How to control scale insects on indoor plants

How to control scale insects on indoor plants

How to control scale insects on indoor plants

How to control scale insects on indoor plants

The Spruce / Jiaqi Zhou

  • Working Time: 10 – 15 mins
  • Total Time: 10 mins – 4 wks, 2 days
  • Yield: 1 plant
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5-12

Scale sounds and looks a lot like a plant disease, but the term actually refers to infestation by any one of more than 7,000 species of tiny sap-sucking insects. Scale insects typically adhere to the stems, branches, and sometimes the leaves of plants to feed on sap, and they have a shell-like bump appearance, which sometimes causes them to be mistaken for a fungal or bacterial disease. But the treatment of scale is much different than the treatment for plant diseases, so it is important to know the difference if you want to treat and correct the problem.

Before Getting Started

Before you combat scale, it is a good idea to ensure you have the problem to begin with. However, scale insects vary greatly in color, shape, and size. They are often somewhat rounded, but not always. Different varieties of scale can be white, black, orange, or a color that blends in with the plant’s coloring, making them even more difficult to detect.

Most scale insects are very small, usually ranging in size from 1/16 to 1/8 inch long. However, you will never see just one of them, which makes them hard to miss. Scale almost always appears in clusters. Unlike other insects, they are immobile once they lock themselves into place to pierce the plant and begin feeding on sap. If you see clusters of tiny shell-like bumps on the stems or leaves of a plant, there is a good chance you are looking at a scale. One of the primary ways gardeners realize they have an issue with scale is by the appearance of sooty mold on the plant. Scale insects produce a sugary honeydew when feeding on the plants, which attract fungal organisms that produce sooty mold in some scales, but not all. The blackish mold is one of the most visible indicators of scale.

Scale insects are usually divided into two groups: soft scale and hard or armored scale. Soft scale is covered with a protective waxy substance and is somewhat easier to kill than hard/armored scale. Armored scale secretes a hard shell over its body for protection from predators. The shell also makes it difficult to use a pesticide because it has trouble reaching the insect inside.

Different species of scale insects favor different plants. Euonymous shrubs are frequently infested by scale. Other common scale victims are magnolia and fruit trees. A member of the soft or unarmored scale family, mealybugs are a widespread garden pest and somewhat larger than most scale insects, making them easier to identify as an insect rather than disease.

When to Combat Scale

Scale insects are very adept at protecting themselves at most stages of their life cycle. Scale eggs are laid under the female’s body, so they are shielded by the protective outer coating of the mother insect.

Control measures are most effective during what is called the scale insect’s “crawler stage”—the nymphs that appear soon after the eggs hatch. At this point, the nymphs have legs and are actively crawling to find new spots to attach and feed. This is the time when they can be effectively killed with pesticides. However, timing is everything and there is a very short window of opportunity.

Click Play to Learn How to Get Rid of Scale on Your Plants

Because adult scale insects are so firmly attached to their host plant and covered in their armor coating, they can be tricky to exterminate. Sometimes, it is easier to simply throw out infested plants rather than take all the steps necessary to try and eradicate the scale. Quick removal can prevent the scale from migrating to surrounding plants. But if this is not practical, then are several control methods that have proven effective against scale.

Yes, unfortunately, scale insects also appear on your indoor plants. Most likely, the main cause is the ants. Due to the fact that ants love scale insects, your plants are infested.

The scale insects are most commonly found on the leaves and the stems of your indoor plants. However, if the problem persists, the scales insects will also appear at the root or in the stem crevices of your plants.

Thus, it is imperative to get rid of them. Untreated, the plant will face black mold. Not to mention that your house environment is at stake.

In order to keep everything in optimal health, check out these natural methods to eliminate scale insects on indoor plants.

1. Using a tweezer, you can easily pick these insects and collect them in a towel. After this operation, you need to quickly throw it away for disposal. However, this method works perfectly if you have plants with large leaves.

2. With a soaked in alcohol cotton ball, dab each insect. This is the best natural treatment for your plant id the level of infestation is minimal.

3. Prepare your own spray consisting of a mild dish soap. For optimal results, you should apply this mixture for at least 1 month regularly. You can choose whatever works best for you. Thus, you can either spray or wipe with a soft cloth the leaves of the plant.

Of course, I don’t recommend any other insecticide, but if you decide to use a commercial one, please read the label carefully and follow the given instructions.

4. In the situation of a plant that is heavily infested, I strongly recommend pruning. It won’t be easy, but at this point, trimming the plant will drastically reduce any sign of scale insects.

5. You can also resort to a horticultural oil or neem oil to eliminate the scale insects on your plant.

6. Another natural alternative would be a natural predator insect, such as ladybugs and lacewing. It sounds like an extreme resort, I know. But these predators will kill the scale insects instantly. Moreover, you don’t have to worry about them either, they will die shortly after due to starving.

7. One other method I practice myself is bathing my plants thoroughly by spraying them with a strong water shower. For this to be even more efficient, I place the plants in strong sunlight right after.

8. Another method you could try is scraping the stem with a sharp instrument.

9. Also, for the entire process to be complete, you should quarantine any areas of your home where you found infested plants. This way, you will not endanger the other plants.

Those tiny immobile pests that appear like small bumps on your plants are scale insects. They feed by sucking sap from plants, causing them to wilt and appear sickly. Additionally, the leaves may turn yellow and drop off.

Scale insects are of the order Hemiptera [1]. Depending on the infestation, they can cause great damage in the garden, greenhouse, and especially to houseplants. As a result, you must get rid of them.

Scale bugs are identified as tiny shell-like bumps in clusters along the stems of plants. They excrete a sticky honeydew substance. This often leads to fungal infection and sooty mold on plants.

Here’s how to get rid of scale on plants naturally. These are some of the best home remedies and organic control methods.

1. Rub Them Off

This is the most immediate and inexpensive way to control the critters if the problem is still small. Therefore, this method is particularly useful for houseplant scales.

An old toothbrush is a good tool to scrape/rub the bugs off the stems. Alternatively, a slightly abrasive sponge or cotton swab dabbed in some rubbing alcohol should do the trick.

Check under leaves too where they may be hiding. Additionally, use an organic insecticidal spray to avoid re-infestation.

2. Horticultural Oil

Purchase horticultural oil at the garden store or online. It is also known as summer oil or dormant oil. Spray all infected plants with the oil as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

The oil smothers the creatures. However, it may need repeat applications to entirely eliminate an infestation. Choose a dry day with low humidity and without high winds to apply it to the infected plants.

Alternatively, a DIY horticultural oil solution might be less expensive. For the recipe, combine one tablespoon of organic liquid soap with a cup of vegetable oil.

Next, take one tablespoon of this mixture and add it to a cup of water. Finally, shake well and coat affected plants with your homemade scale spray.

Use the measurement as a guide for larger portions.

3. Pruning

Pruning is a great tree scale treatment as a bad infestation may need drastic action.

This home remedy stops the bugs at an early stage. It does so by preventing them from spreading to other areas. Additionally, there will be no honeydew to attract other pests.

Afterward, burn or remove pruned plant parts from the garden. Pruning may also strengthen plants and help resist further damage.

4. Beneficial Insects

This is one of the prime biological methods of controlling pest infestations. Insects like parasitic wasps and lacewings are predatory. They will prey upon small insects, including plant scales.

Moreover, you can purchase them at various garden centers or online. Additionally, it is possible to encourage some of these beneficial insects in your garden. Plant flowers like yarrow and cosmos to attract them.

5. Neem Oil

Neem comes from the seeds of the neem tree. It is known for many years as an active natural pesticide.

To use neem oil for scale insects, mix 2 teaspoons of liquid soap with two tablespoons of neem oil and a gallon of warm water. Next, shake well and spray infested plants.

Alternatively, you can get this natural treatment as a concentrate with other active ingredients in organic commercial sprays.

Neem oil will inhibit the feeding and disrupt the growth of many insect pests including these ones.

6. Insecticidal Soap

This is another excellent home remedy to treat scales on plants naturally. Make a homemade insecticidal soap spray to kill scales.

Moreover, Dawn or any household liquid soap mixed with water and vegetable oil can do the trick. However, we prefer using organic soaps.

Combine 5 tablespoons of liquid soap and 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil with a gallon of warm water. Shake well. Finally, spray this DIY scale infestation spray on affected plants.

You can also purchase commercially available insecticidal soaps.

7. Bug Blaster

This scale insect control method relies on a powerful jet of water to remove the critters. The apparatus consists of a ‘wand’ and nozzle. It is specially designed to kill soft-bodied pests without harming your plants.

Bug Blaster is also economical with water and any excess on plants will be absorbed usefully. However, if the bugs return, repeat the process. Clean plants are less susceptible to attacks.

8. Azadirachtin

Azadirachtin is one of the best insecticides for scale insects on plants. Moreover, it is used as an organic pesticide to control many other soft-bodied insect pests naturally.

It works as an insect growth regulator, disrupting molting and development. The pests will eventually die.

Additionally, the product is harmless to most beneficial bugs, pets, and humans. However, that’s only if used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

9. Essentria IC-3

Control many pests with this commercial product. Essentria IC-3 contains a blend of essential oils and other ingredients. It is a multi-purpose natural insecticide containing rosemary oil, peppermint oil, and geraniol.

Used according to the manufacturer’s instructions, use this plant scale treatment for spraying or misting. You can also use it for drenching surfaces and paths to eliminate or prevent pest infestations.

Essentria IC-3 is effective against white scales on plants. Additionally, with caution, you can use it directly on cattle, horses, and chickens. It also works against many other crawling and flying insect pests.

10. Diatomaceous Earth (DE)

This white powder is composed of the crushed skeletons of microscopic marine creatures.

Diatomaceous earth will kill scale pests because it is mildly abrasive. It also works on many other bad insects.

Moreover, DE is easy to obtain. Purchase it online or from your local garden store. Dust it on plant surfaces and around the base as a preventative measure.


Scale damage on plants may be unsightly. Moreover, the pests may affect houseplants, garden flowers, shrubs, fruit trees, and vegetable crops.

Try the natural remedies above to eliminate them and keep your plants pest-free. Besides, some methods may be applied in combination for maximum effectiveness.

Despite your best intentions, sometimes nature will take its course and you’ll find yourself treating your plant for scale. These tiny insects can appear as benign brown growths on your plants, but on the underside of their shells, they’ve firmly adhered themselves to your plant and are sucking away at its sap.

