and budget.

It may take extra time and energy to treat this problem. However, knowing how to treat scale insects will protect the well-being of your indoor garden.


All treatments have their own advantages and disadvantages. The best method for treating scale insects depends on your houseplant types, climate, region, budget, and resources.

You can treat and manage these insects using many different methods. These techniques include water treatment, chemical treatment, biological control, cultural control, quarantine control, and inspection control.

They can cause damage to houseplants directly and indirectly. These pests may directly harm plants by feeding on their sap and weakening them. They also indirectly harm plants by making them susceptible to other types of damage caused by diseases, extreme weather, etc.

The two types are soft scales and armored scales. Soft scales coat their bodies with a thin, waxy, or powdery covering. Armored scales cover their bodies with a tough, shield-link coating.

Scale insects are tiny, sap-feeding pests that harm houseplants and trees. They suck on the sap of plants using their hair-like mouthparts.


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