How to control scale insects on indoor plants Photo credit: Lauren Sottile


Scale varies in color, shape, and size, but most often appears as small, brown, rounded lumps on your plant’s leaves and stems. Two main groups exist: armored or hard scales; and unarmored or soft scales. The names refer to the shell-like coverings which protect the insect body. Control, as with mealybug, is hindered by the protective scale covering the insect. Scales measure up to ⅛ inch long and can be round, oval, or oyster shell-shaped, predominantly brown in color but can range from white to black.

Females may produce hundreds of eggs beneath their shells; eggs later hatch into t i ny translucent crawlers about 1/100-inch long. Scale are only mobile in the first moments of their life, until they permanently latch onto the plants foliage. However, these unprotected crawlers migrate to new feeding sites where they become attached to the plant and develop their own protective shells. The existence of only one scale on a plant is rare, as there are more likely additional scale you can’t see, so treat your plant at the first signs to prevent it from becoming overrun.

How to control scale insects on indoor plants


Soft shell scale bugs can be susceptible to insecticide, but the safest bet to begin treating scale regardless of whether it’s soft or hard shell variety is to start by removing the pests with your fingernail or a soft toothbrush, or even a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol. With a slight bit of force, most will easily be removed from the plant, but be warned that the stronger adults can be extra resilient. Rinse the plant down under the sink or shower faucet to wash away any errant bugs you may have picked off but dropped onto a different part of the plant. Be careful not to overly wet the soil while doing so.

The next step is to follow this with an insecticide to treat any of the larvae that are leftover. Even if you’ve removed every bug by hand, the larvae is so small it’s almost invisible to the naked eye and may still be present, so it’s important to treat the entire plant with your chosen insecticide. We suggest neem oil for an organic and natural treatment and prevention method, but for serious infestations insecticidal soap may be more powerful. Simply spray the entire plant down from top to bottom (with either mixture), and wipe the foliage clean with paper towels. Please note insecticide should be applied in the evening, or when the plant is removed from the direct sun, as sunlight combined with the insecticide can burn a plant.

How to control scale insects on indoor plants
A heavy scale infestation. Note the accumulation of scale near the stem, which is the juicier and more nutrient laden part of the leaf.


Separate the affected plant from the rest of your collection while it recovers, taking special care to ensure that none of the plant’s leaves are touching another plant’s. Repeat this treatment every 7 – 10 days and until you no longer see the scale bugs appearing. For future prevention, make sure to inspect all plants thoroughly and regularly. Dusting leaves and inspecting for pests is a great addition to the routine maintenance of plants.

How to control scale insects on indoor plants

Sometimes even the word pest is enough to disturb the zen of our indoor garden . It’s easier to tolerate them outside (after all, bugs are part of the landscape), but when they invade the comfort of our own living room—that thought alone can keep us up at night. Fortunately, it’s often easy to manage pests on indoor plants with little more than some water, a cotton swab, and a soap solution. Here’s a guide to get rid of bugs you may encounter:

Often, successful treatment is as simple as washing away the insects with water or dislodging them with a cotton swab.


These are the tiny pear-shaped insects that you’ve probably seen outside in the vegetable plot. They can find their way onto indoor plants, too, and like to cluster around new leaves and flower buds. They suck the sap from the plant and excrete a sticky substance called honeydew.

How to get rid of these bugs: Remove any heavily infested parts of the plant. Wipe off insects elsewhere with a damp rag or spray them off with water in the bathtub. You can also dislodge them with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol or vegetable oil, or spray them with insecticidal soap. Keep removing them weekly until they’re gone.

How to control scale insects on indoor plants

Fungus Gnats

They are small, dark-bodied flies that resemble fruit flies. They lay eggs in the top layers of soil and feed on decaying plant material. In their larval stage, they also feed on your plant’s roots. As an adult fly, they are harmless to you and the plant but can become a nuisance as they buzz around your room.

How to get rid of these bugs: Dry out their habitat by letting the top two inches of soil desiccate completely in between waterings. Water your plant from the saucer and remove the water after an hour or so. Spray the soil lightly with insecticidal soap if you spot a resurgence.


They are slow-moving bugs about the size of a dill seed that look like they’re covered in flour. Their eggs look like tufts of cotton and form on leaves and stems. Like an aphid, they suck the sap out of your hottest houseplants and secrete honeydew that attracts a sooty black fungus.

How to get rid of these bugs: Dip a cotton swab in vegetable oil or rubbing alcohol and remove the bugs and eggs from your plant.

How to control scale insects on indoor plants


Another sap-sucker, these bugs appear as tan or brown oval bumps on leaves or stems. Sometimes they look like part of the plant itself. If it’s indeed a scale bug, you should be able to scrape it off.

How to get rid of these bugs: A cotton swab comes to the rescue here once again. Dip it in vegetable oil or rubbing alcohol and remove the bugs from the plant. The eggs are invisible to the human eye, so observe the plant closely for the following weeks and remove other scale bugs that you see. For bad infestations, neem oil or insecticidal soap may be necessary.

How to control scale insects on indoor plants

Spider Mites

These tiny red spiders are nearly invisible to the naked eye but leave telltale webs between leaves and stems. They also feed on plants’ sap. Infected leaves may show tiny dots of yellow or become dry and limp while remaining green.

How to get rid of these bugs: it’s important to isolate the infected plant so the mites don’t spread. You can spray the plant with water in your bathtub to remove the webbing and mites. Wipe away any remaining bugs with a cloth. Repeat the process every few days until the infestation disappears. If they persist, you may opt to use an insecticidal soap.


The presence of these tiny jumping insects is often a sign of overwatering. They inhabit the soil, feeding on decaying plant matter, and do not actually harm the plant or us. However, they can become a nuisance in large numbers.

How to get rid of these bugs: let the top two inches of soil dry out completely in between waterings, and water from the saucer, removing the water after about one hour. Clean any dead plant material off the soil surface.

How to control scale insects on indoor plants


They look more like tiny white moths than flies. They often hang out on the underside of leaves and fly up when you touch or water the plant. They suck sap from the plant in their nymph stage and then lay more eggs on the underside of leaves when they turn into adults. Infected leaves may become yellow or stunted.

How to get rid of these bugs: isolate your infected plant away from other houseplants. Remove infested leaves, and spray them off the plant with water before spraying with insecticidal soap. Repeat the process once per week until they disappear.

How to control scale insects on indoor plants

To avoid bugs spreading in the first place, make a habit of looking for pests when you water your indoor plants. If you discover any, it’s always important to quarantine the plant away from the other indoor plants, if possible, while treating the infection. Often, successful treatment is as simple as washing away the insects with water or dislodging them with a cotton swab. The key is to be persistent and quell their numbers before they multiply. As a last resort, you always have the option to use an insecticidal spray.

For more houseplant tips, check out our Advanced Houseplant Care blog, and feel free to visit our garden centers in Carpentersville and Bloomingdale. Don’t forget to download our Winter Garden Guide to explore all of your indoor gardening opportunities this season!

Platt Hill Nursery is Chicago’s premier garden center and nursery.

How to control scale insects on indoor plantsScale insects are a serious pest that excretes a substance called honeydew, which can cause the infected plant to experience a lower growth rate. Scale are parasitic insects that measure 2 or 3mm in length and can be found on ornamental trees and shrubs this also includes indoor plants and orchards and even ferns. In Australia, citrus scale insects are usually the cause of sooty mould on citrus trees aside from this the scale insects directly cause the growth of the plant to under develop and defoliate because of a series of damages done to the plant. For example, scale insects are able to remove the food supply as well as the supply of many other valuable nutrients because scale insects suck sap from the tissue of the plant.

Types of scale

Scale insects are ranked into two categories these are soft and armoured. Considering the Soft Scale category, Pink Wax Scale is one of the examples and Citrus Red Scale this is considered to be an example for Armoured Scale category. Did you know why such pests are called Scale insects? The reason for them being called scale is the scaly cover produced by the scale insect that helps it to add protection to its body. The scale insects possess a great ability to attack many of the plants worldwide including Australia and the results of such actions are never going to be budget friendly. With the presence of sooty moulds aided by the scale insect produced honeydew, the damage caused by these insects are irrecoverable and at times, such damages obviously degrades the quality of fruits, leading the fruit to be priced at a lower rate.

The Life Cycle of Scale Insects

We will now focus on the life cycle of these insects by analysing the behaviour of their lifestyles. First of all, there are some differences in the way scales are born because some of the scale insects are born live, the rest of the scale insects hatch from eggs and later on, the life of scales moves into the next stage that allows it to feed by sucking sap.

The life cycle of the male scale insects, continue with them living under scaly covers until the moment they reach their maturity after that, the male scale insect mates with the females through the scaly covers of females. This is the general life cycle of a male insect and in some special situations, male scales of some scale species have not been reported.

The female species of scale insects have been recorded as legless, headless and wingless. After the process of being matured, female species of scales produce eggs and then moves to the stage of dying. The general amount of eggs that can be laid during the reproductive phase of a female scale insect is more than 150 and it has been reported that some of the female species of scale insects reproduce parthenogenetically.

Symptoms of Scale Insects

Poor growth in the plant can be a symptom if the damage that has been done by scale insects is really heavy. The presence of sooty mould and the presence of honeydew are two of the major ways of identifying the symptoms of this stage. There can be bumps which are similar to shells on the undersides of leaves and that can also be a symptom.

Control Scale Insects

Controlling the Citrus Red Scale is an important step that should be taken to avoid the damage caused by scales. Scale Eating Ladybird, also known as Rhyzobius lophanthae scientifically, is generally used to control Citrus Red Scale insects. For controlling armoured scale insects, parasitic wasps like Aphytis lignanensis, Comperiella and Aphytis melinus are commonly used in Australia in IPM Programs aka Integrated Pest Management Programs. One of the effective options that can be helpful for plants that have been grown domestically but not commercially would be to dispose of the infected plants and replace them. This will also help the non-infected plants to grow without any damage from scale insects. However, if there are plants that have not been severely infected by scale insects, a damp cloth can be used to rub off scale insects from the plant. Eco-Oil can organically be used to kill scale insects by suffocation at any time of their life cycle.

Home made spray to get rid of pesky scale on your plants – this is much cheaper than the commercial sprays and works just as well.

Gently mix together 500ml of vegetable oil and 1/2 cup of dishwashing liquid in an old container. This is a concentrated solution and you only need one tablespoon of this per litre of water to spray on your plants. Avoid spraying on the plants when it is hot and sunny as it can burn the leaves.
Some useful tips on how to identify scale insects their life cycle and how to control and get rid of these serious insect pests.


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The most common indoor plant pests do varying degrees of damage to our houseplants. sometimes they can do a LOT of damage to our houseplants.

Anyway, Who wants nasty bugs in the house? They are ugly, creepy and annoying to deal with. We complied our complete list of the most common indoor pests and how to control them.

Each pest guide in this post has methods of killing off the bugs most often found on your indoor plants. We include tips and organic methods and strategies designed to controll pests on houseplants.

We love our houseplants. It’s upsetting (at least to me) to find creepy crawlies on my houseplants. This may be even more concerning when you realize they are injuring your plant severely.

Or, like the fungus gnat, they sometimes present more of a nuisance to you than a life threatening problem for your plant.

Most plants can withstand a mild infestation of bugs and slog along tolerably well. The bugs are tiny and individually do little damage.

However, pests can reproduce at a fast clip if you don’t control them. That’s when your plants are in trouble. If you let the bug population get really out of hand your plant will be weakened and eventually be beyond saving.

It’s best to nip the problem in the early stages of infestation. Our plant pest control guides tell you how to get ahead of the pesky plant critters.

How to control scale insects on indoor plants

This post is all about indoor plant pests and how to kill and manage them.

The good news is if you follow the instructions in each of our plant care guides your plant is getting good care and regular leaf washings. This will help you find pests early on and deter them.

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How to control scale insects on indoor plants

What are Scale Insects?

There are two main groups of scale insects, both of which spend most of their lives as immobile adults under a coating, sucking the sap from stalks, leaves and stems.

  • Hard scale (for example Red Citrus Scale) has an oyster like coating and is difficult to control. Also known as armoured scale.
  • Soft scale (for example Pink Wax Scale and Soft Brown Scale) are usually found on the mid-rib of leaves and stalks of host plants.

The most common is White Wax Scale which can be seen in large patches of white waxy material along stems and shoots. The wax covers the insects which feed on the sap. The adult scale lays up to 1000 eggs that hatch into crawlers. These crawlers move to a nearby feeding site where they set up home feeding on the sap of the plant. It is at this crawler stage the scale is most vulnerable as there is no waxy coating to protect them.

There are other different types of scale and some scale insects are host specific, such as rose scale, white palm scale, gum tree scale and tea scale (camellias). Others attack a variety of hosts such as white wax scale occurring on gardenias and citrus; and cottony cushion scale occurring on figs, rose, magnolias, grevilleas and citrus.

Turn the leaves over and look for small raised bumps. Scale insects are tiny creatures that hide underneath a protective covering and suck the sap out of leaves.

Friday, March 27, 2009

How to Control Scale Insects on Indoor Plants

Are you trying to learn how to control scale insects on indoor plants but can’t seem to find the ways to do it that won’t involve killing off your plants? There are many ways that you can take back control of your plants but there are many more that could end up causing further damage onto your plants.

Don’t cause further damage on your plants and learn how to control scale insects on indoor plants the right way now. These little insects are very difficult to see if you don’t know what you are looking for. You’ve probably seen little round tiny bumps on your plants before but didn’t think another of it, well you should as it could be scale insects sucking the life out of your plants.

These insects can do a lot of damage on your plants fast as they usually travel in large infestations and if you don’t fight back they’ll take over all the plants in your home. They generally live in the undersides of your plants leaves and stems making it hard to see at first so really take a look. Usually the first signs of a scale insect infestation are the color of the leaves changing to a yellow color and in the worst cases turning black due to fungus and mold.

No one likes having an sort of bug living on their plants, especially ones that are killing them so stop the killing of your plants and take control of your scale insects. When you discover a plant that has scale insects transfer it into an area where no other plants are. By isolating the plant you are preventing the spread into other plants making your battle much easier.

To remove scale insects from your plant you will simply scrape them off either with your nail or an item that can scrape them off easily. Many people are known to just use a twig that they have lying around. If the scraping process doesn’t work entirely make a mixture of soap and oil and begin washing your plants. You will want to wash each leaf and stem individually so be prepared to sit with that plant for awhile if it’s a big one.

It can be quite frustrating having to deal with a scale insect infestation and if you don’t take control of things properly the first time around you could be repeating it so ensure that you understand how to control scale insects on indoor plants right the first time so you can prevent the outbreak from happening again anytime soon. Insects are annoying no matter where they live so get rid of them fast and prevent the expansion of them to other plants.

Thomas B. Chuong is currently writing about topics related to home improvement & decor, personal fitness, and home & garden. Find out more by visiting these sites Exercise Bike, and Wine Rack.

Any plant lover knows that from time to time, you will suffer an infestation of pests. Severity is dependent on early detection, prevention, and the curative measures that you implement. Some bugs are barely visible to the naked eye and you may want to invest in a pocket microscope to identify them. Others camouflage, making it difficult to detect.

How to control scale insects on indoor plants

Types of Bugs and How to Identify Them

• Aphid

Aphids are about the most common indoor plant pests. They stay close together and reproduce quickly, making them easy to identify though they hide under leaves. They are brown, green, black, or grey. Aphids suck out the sap making the leaves yellowish in patches and stunt plant growth. They secrete honeydew when feeding, giving the leaves a shiny, sticky appearance, which may cause sooty mold fungi to grow.

• Mealybug

Mealybugs secret a waxy cottony substance once they start to feed on the plant’s sap, causing it to look dehydrated despite watering. Like Aphids, they suck plant sap making leaves yellowish, affecting growth, and sometimes plant death. They are related to scale insects.

• Thrips

These are tiny, slim, yellow-brownish insects with fringed wings. They mostly hide on leaves or between flower petals. They are difficult to spot. They feed by sucking sap from leaves by scrapping surface cells. This leaves behind a speckled appearance on the leaves, just like mites. They feed in groups increasing the damage caused. Infestation can cause early dropping of leaves, streaking of flowers, and death of flowers before they bloom. They cause stunted growth of plants and the spreading of diseases.

• Whitefly

Despite the name, whiteflies are not flies. They are more like mealybugs, scales, and aphids. They are powdery and resemble small moths. Unlike adults, the immature ones are scale-like and do not move. They suck sap from stems and leaves of plants leaving behind discoloration. The leaves turn yellow and die. Infested plants face stunted growth.

• Spider Mite

Spider mites are very tiny and hardly visible with the naked eye. They are therefore sported by webbing on the undersides of the leaves. This is also a sign of severe infestation. They survive on leaf sap, which makes the leaves browned or yellowed. They reproduce at an alarming rate of 3-7 days and prefer a dry aired place as opposed to a humid area.

• Scale Insect

Scales are generally small and can quickly grow into a colony before you notice them. They attach themselves to the plant stem and camouflage themselves with a hard, oval-shaped shell. Similar to mealybugs. They live on sap, leaving the host too weak to self-sustain.

• Springtail

Springtails are small insects that are not necessarily invisible to the human eye and are mostly black or white. They are wingless but jump several inches high when disturbed. Mostly, they feed on the decomposing matter in soil but can also feed on young plants. They hardly cause damage though, and favor moist soil or generally dump areas.

• Slug

Slugs are quite big and cause quite a lot of damage. Luckily, they are the easiest to deal with. They leave holes in leaves or sometimes strip entire leaves. They also hide well by morning, leaving behind a slimy trail indicating their presence.

• Fungus Gnat

These are tiny flies found around house plants but do not cause damage to them in adult form. Although, at larval stages, they are very harmful. They feed on feeder roots and organic debris in potting soil. Plants attacked will eventually lose leaves and their healthy looks. The adults are weak flyers. They are also attracted to light.


For indoor plants pest control, let’s take a look at both natural and chemical options.

• Natural Control

Preference is on the use of natural methods as you want to minimize the chemicals you are exposing yourself to. If infestation is identified early, you can handpick out the pests. Rinsing leaves under warm water, or spraying them using insecticidal soap ensuring to rinse off the soap completely to avoid stunted growth, or rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab to wipe the stems and leaves are all effective methods. However, depending on the intensity of infestation, you may need to repeat the procedure several times for it to eliminate the pests.

• Chemical Control

Avoid spraying chemicals indoors unless you have to. It is advisable to remove the plant outdoors for chemical treatment, if the weather is favorable, and return it indoors once you have eliminated the pests. This is a sensitive process as you want to avoid cross-contamination from any pests that may have infested your outdoor plants. Pay close attention to the product label as not all plants react the same way to different chemicals. However, it is advisable to let professionals like Excel Pest Control manage your chemical curative process for safety.

In Conclusion

When plants are severally damaged, it is better to throw out the entire plant. Do not re-use that soil as it is likely infested with pests even though they may not be visible to the naked eye.

How to control scale insects on indoor plants

Most houseplant problems are due to poor environmental conditions or poor, inconsistent care. However, indoor plants are also prone to insect pests. Scale and mealybugs are two common insect pests on houseplants. Horticulture specialists with ISU Extension and Outreach share information on these pests and how to control their spread.

Scale Infestation
Houseplants with small “bumps” on the stems or covered with a sticky sap, are likely infested with scale insects. These small, inconspicuous insects are covered with shell-like coverings. They attach themselves to stems or leaves and suck sap from the plants. As they feed, scale insects excrete a sweet, sticky substance called honeydew. The honeydew accumulates on the plant’s lower foliage, furniture, carpeting or other objects beneath the infested plant.

The life cycle of scale insects consists of the egg, nymph and adult stages. Eggs are laid below the scale coverings of adult females. When the eggs hatch, the nymphs crawl from underneath their mother’s scale and move a short distance to their own feeding site. The newly emerged nymphs are also called crawlers. At their new locations, the nymphs insert their slender stylets (mouthparts) into the plant and begin sucking sap. The covering or shell develops soon after feeding begins. Scale insects remain at these feeding sites for the rest of their lives.

A small scale infestation causes little harm to healthy houseplants. However, a heavy scale infestation may result in poor, stunted growth. In severe cases, death of infested plants is possible.

Scale insects are difficult to control. Systemic insecticides are generally ineffective. The shell-like covering protects the scale from contact insecticides. The only time scale insects are vulnerable to contact insecticides is during the crawler stage. Since scale insects on houseplants may reproduce at any time of year, scale-infested plants should be sprayed with insecticidal soap or other houseplant insecticide every 7-10 days until the infestation is eliminated. Small infestations can be controlled by individually scraping off the scales or by dabbing each scale with an alcohol-soaked cotton swab. It is often best to discard houseplants that are heavily infested with scale, as control is nearly impossible and the insects could spread to other houseplants.

Small, white cottony masses at the base of leaf stalks on houseplants are probably an indication of mealybugs. Mealybugs are piercing-sucking insects. They insert their slender beaks into plant tissue and extract the plant’s sap. Light infestations cause little harm to plants. However, heavily infested plants may decline and eventually die.

Mealybugs on houseplants are difficult to control. Unless the plant is particularly valuable, it’s often best to throw away an infested plant before the insects spread to other houseplants. Standard control remedies for houseplant pests can be successful if done with diligence and persistence. On lightly infested plants, pick off individual mealybugs and egg sacs or dab each one with an alcohol-soaked cotton swab. It is also helpful to syringe plants with a forceful spray of lukewarm water to dislodge the mealybugs from the plants.

Mealybugs can also be controlled with insecticide sprays. Use aerosol or hand pump spray products made specifically for houseplants. These products may contain insecticidal soap, pyrethrin, neem, permethrin or other ingredients. Granular systematic insecticides applied to the soil surface of infested houseplants may also be effective. When using insecticides, carefully read and follow label directions.

Photo: Scale on houseplant.
Caption: A small scale infestation causes little harm to healthy houseplants. However, a heavy scale infestation may result in poor, stunted growth.

Photo: Mealybug presence.
Caption: Small, white cottony masses are a sign of mealybugs. An infestation could lead to a plant’s decline and eventually death.

You spend a lot of time caring for your houseplants. When you notice scale, isolate your plant patient and nurse it back to health by following these simple steps.

By Kat Hodgins | Published Sep 23, 2021 2:59 PM

How to control scale insects on indoor plants How to control scale insects on indoor plants How to control scale insects on indoor plants How to control scale insects on indoor plants

How to control scale insects on indoor plants

Scale on your indoor plants can appear seemingly out of nowhere, but these little insects can come from several sources. Perhaps you used contaminated potting soil, left your plants outside in the warm weather months, or reused a dirty plant pot. Once you notice scale, you need to remove the infestation before it gets worse.

Scale insects are tricky, and they’re generally resistant to most pesticides. Don’t waste your time on harmful chemicals that won’t penetrate their hard outer shell. Removing stubborn scale can be a time-consuming task, but it’s worth it to make your plant healthy again. Keep reading to find out how to get rid of scale on indoor plants.


When examining and treating your plant, try to do so in a well-lit room so you can better see the extent of the scale infestation. Keep your tools next to you as you go and make sure to wash your hands after removing scale from your houseplants. Scale can leave and come back, so make sure to also clean the area where you keep your plant.

STEP 1: Inspect all leaves, stems, and branches to identify scale insects.

Scale insects don’t resemble typical bugs. Unlike spider mites and mealybugs, scale insects look more like strange growths on your plant. There are different types of scale, which can appear in round, oval, or flat shapes. Their size ranges from barely visible to large bumps in colors such as brown, white, tan, or orange.

Scale insects suck the sap out of plants, which can cause deformed leaves, yellowing leaves, brown pock marks, or cause leaves to fall off. Without intervention, the plant will eventually die off.

Use your magnifying glass and examine every inch of your plant, including the underside of leaves. Typically, houseplant scale tends to be on the stems, leaf joints, and leaf veins of a plant, but they can be found all over.

How to control scale insects on indoor plants

STEP 2: Prune off parts of the plant infested with scale insects.

If you suspect your plant is infested, quarantine the plant to prevent scale from spreading. Keep the affected plant away from other plants for a minimum of 3 weeks.

For small infestations, skip this step and move on to the next one. For larger scale issues, you need to remove the diseased areas. When you spot clusters of scale insects, use your pruning shears to clip off the affected parts of the plant. In bad cases, this may mean you trim your plant way back, but with care it will come back much healthier. Once you’ve trimmed all the affected areas, do not put clippings in the compost; these need to go in the trash.

STEP 3: Use a cotton swab to apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol onto each visible insect.

For any remaining scale left on your houseplant, dip a cotton swab in some rubbing alcohol and use it directly on the visible scale. Make sure to pour the rubbing alcohol into a small container and use that, rather than dip the swab directly into the bottle.

The alcohol will kill and remove many of the hard scale insects. For some stubborn scale, you might need to physically scrape them off your houseplant using your fingernail. This part of the process can take time as you go through each area of the plant to make sure you get them all.

STEP 4: Gently wipe off dead scale insects using a soft, damp cloth.

Some plant owners may choose to wash off their plant in the sink. If you’re concerned about overwatering your plants as you wash off the dead scale, another effective method is using a damp microfiber cloth.

Moisten the cloth under a tap and carefully wipe off the leaves and stems of your houseplants. The microfiber material should catch any dead scale that was not trapped in the cotton swab or pad. Make sure to rinse out the cloth frequently and do not use unnecessary pressure, which may further distress your plant.

How to control scale insects on indoor plants

STEP 5: Spray the plant with neem oil or insecticidal soap to eliminate microscopic scale larvae.

Removing the scale insects with pruning shears and rubbing alcohol only solves part of the problem. The previous steps help get rid of the adult scale insects on your houseplants. The younger scale insects aren’t visible, and they’re likely still crawling around. These tiny pests need to be sprayed with insecticide to rid your plants of them for good.

Neem oil is a natural insecticide, and it’s proven to be quite effective at getting rid of scale naturally on indoor plants. If you’re using insecticidal soap, some brands can damage houseplants. It’s recommended that you test the spray on a few leaves to see if your plant reacts before spraying the whole plant. Keep your plant in quarantine and spray weekly until you’re confident the infestation is gone.

This reliable method for getting rid of scale in houseplants is an effective way to revive scale-infested plants. Keeping your infected plant away from your healthy plants makes it harder for scale to spread. If you’re worried that scale has already spread, inspect your plants and keep them apart for a while. Diligently removing the adult insects and spraying the larvae are sure to restore your plant to health. If you’re concerned about potential scale, you can preemptively treat your plants with diluted neem oil every few weeks.

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Indoor plant pests and diseases can strike at any time, replacing the glory of new unfurling leaves with yellowing ones.

While a plague of pests and fungus can make short work of your indoor plant collection, there’s no need to panic.

“If you have a collection of indoor plants it’s almost guaranteed you’ll get something,” says Craig Miller-Randle, a Gardening Australia guest presenter and indoor plant enthusiast.

Being observant will help you catch problems early and treat them before they get out of hand.

“When you’re watering, turn the leaves over and look at the underside. Look into the centre of the plant — that’s where pests will often start. Look at the soil,” he advises.

Not sure what you’re looking for or what to do next? Read on for Craig’s tips for treating common pests and fungus.


Mealybugs are small, parasitic insects that look like little balls of fluff. They tend to congregate on the underside of leaves and where the leaves join the stem. They can pile on top of each other forming thick infestations, and their egg masses look like little white clouds. They suck your plants’ sap, stunting growth.

Treatment: Craig recommends soaking a cotton bud in some methylated spirits and dabbing it on top of any bugs. This will dehydrate their protecting coating, killing them quickly. For more serious infestations he mixes up a spray bottle of 50/50 methylated spirits and water, and applies to all foliage.


Scale are small, oval and flat, with a water-repellent waxy protective shell that’s brown, black or tan. They don’t move around, and will stay in place and suck the life out of your plants. Infestations can spread between plants rapidly. Scale can vary in size depending on the species, but are generally under 2cm.

Treatment: Craig uses horticultural oil to treat scale. It’s readily available at nurseries and will smother the scale in their shell. He mixes the oil with water as per the bottle’s directions, and applies with a spray bottle all over the plant, making sure it gets down into all the nooks and crannies. Start by testing the solution on a single leaf, as some plants react badly to oil.

Spider mites

Spider mites are so tiny, they’re almost invisible. They too will suck the sap from plants, preferring the edge of plants with soft leaves like Homalomena and Alocasia. Bad infestations will often leave telltale “webbing” on leaves, spun by the mites themselves. Leaves attacked by spider mites will yellow, discolour and drop off.

Treatment: Craig uses a cheap magnifying glass if he suspects something’s afoot. “It’s so satisfying to see them and understand the cause of a leaf discolouring,” he says. Spider mites thrive in the dry air of indoor environments and hate moisture. Water can blast off mites and their eggs and discourage further breeding. You could do this outside with a hose or watering can, or even in the sink. Repeat in a week’s time to break the breeding cycle.

DIY potting mixes for indoor plants

Self-confessed “plantaholic” Craig Miller-Randle explains how to make your own potting mixes and help your indoor plant collection thrive.

Fungus gnats

Fungus gnats are small, flying insects that hover around the surface of potting mix. Their larvae live in potting mix and feed off fungus which grows when potting mix is kept too wet. They aren’t a huge threat to a plant’s health, but they can be annoying.

Treatment: Craig recommends targeting the source. “Dry the soil out and break the cycle,” he says, as the larvae can’t survive without enough water. For instant impact, Craig applies a drench of one part hydrogen peroxide to four parts water to kill both the gnats and their eggs.

Fungus such as rust

It’s not just invertebrates looking to attack your indoor plants; fungi can have a rapid impact too. There are a variety of species and symptoms, but a common one for indoor plants is rust. “It’s a rusty orange colour on the backside of the leaf,” explains Craig.

Treatment: He treats with an organic fungicide, mixed to the directions on the back of the bottle and applied with a watering can.

Remember losing some leaves is normal

When it comes to treating indoor plant pests or fungus, Craig says the main thing is to relax.

“People become planto-chondriacs … they freak out about every leaf. Plants are constantly shedding leaves,” he says.

“One on the bottom is fine, it’s the plant maturing. If you’ve got five or more then you start to think about it and find out what’s going on.”

Patrick Honan is a researcher for Gardening Australia.

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How to control scale insects on indoor plants

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Various species of ficus, members of the genus of the same name, are prized for their foliage and cultivated in the ground or in containers on patios or indoors. Several pests can cause problems for ficus trees, including the armored dictyospermum scale, black scale and green shield soft scale. Scales, which generally appear on plant parts as immobile bumps, can cause leaf wilting, yellowing and premature drop.

Scrape a few scales or their covers gently off of the ficus with a knife or similar tool and inspect the insects to determine if they are alive and feeding or dead. Flipping the cover of a scale off may reveal parasitic larvae or a predator. If most or all of the scales inspected are dead or being parasitized, additional control is generally not warranted and the ficus will recover with good cultural care.

Wrap transparent, double-sided tape around several branches and twigs where scale activity is suspected in early spring. Change and inspect the tape weekly. Look at the tape through a hand lens, examining it for immature scales that are in their active crawler stage and appear as tiny yellow or orange specks. Once the number of scale crawlers caught on the tape begins to decline, apply horticultural oil.

Spray the ficus thoroughly with horticultural oil. Cover the bark and foliage as completely as possible.

Wrap the ficus trunk with a thin band of tree wrap or masking tape and coat this wrap with a sticky material designed to trap ants if you suspect that ants are feeding on honeydew produced by soft scales and protecting the scales from predators.

Prune off any ficus branches that are touching the ground, another plant or a structure that could provide a bridge for the ants. This will force ants to climb the ficus trunk and get stuck in the sticky material.

Wash dust off of ficus tree foliage with a strong spray of water whenever a large amount of dust accumulates on the ficus leaves during the growing season, as dust disrupts natural predator activity.

How to control scale insects on indoor plants

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Citrus trees with their dark green leaves, fragrant blooms and richly colored fruit make beautiful houseplants. When grown with the right amount of light, water and nutrients, indoor citrus trees encounter few problems. However, because the natural predators that control insect pests outside are not present indoors, your citrus tree may become infested with some common indoor insect pests.


Indoor citrus trees can be infested by black citrus aphids (Toxoptera aurantii), cotton aphids (Aphis gossypii) and spirea aphids (Aphis spiraecola). Spirea aphids are green in color; black citrus aphids are black and cotton aphids may range in color from yellow to green and black. Aphids of all three species feed on the buds and the undersides of the leaves of citrus trees, which can cause the leaves to curl. Aphid infestations do not significantly impact the health of established citrus trees, so chemical control is rarely necessary. Most aphid infestations can be controlled by washing the aphids from your tree with a strong spray of water. Pyrethrin-based insecticides or horticultural oils may be effective in controlling aphid populations if the tree is young and has not hardened off or infestations are severe.


Citrus mealybugs (Planococcus citri) are flat, soft, oval insects that are pinkish in color and covered with a white waxy coating. Mealybugs lay eggs on the fruit, leaves and twigs of citrus trees. Newly hatched nymphs are light yellow and do not have the waxy coating initially. Their feeding leads to reduced vigor and honeydew production, which attracts ants and can lead to sooty mold. Although mealybug infestations can make your tree look unappealing, chemical treatment is rarely necessary. Regularly washing the foliage to reduce dust and ants is often enough to control mealybug populations indoors.


Whiteflies are small bugs with powdery white wings and bodies. Their larvae feed on the undersides of a citrus tree’s leaves, and some whitefly larvae may produce waxy strands that give them a cottony appearance. Whitefly larvae excrete honeydew, which attracts ants and can lead to sooty mold infections, but infestations are rarely heavy enough to warrant insecticidal treatment. If heavy whitefly infestations occur, they can cause yellow foliage and premature leaf drop. Control of heavy infestations may be obtained with insecticidal soap or oil.

Scale Insects

Scales are tiny, shell-covered insects found on the leaves, stems and fruit of citrus trees where they lay eggs. The crawlers that emerge from these eggs feed on plant sap and produce honeydew. Heavy infestations can stunt a tree’s growth and may cause leaf drop and branch dieback. Scale insects are usually controlled with the application of horticultural oil. You may be able to control scale insects in the crawler stage with insecticidal soap as well, but effective control of future generations usually requires several treatments.


Mites are common indoor plant pests that are so small they’re hard to see without magnification. Their feeding causes your citrus foliage to turn yellow and drop prematurely, and infestation of citrus rust mites can cause fruit peels to dry out and discolor. In oranges, the skin turns a brown to black color, while lemons and grapefruit turn gray. Mites on indoor citrus trees can be controlled without the use of chemicals by taking your plant outside and washing the foliage with a strong spray of water. In severe infestations, apply sulfur for effective control.

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The Scale Insects of.

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While those unfamiliar with their tyrannical reign may just see small bumps on the trunk of a shrub or tree, gardeners see the life-sucking insects infesting their poor plants. Scales are tiny insects with shells that attach to a host plant, like parasites. Left unattended, these armored nightmares can cause serious damage to a plant.

What Are Scale Insects?

Scales are tiny, armored pests that can be easily overlooked. While the various species differ in appearance, the majority of scales are oval or circular, wingless, and lack any distinct body parts, such as a head or legs. Ranging in size from less than 1/8 of an inch to ½ an inch, they come in a variety of colors, including black, brown, grey, and green.

The main victims of scales are trees and shrubs, but these pests will sink their mouth parts into most perennials. They feed off the sap of branches, attaching to fruits and leaves as well. Where there is one, there are generally many, many more covering an area. When feeding, the pests can cause major damage, up to branch dieback and eventual death of the plant.

It is important when treating for scales to identify the type that is attacking your plants, especially since there are scale look-alikes. Take a picture and search online for a matching description to know which species is the culprit.

How to identify Scale Insects

Finding the exact type of scale can be hard with over 7,000 species of scale. Different scales will feed on different plants, so include the plant when trying to identify the scale. The best ways to search for them is based on an outward description, which can be divided into two types:

Armored scales have flat, plate-like covers over their bodies and reach 1/8 inch in diameter. Removing their covering will not remove the insect itself, but rather just exposes the parasite’s body to the environment. Most armored scales lack appendages and once settled on a plant will remain there feeding for the rest of their life.

Soft scales, on the other hand, can group up to ½ inch long and have a smooth, waxy surface covering. Unlike armored scales, their coverings are attached to their actual body, meaning that removal of the surface removes the pest as well. After settling, they are able to move slowly to new areas.

Some scales will secrete honeydew, a sticky fluid that other bugs will feed off of, especially ants. Another sign of scale infestation is the appearance of sooty black mold on leaves, a direct effect of honeydew drippings.

Scales hatch from eggs over 1-3 weeks and experience two growth stages before reaching maturity. The larvae, called nymphs, will insert their mouthparts into the plant and feed throughout the rest of youth and adulthood. They usually overwinter as eggs and produce several generations in a year. When it comes to prevention, the best time to control populations and damage is early spring.

How to Get Rid of Scale Insects – Control Methods for Scale

If scales haven’t completely overtaken a garden or plant, it is possible to hand pick the pests off. Try rubbing the insects off with a scrub brush or similarly rough surface that won’t hurt the plant to remove them.

One of the few nice things about scales is that they make excellent fodder for other bugs. Introduce lacewings, lady beetles and other predatory insects to your garden to help control populations. Parasitic wasps can kill off adult scales by laying eggs in or on the pests, causing the shells to become puffy or dark.

Pruning back the infested areas of a plant is an excellent way to remove the scales without chemicals or spending hours picking at tiny shells. Cutting back to open up canopies in the summer can also reduce some scale populations due to the heat exposure. Remember to use proper pruning techniques to avoid permanent damage.

Use neem oil on light infestations to reduce feeding and repel new scales. Neem oil is found in seeds of the neem tree, is non-toxic, and can help control scales by dabbing with a cotton swab. It can also affect the scale’s hormones, making it harder to lay eggs or for nymphs to mature.

Horticultural oils can be used if the infestation becomes uncontrollable. These work by covering the area and suffocating the pests caught in the spray. These don’t harm mammals but will kill any beneficial bugs caught in the crossfire. While they do not cause harm to the host plant, it is always important to double-check the labels for the most environmentally friendly ones.

How to Prevent Scale Insects

In early spring, wrap double-sided tape around the branches and twigs of high-scale areas. The nymphs will crawl across the tape and get stuck, unable to move or latch onto the tree. Change out the tape wrappings throughout the spring, noting the number of little orange/ yellow specks (the nymphs). When the specks drop in number, you can remove all tape traps as the majority of scales have settled or been caught.

Use water-sensitive paper to determine the presence of honeydew droppings from scales. Regularly check the papers set up beneath the plants to determine how detrimental the infestation is and what the best treatment will be going forward.

If you have ants around the scale-affected area, treat them too. Ants are drawn to honeydew and will attack beneficial insects that prey on scales. Treat the ants and/or deny them access to the plant using sticky traps around the bases.

If you find yourself with a scale infestation, take action as soon as possible and follow up with preventative measures in the future. While they may appear to be innocent little bumps, scale infestation can cause real problems and nightmares for a gardener. With proper identification, prevention and control, you can keep your plants scale-free and healthy all year long.

11th May 2022 13th August 2020 | Indoorplantaddicts

How to control scale insects on indoor plants

Lady bugs are a plant mum’s (or dad’s) best friend. Lady Bugs are considered one of the best natural methods of pest removal, due to their low cost and regular availability. Before purchasing lady bugs to fight off pests from your precious house plants there are a couple things to keep in mind. We will quickly go through the considerations you should make before you receive your bugs as well as storage and releasing techniques.


Lady bugs are small oval shaped, winged bugs with six little legs and antennae. But with several thousand different species of lady bugs littered around the globe coloration can vary drastically. from little to no color at all to the iconic red beetle with black dots.

If your released lady bugs are happy in their new environment they may begin to breed. You can identify lady bug eggs by their orange, spheroid (football) shape.

What Pests do Lady Bugs Eat?

Lady bugs are considered predatory insects as they feed on other insect species. They are well known for eating common plant pests like aphids and make excellent plant protectors. With adult lady bugs able to consume around 5000 aphids in their life time it’s no wonder why they are praised for their pest control capabilities.

Other pests lady bugs eat include but are not limited to;

  • Spider Mites
  • Mealy bugs
  • Whiteflies
  • Scale Insects

Where To Get Lady Bugs

Lady bugs are readily available as both adult beetles or in their larval stages. They are regularly available from local nurseries, breeders and online. Lady bugs will often come in a mesh bag allowing them to breathe easily. There will be housing medium such as straw within the bag for the bugs to hide throughout.

Typical bug parcels contain 1500 beetles which may sound like a lot. However; this is a good amount of bugs to treat common infestations. Lady bugs are also available in gallon amounts.

Note: There are over 6000 species of lady bugs so make sure to order a species that is native to your area.

How Many Lady Bugs Will I Need?

For house plant applications inside or in a small greenhouse 1000-2000 lady bugs will be plenty. These bugs are to be released in intervals to be most effective, we will cover this in more detail below.

Here is a quick guide to how many lady bugs you will need for larger applications.

4,500 Bugs 3,000 sq. ft
9,000 Bugs 6,000 sq. ft
1 Gallon 1-5 acres

Rates are dependent on severity of infestation.

How much do lady bugs cost?

lady bugs are a cost effective, natural pest control solution. Typically you can find lady bugs for sale starting around 25 USD for 1500 bugs. Typically it is cheaper to purchase bugs in greater quantities as quantity breaks are usually applied. However keep in mind how many lady bugs you need, as you don’t want unreleased bugs dying unnecessarily.

How to release lady bugs for your indoor plants

Other than just opening the box and hoping for the best, it is recommended that you put some thought into where you release your lady bugs. Doing so will increase the immediate effectiveness of the lady bugs predatory nature and even encourage them to stick around.

Lady bugs will require water as you release them as they have been in transit for an extended amount of time. Misting your target house plants with water will encourage them to stay on these plants and allow them to re-hydrate.

These bugs are attracted to light, so if you have grow lights on your indoor plants or bright ceiling lights turn them off prior to release. This keeps their focus on the task at hand of removing those pesky bugs.

Make sure you do not release lady bugs in the middle of the day. The bright sun and heat will see your new bugs fly away almost instantly, leaving you with your pest problem and a broken heart. Early morning or evening is ideal for releasing lady bugs and will encourage them to stick around.

Smaller, more regular releases of lady bugs in comparison to the whole lot at once will tend to be more effective for pest control.

Note: If you have used pesticides or insecticides in an attempt to remove your plant pest problem, do not release lady bugs onto them. Left over chemicals may still be present on your plant and can end up killing your lady bugs.

Lady bug Storage

Unreleased lady bugs can be stored at 4C (35-40F) for several weeks. The cold temperature puts them into a state of hibernation as they would do in the wild. As long as your home or green house housing your plants is warm, your lady bugs will continue to hunt and eat pests.

Naturally attracting lady bugs

If you are opposed to purchasing live beetles you can alternatively try and attract or capture wild bugs to solve your pest problems. If your house plants are all kept indoors it may be difficult to capture enough wild bugs to release, however if kept outdoors attracting lady bugs may be the way to go.

When trying to attract and keep lady bugs in your plant collection it is important to consider their needs. A regular food source is important to keep lady bugs around so make sure that you have some aphids or similar on your plants.

If you found this article helpful make sure to subscribe to our mailing list to get the latest Indoor plant tips and care guides. Also make sure to checkout our Facebook and Instagram pages for daily plant pics.

Scale insects feed on plants in the garden, greenhouse, or the living room! There are various types of scale insects and they are difficult to control in a single application of insecticide. It normally takes several treatments of suitable pesticide – insecticide.

Scale insects are normally quite easy to recognise, in that they are literally like small raised scales – usually brown – living along the leaf ‘veins’ either on the top of the leaf or its underside.

They can either be ‘crusty’ or soft scales. They are also to be found upon stems once the infestation has taken hold. They do not move too much, and you will not find any legs! (Just think in terms of a miniature tortoise minus legs or head.) They are typically up to 3 or 4 mm long (1/8th in). The young are much smaller and sometimes light sandy brown in colour.

Scale insects are often first noticed, when investigating the fact that the leaves of your plant has a sticky substance over the surface – often leading to sooty mould – a black sooty covering of portions or all of the leaf surface. This sooty mould or sticky substance (honeydew) is secreted by most sap-sucking insect pests.

Scale insect on a Bay Leaf Tree. В© David Hughes

Scale insects are sap-sucking insects – more or less inserting a ‘straw’ into the plant, and happily sucking away in the same place for most of their lives. Female of some types of Scale Insects even lay their eggs under their shell as they feed. The young Scale insects then move off to find their own little plot further along the leaf, or perhaps venture out to once of the stems.

The protective coating of the scale, makes for difficult control by normal spraying of insecticides. A systemic insecticide is normally the best for total control, for it is difficult to locate each insect in order to spray it. A drench spray does not always kill all of the pests.

Malathion is a good spray to use for outdoor plants – also indoor plants providing that you take them outside to avoid the smell of the Malathion. The most effective time to use insecticides is during early summer, for it is then that the more susceptible young scale insects are more vulnerable to the insecticide. For indoor plants, you will find the young insects at most of the year.

Some scale insects have a fluffy white coating – not too dissimilar to Mealybugs – usually seen on larger shrubs or trees such as Beech. Under the fluff, you will find the unmistakable scale insect.

By: Julie Bawden-Davis

21 September, 2017

How to control scale insects on indoor plants

No matter how carefully you tend your houseplants, occasional pests take up residence in your indoor garden. Determine the type of pest that is eating your indoor plants in order to take the right control measures. When you accurately identify a pest, you can quickly eradicate the intruder and bring your indoor garden back to health.

Fungus Gnats

Fungus gnats are 1/8-inch, fruit-flylike pests that hover around houseplants and scurry across the soil when you water plants. Adult fungus gnats don’t harm indoor plants, but their larvae feed on plant roots and crowns.

Treat fungus gnats by letting the top 3 to 4 inches of soil dry out before watering, which will kill off larvae and stop the cycle. If this isn’t possible, apply a soil drench product containing Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis. Avoid future infestations by not overwatering.


Mealybugs are 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch white, cottony pests that tend to congregate on the underside of foliage and where leaves meet stems. This pest sucks plant sap, excreting a sticky honeydew substance as it feeds. Mealybugs weaken plants and cause leaf loss.

Remove mealybugs by washing them off with a strong spray of water, wiping them with a swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol or spraying the pest with insecticidal soap or pyrethroid spray.

  • Fungus gnats are 1/8-inch, fruit-flylike pests that hover around houseplants and scurry across the soil when you water plants.
  • Treat fungus gnats by letting the top 3 to 4 inches of soil dry out before watering, which will kill off larvae and stop the cycle.


Scale are brown or gray 1/16-inch to 1/8-inch, bumplike insects that appear on plant stems and leaves. These slow-moving pests suck plant sap and excrete a honeydew substance. Their feeding leads to reduced vigor and yellowing and dropping of leaves.

Control scale by washing or physically removing them. Insecticidal soap and various insecticides are also effective.

Spider Mites

Spider mites are tiny yellow or green insects that thrive in the warm, dry conditions often found indoors. These destructive pests suck plant sap, causing mottled, faded foliage and leaf loss. When infestations are severe, plants become covered in a spiderlike webbing.

Spider mites thrive in dry conditions, so your best defense against this pest is to increase humidity around the plant and wash the plant with a strong spray of water on biweekly basis until the infestation is under control. Horticultural oil spray is another effective treatment option.

  • Scale are brown or gray 1/16-inch to 1/8-inch, bumplike insects that appear on plant stems and leaves.
  • These destructive pests suck plant sap, causing mottled, faded foliage and leaf loss.


Thrips are 1/16-inch, slender insects that scrape houseplant foliage with their mouthparts and suck the resulting fluid that comes out. Leaves become covered in silvery patches and dotted with tiny black spots of excrement.

Control thrips by washing plants with a strong spray of water and applying insecticidal soap, pyrethrins or neem oil.

How to control scale insects on indoor plants

From homemade sprays to non-toxic treatments for your plant’s soil, here’s how to make houseplant bugs a thing of the past. These methods are almost foolproof and promise to keep your plants insect-free with regular maintenance.

These are the best ways to deal with houseplant bugs

1. Use a two-step process

The best way to keep your houseplant bug-free is to tackle the issue as soon as you bring it home. Even if a plant looks pristine, there might be bugs hiding between the leaves and in the soil, says Jules Acree, the Austin, Texas-based wellness blogger and plant expert behind Om and the City. “You never know what might be lurking in the soil waiting to hatch a few weeks later, so you always want to be one step ahead,” she says. To prevent any bugs from taking over, Acree has a two-step, non-toxic routine she uses.

As soon as Acree gets home with a new plant, she puts it in the bathtub in order to do some pest control. After lightly spraying them with a natural homemade bug repellant—which you can make with 1 tablespoon of tea tree oil and one cup of water—she tops the soil with a pet- and kid-safe food-grade diatomaceous earth powder, which dries out the insects and their larvae.

2. Spray your plants

If you’re dealing with soft-bodied insects like spider mites, aphids, whiteflies, and mealybugs, your best bet is making an insecticidal soap to spray onto your plants. While you can pick up one from the store, creating a DIY version using natural ingredients is easy. Simply put 1/4 cup vegetable oil and 1 Tbsp liquid dish soap (it must be free of bleach, degreaser, synthetic dyes, and fragrances) in a spray bottle, then fill it to the top with warm water and shake. You can spray the mixture onto your plants once a week in order to combat pest issues.

3. Dry out your plants

Pests like fungus gnats that thrive in moist soil in houseplants can be combated by simply taking away what they love: the moisture. (Sorry, gnats.) According to Susan Spanger, professional gardener and floral designer of Bloomful Floral Design, the best thing you can do in these types of situations is to water your plants less often than you normally would in order to let the top couple inches of soil completely dry out. “Watering frequently and keeping soil consistently damp is ideal for egg hatch and larvae survival,” she says.

Without moist soil, you’re taking away fungus gnats’ food source: fungi in the soil. By allowing it to dry out, The Sill says that major food source will be gone—and, because of that, the fungus gnats will be gone, too. Spanger says you can spread a half-inch of sand over the surface of your soil as well. “It dries out quickly and provides a scratchy surface that’s unappealing for adult fungus gnats looking to lay eggs,” she says. Those houseplant bugs will be gone for good.

There are a number of bugs that can infest your plants, either indoors or outdoors. If you notice your plant is not growing the same as it once did, is a different color, or has visible bugs on it, you need to take action in order to save your potted plant.

Plants are known to bring around bugs, after all many bugs sustain life by using plants as their food and home. Carefully inspecting your plants on a regular basis will help prevent an outbreak from getting too bad. Here we detail the most common types of bugs found on plants, as well as ways you can help prevent an infestation from taking your favorite potted plants hostage.

6 Of The Most Common House Plant Bugs:

If you are dealing with a bug infestation on your potted plants, you might be unsure what sort of bug you are dealing with. This list of the most common plant pests will help you determine the type of critter ‘bugging’ your plants.

1. Aphids

Aphids are commonly found on houseplants, and can deter plant growth How to control scale insects on indoor plantsby removing sap from the plant. Eventually, this robs the plant of vital nutrients, while the aphids colony continues to grow. Plants that have a serious aphids infestation become sticky with the honeydew this bug secretes.

This bug is usually visible on the underside of leaves huddled together in a cluster, and can be the same green color as your plant. The most natural way to get rid of aphids is to introduce ladybugs into the picture. (Read more about Aphids)

2. Spider Mites

You may need to bust out the magnifying glass in order to spot signs of How to control scale insects on indoor plantsspider mites, as these bugs are incredibly tiny. Plants that have spider mites typically lose their bright green coloring in exchange for a dull brown or washed out appearance.

Severe infestations will come with webbing all over the undersides of the leaves, and at this point it becomes difficult to eradicate the mites. Insecticides will not work to get rid of spider mites because they are not insects.

Steps to take to solve a spider mite infestation:

  • Isolate your plant
  • Use soap and water to spray the plant on a regular basis, remember spider mites reproduce at a rapid rate every 3-7 days.
  • If possible, relocate the infested plant to a humid space, spider mites like dry air for breeding.

3. Mealybugs

We have discussed mealybugs in a previous blog; these very determined How to control scale insects on indoor plantsbugs tend to return time and time again. A white cotton-like ‘fluff’ growing over your plant can identify mealybugs. The white is partially the mealy bugs but also it is the waxy substance the bug secretes, which also works to help protect them from being sprayed off.

A Q-Tip with alcohol on it can be spread over the plant to kill off the mealybugs. You want to continually dose the plant with a stream of water to loosen all of the mealybugs. Next, apply a generous coat of neem oil over the plant so that the bugs are unable to return. (Read more about Mealy Bugs)

4. Whitefly

The whitefly is able to leave the plant the moment you start spraying it, How to control scale insects on indoor plantsbut as soon as you stop spraying the whitefly will return, this is why attacking mature whiteflies is useless. Instead it’s the baby whiteflies you want to go after because they do not move. Dipping leaves in insecticidal soap or spraying the plant regularly can help get rid of the larva so that you don’t continue to have an issue with whiteflies. (More on Whiteflies)

5. Scale Insects

Scale insects are How to control scale insects on indoor plantshard to notice at first and often grow into quite a colony before being detected. At only 3mm in length on average, scale insects have a brown shell that offers them protection against things like pesticides. Scale insects derive life from sucking the juices from your plant, as a colony grows they will start to cause obvious damage to your plant. You can kill them by using a cotton swab or Q-tip soaked with alcohol. (More information on Scale insects)

6. Thrips

These small, dark bugs are hard to see, plus they have wings and so when How to control scale insects on indoor plantsyou spray the plant, you may notice they take off for flight and move to an adjacent plant. For this reason, a plant infested with thrips should be isolated. Thrips burrow into the leaves suck up the plant juices and leave behind noticeable scarring in the leaves. (Learn more about Thrips here)

Preventing Bugs From Infesting Your Plants

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try a bug will find its way into your plant and create an entire colony. But for the most part, with careful watch and precautious plant care you can help keep the bugs from populating your greenery.

Ways to help keep bugs from infesting your plants include:

  • Keep new plants isolated for at least one month before exposing the other plants to a possible bug. Check your isolated plant frequently for any signs of distress or infestation.
  • Thoroughly clean the planter whenever repotting a plant
  • Always keep your planters clear of old, dead leaves and foliage
  • Use sterile potting soil. If you use garden soil for your planters you can encounter a world of issues, only partially related to bugs.
  • Give your plants a good cleaning here and there using a soft cloth and lukewarm, non-toxic soap.
  • Inspect plants regularly; a magnifying glass can be helpful to identify the start of mites, or other bugs, before they balloon out of control.

Should You Use Pesticides And Insecticidal Soaps On Your Plants?

Some pesticides might advertise for use on plants, but many are too strong and high in toxicity, causing damage to a plant faster than a bug colony. Also, most pesticides are not for use on indoor plants and require a well-ventilated area. Pesticides come with side effects to the environment, as well as your health. If at all possible, it’s best to find alternative, more natural solutions to getting rid of pests on your plants. If you must use a pesticide, you should always read the directions carefully and only use as directed.

Insecticidal soap is made of a potassium fatty acid that works against 40-50% of infestations related to soft-bodied bugs. Larger bugs or bugs with hard shells are much more difficult to get rid of using an insecticidal soap. Although more gentle than some pesticides, insecticides are still toxic and can cause irritation to human skin, as well as damage to your plants. Try spot treating first to make sure there are no negative implications to your plant before applying any substance over the entire surface (Read Here).

Summer means vacations, for houseplants as well as people. If your plants have sojourned on a sunny deck or porch, autumn’s chilly nights signal it’s time to bring your houseplants back indoors.
Cold air can damage tender tropical leaves and cause flower buds to drop, so you need to take action before cold nights settle in. For most houseplants, when night temperatures dip below 45-48°F, you’re flirting with danger and should start bringing plants inside.

Before shifting plants from the Great Outdoors, check for hitchhiking pests that may have established a home on plants during summer months. You’re basically searching for two types of pests: leaf-dwellers and soil-dwellers.

Leaf-Dwelling Pests

Leaf dwellers that attack plants include Aphids, Spider Mites, Scale and Mealybugs. Other hitchhikers might be Spiders, Gnats or Lacewings. Carefully examine leaves and stems. Inspect leaf undersides in particular; insects like to hang out under leaf surfaces. You might also spot insects at the intersections of leaves and stems.

An easy way to remove insects is to hose down plants. It’s best to use a hose with a nozzle so you can direct water underneath foliage. Apply a gentle spray; too hard a jet will not only dislodge insects but likely tear leaves from stems. You can also use a pressurized sprayer to apply water to leaf surfaces.

For small specimens, consider dunking the entire plant into a 5-gallon bucket of water for 15 minutes. This will cause insects on leaves or in soil to flee. Add a few drops of liquid dish or hand soap to the water as a further deterrent to insects. The only plants you shouldn’t dunk are ones that demand dry soil, such as succulents, cactus or plants that go dormant for the winter.

If you spot insects living on plants, after washing leaves and allowing them to dry, apply an insecticide to the plant. When you move the plant indoors, isolate it from other plants to avoid allowing pests to spread. Keep the plant in isolation for about six weeks; make visual inspections to ensure pests are gone.

Soil-Dwelling Pests

Insects can also set up shop in the soil of plants set outside for the summer. These pests include Slugs, Sowbugs, Earwigs, Fungus Gnats and Ants. For plants in small containers, gently slip the plant from the pot and examine soil. Typically Slugs, Sowbugs and Ants will be visible on the outer layer of soil near the drainage holes. Flick them off with a finger or stick.

Pests like Fungus Gnats and Earwigs typically dwell in the upper regions of soil. Remove any dead foliage or flowers from the soil surface, and dunk the soil into water as described above.

For houseplants in large containers, where slipping the plant from the pot or dunking the entire pot is impractical, apply an insecticide to the soil surface and also to soil inside drainage holes. Apply enough insecticide to soak the soil, and you’ll kill pests or cause them to exit. If pests were present in soil by climbing through pot drainage holes, consider repotting the plant next spring and placing wire mesh or hardware cloth inside the base of the pot to exclude insects.

Division of Extension

Karen Delahaut, formerly UW-Madison Fresh Market Vegetable Program
Revised: 8/13/2012
Item number: XHT1130

Scales are probably one of the most difficult insects to control because of their protective covering. There are many species of scales, but they can all be categorized as either soft or armored. Soft scales are tropical insects and are economically more important than armored scales in the greenhouse. They are larger in size than armored scales and the protective shield can’t be separated from the insect body beneath. Soft scales have a wide host range among the bedding and foliage plants. Common greenhouse scale species include the brown soft scale (Coccus hesperidum), hemispherical scale (Saissetia coffeae), and nigra scale (Parasaissetia nigra). Ferns, orchids, schefflera, crossandra, zebra plant, weeping fig, citrus, ivy and holly are the common hosts.

Armored scales, as the name implies, have a hard, waxy shield. They rarely present a problem in greenhouses, but can be a concern in interior plantscapes and conservatories.

Appearance: Female soft scales are what you typically think of when you think of a scale insect. They lack any recognizable body parts and are grey, brown or black and smooth and measure 1∕4 inch in diameter. Young adults are lighter in color, but soon darken as they mature. The adult male scale resembles a tiny pale gnat, but they lack mouthparts and cannot feed. Brown soft scales are oval and flattened and pale in color with a grid-like pattern. Hemispherical scales, in contrast, are circular, convex, shiny, and brown, while the nigra scale can vary in appearance depending on its host.

Symptoms and Effects: Like other members of the order Homoptera, scales feed by sucking plant sap. Some scales inject toxins as the feed, further compounding the damage. Yellowed leaves and distorted foliage are indications of scale infestations. With soft scale infestations, honeydew (a clear, sticky plant sap) and sooty mold are also present.

Life Cycle: Female scales produce 50 to 200 eggs or live young depending on the species. Nymphs emerge from eggs in one to three weeks. The nymph stage is called a crawler and is the only mobile life stage. Upon hatching, they immediately begin their search for a suitable host plant. Nymphs undergo three instars before settling and a hard or waxy covering envelops the females. At this point the female’s body degenerates into a feeding sack beneath the scale cover.

Scouting Suggestions: Visually inspect the lower leaf surfaces and stems for the presence of scales. Yellowed foliage may indicate that a closer look is warranted. Be sure to inspect all new plant shipments thoroughly for signs of scales. Ants may be present if copious amounts of honeydew have been secreted. Parasitized scales will be darker in color and have one or more holes in the shield.

Non-Chemical: Remove and destroy all heavily infested plants. Wash off honeydew and dislodge crawlers with water sprays. Inspect all new plant material on arrival. There are many natural enemies of soft scale, but few are commercially available for greenhouse use.

For information on biological control, refer to NCR publication 581 “Biological Control of Insects and Other Pests of Greenhouse Crops”.

Chemical: There are several insecticides available for control of scales. Refer to UW-Extension publication A3744 “Insect Pest Management for Greenhouses” for a complete listing of available products. If there are two or more adult scales or a large number of crawlers per leaf, spot treat affected plants. You will need two to three applications at 10 day intervals to effectively control the population. If you are using natural enemies to provide some control of scale outbreaks, avoid the use of broad spectrum insecticides as these will also kill the beneficial insects. The insect growth regulators such as azadirachtin and soaps are very effective at controlling soft scales.

For more information on scales: Contact your county Extension agent.

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Aphids, mealybugs and scales are the most common sap sucking insects in the garden.

Along with whiteflies, aphids, mealybugs and scales belong to the suborder Sternorrhyncha of the Hemiptera family. This information sheet describes their biology and the control and prevention of these plant pests.

Eucalyptus Forrestiana.jpg

How to control scale insects on indoor plants

Aphids, mealybugs and scales appear on plant parts in clusters and feed on the sweet sap by inserting a needle-like sucking tube into the plant and drawing out the juice. After the sap has been used by the insects, it is excreted as honeydew, which forms the base on which a black fungus grows. This fungus is known as sooty mould and its presence reduces photosynthesis and discolours affected fruit.

Honeydew is used as a food source by ants, which actively transport the insects (aphids, mealybugs and scales) and position them on the plant.

Ants may spread sapsucker infestations between plants via underground tunnels.

As aphids, mealybugs and scales congregate in hidden places, or on the lower leaf surface, they may initially not be obvious. Affected plants appear water-stressed and leaves turn yellow and fall. In some cases leaves and flowers curl up and wilt.

Aphids, mealybugs and scales all have the potential to transmit viruses between plants. However, aphids are the most likely transmitters.


Most aphids are soft bodied, pear-shaped insects, 1-2mm long, which prefer feeding on tender growing shoots. In Western Australia, most aphids are females which are able to give birth to living young without the need to mate. Reproduction is fast when weather conditions are favourable, leading to a rapid build-up and aphid population outbreaks. Cold conditions slow their rate of development and movement. Normally, the whole family will be found feeding together.

How to control scale insects on indoor plants

The young aphids (nymphs) go through several growth stages, moulting at each stage. Nymphs do not have wings. When conditions are favourable and aphids have no reason to migrate, most adults will be wingless.

However, when plants become unsuitable habitats, or when overcrowding occurs, winged aphids develop and migrate to other plants or crops.

Winged aphids may originate in weeds or neglected garden plants in the neighbourhood. They are less likely to come from strong, healthy plants. Even when disturbed, aphids move quite slowly.

There are many aphid species and they attack just about every type of plant. They also come in many colours. All aphids feed by sucking on plant juices and they may transmit plant diseases at the same time. The leaf distortions so often seen with aphids are mostly caused by transmitted viruses. Aphids are most active in spring and autumn.


Aphid infestations, which originate from nearby, can be prevented by removal of host weeds and neglected, stressed plants, and by keeping target plants well watered, fertilised and healthy.

How to control scale insects on indoor plants

Encouraging beneficial organisms which attack aphids, such as ladybirds, hoverflies, parasitic wasps and lacewings, will help to keep aphids to a minimum. Beneficial organisms can be supported/encouraged by using minimal amounts of broad spectrum pesticides.

Aphids can be removed from plants with a jet of water, squashed with finger and thumb or sprayed with organic garlic and chilli sprays.

Sprays with horticultural soap will desicate and suffocate the insects and horticultural oil will smother the insects but these organic products should not be used when the weather is above 32°C as plant leaves can burn. Alternative products are the low toxicity, residual chemicals imidacloprid and acetamiprid.

I have oystershell scales on my lilac. How can they be controlled?

The oystershell scale is a common insect pest in Iowa. It can be found on a wide range of trees and shrubs. Plant hosts include:

  • ash
  • lilac
  • willow
  • maple
  • apple
  • pear
  • plum
  • cotoneaster
  • linden
  • viburnum

The oystershell scale is a small (1/20 to 1/8 inch long), elongated, oyster-shaped insect. The insect is concealed beneath a waxy, shell-like covering that varies from light to dark brown. Osytershell scale overwinters as eggs underneath the scale covering of the mother. In Iowa, eggs typically hatch from mid-May to early June. The tiny white to pale yellow “crawlers” move about on the plant looking for suitable feeding sites. The “crawlers” begin to develop a protective, waxy cover almost immediately after they begin to feed.

Oystershell scale attaches itself to the branches and trunks of trees and shrubs and sucks sap from plant cells. Heavy scale infestations may cause yellowing of foliage, stunting, and dieback of twigs and branches. Weakened trees and shrubs are vulnerable to additional insect and disease problems.

Contact insecticides do not penetrate the protective coverings of most scale insects. The best way to control oystershell scale is to apply an insecticide when the crawlers are present. Effective insecticides include:

  • insecticidal soap
  • horticultural oil
  • Sevin
  • permethrin
  • and others

The insecticide must be applied before the tiny insects develop their protective, waxy coverings.

Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Horticulture and Home Pest News, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on . The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.

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How to control scale insects on indoor plants

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.


Scale insects vary greatly in size but are usually about 1-5mm long. They are mainly pests of indoor plants, hedges and of orchards. Like aphids and mealybugs, they are sapsuckers, producing honeydew and sooty mould. Severe infestations of scale insects can result in defoliation and retardation of the plant’s growth, and even in the death of the plant.

How to control scale insects on indoor plants

Scale insects mostly have a waxy or armoured cover which they use to protect themselves. There are two categories of scales — ‘soft’ and ‘armoured’ — and they can take various shapes. Most soft scales belong to the Coccidae while the armoured scales belong to the Diaspididae. In Australia, citrus red scale is probably the most important of the scale insects considered to be pests. Damage by this scale insect can result in severe downgrading of fruit quality. ‘Damage’ is due to marking of the fruit by the scales themselves and/or marking of the fruit by sooty mould growing on scale insect honeydew. Large infestations of citrus red scale can result in severe weakening of citrus trees, with resulting loss in yield. In particularly bad cases, the citrus trees can die.

There are hundreds of species of scale insects in Australia. They attack a wide range of host plants including ferns, conifers and flowering plants and some of the soft scales infest hedges, where the dense foliage makes them hard to control.

In soft scales, some scale insects hatch from eggs, while others are born live. Juvenile scales are known as crawlers. They disperse to favourable sites on the leaf, settle down and start feeding. The juveniles then become sedentary and start building their protective scale covers.

The females of most species remain under the covers for their entire life, while the male insects live under the covers until maturity, when they emerge as winged adults. Females are generally headless, legless and wingless, and when mature, they produce eggs, then die. Most species of scale insects lay their eggs externally beneath the scale, although some species form a cyst with their egg mass within their bodies. A female scale insect can lay more than 150 eggs in its reproductive phase. Fertilisation is not necessary in some species of soft scale insects. For some of these species, no males have been recorded.


For a domestic situation, removal and disposal of infected plant material may be effective. For minor infestations scale insects can be rubbed off using a damp cloth. Sprays with horticultural soap will desicate and suffocate the insects and horticultural oil will smother the insects but these low toxicity products should not be used when the weather is above 32°C as plant leaves can burn. Alternative products are the low toxicity, residual chemicals imidacloprid and acetamiprid.

How to control scale insects on indoor plants

The parasitic wasps Aphytis melinus, Aphytis lingnanensis, and Comperiella spp. are used in Australia in many integrated pest management programs to control armoured scale insects. The scale-eating ladybird (Rhyzobius lophanthae) is also used to control scales, especially citrus red scale.;”>

Waxy scale insects are much harder to control with either biological or chemical agents than armoured scale insects.

How to control scale insects on indoor plants

Introduction: Plant Pests: Aphids, Mealybugs & How to Control Them

How to control scale insects on indoor plants

How to control scale insects on indoor plants

How to control scale insects on indoor plants

Plants and pests go hand in hand. They are by no means a match made in heaven; but chances are that if you have plants, they’re going to get some sort of infestation at 1 time or another. There are so many different insects which are specific to certain plants and/or regions. I’m going to cover the common ones that I’ve seen most often infest plants, both as houseplants and in the garden. Today I’ll be talking about aphids and mealybugs and how to control them.

Both aphids and mealybugs are soft-bodied, sucking insects. They slowly suck the sap out of a plant which over time weakens it, stunts the growth and deforms the flower. You can liken sap in plants to blood in animals. The sap contains sugar which the insects love but can’t fully ingest and it oozes out on the plant. You might also notice a black mold-like substance appearing on the leaves. This is actually a fungus which grows on the sugar. It can ultimately damage the plant too. Ants flock to an infested plant – they’re after the sugar too.

Step 1:


I’m starting with aphids because they seem to appear out of nowhere in the spring. 1 day you can see 5 of them and 5 days later there seem to be 500. They come in a variety of colors including green, orange, black, brown, white, gray and even pinkish.

Step 2:

Different color aphids on the underside of my hoya leaf.

My hoya topiary had orange, grey and black aphids, my mint had green aphids and my grapefruit tree has black aphids. And they’re all within feet of each other! Aphids love fresh, new growth and tender stems. They, like most plant pests, like to hang out and feast on the underneath leaves where it’s a bit more protected.

Step 3:


Mealybugs move slower than aphids. They can be found on every part of the plant, even the roots. They especially love to hang out in the nodes and are a common pest of houseplants.

If you see something which looks like white cotton on your plants, then it’s mealybugs. That’s the white trail that they leave behind. Growing up in New England we had a 3′ Jade Plant growing in our greenhouse. It would get mealybugs and I would dab them off with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol and water. I must’ve really loved that plant!

Step 4:


Release ladybugs or lacewings in your garden as a method of control. Lacewings devour soft bodied insects much faster than do ladybugs. This obviously isn’t a viable solution for your houseplants!

2)Spray with water using the garden hose, kitchen or bath spray.

This is the method I fall back on. You want to gently blast off (no fire hose action here please) the pests & their eggs. I illustrate this method in the video on my hoya. The spray in your kitchen or bathroom will be suitable for your houseplants if you don’t have access to a hose outdoors.

Step 5:

3) Insect killer sprays.

I don’t use chemicals so these are considered to be “natural controls”. They include: horticultural oil, insecticidal soap & need oil. Most plants can be sprayed with these but just check 1st. You can do a little research & see which would best for you. Here are some options: insecticidal soap ready to use, insecticidal soap concentrate, horticultural oil ready to use, horticultural oil concentrate, neem oil ready to spray & neem oil concentrate. This 1 lists itself as a houseplant & garden insect killer.

4) Homemade spray recipes:

Here’s the way I’ve always made an soap/oil spray: Mix 1 tablespoon mild dish soap or Dr. Bronner’s, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil & 1 cup water. This works on mild infestations. Here’s what I’ve used to get rid of mealybugs: Mix 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol with 1 cup of water. You can either dab it on the mealybugs with a cotton swab or spray it on. Rodale’s, a source for living naturally which I’ve known about & respected for a long time, has a recipe for this natural pest spray with garlic, onion & cayenne pepper.

Step 6:

Orange aphids covering the stems of Butterfly Weed.

* Aphids especially love fresh growth. Mealybugs love to hang out in the nodes & crevices. Both can be found on the undersides of the leaves.

* Both have soft bodies so they’re easy to control early on.

*Which leads me to: control these pests as soon as you see them. Once the infestation gets bad, they’re hard to get rid of. Your plant may not recover.

*Ants are after the sugar residue left behind by the aphids & mealybugs. Once the insects are gone, the ants will be too.

*The leaves of the plant can get sticky – that’s caused by the sugar secretion. You might see a black residue (the fungus) appear – you’ll want to get rid of that too.

*If you choose to spray as your method of control, you’ll need to repeat. Follow the instructions on the bottle as to how often. A homemade spray you can repeat every 7 days. It might take 3-4 rounds to control the pests.

Make sure the plant isn’t stressed (ie bone dry) before spraying. And, don’t spray in the hot sun. Hopefully, your plants never get aphids or mealybugs but if they do, you can now identify them and take action.

Next up in the plant pest series: spider mites & whiteflies.

Happy (pest free) gardening & thanks for stopping by,

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