Watch the Scale

Fern fronds with scaleYes, it’s January, and I know that a lot of folks have made resolutions to watch what they eat or to exercise more but this is not that kind of post.

Once again,  I am back to the house plants. And in January,  most of the insect pests haven’t really started to get out of hand.  If you heat with a forced hot air system of some sort and the air in your home is very dry, you might experience a problem with spider mites now and again.

But for me,  the biggest problem is always scale.  And scale is a huge issue (despite its relatively small size).

If I am able to catch it early,  I will simply take the plant to the sink, grab a toothbrush,  and scrub the tops, bottoms, stems and trunk of the plant, rinsing it down with water as I  scrub. This usually pretty well eliminates the problem,  although I will have to watch to be sure that some of the little critters didn’t escape, only to come back and colonize the plant–& its neighbors –all over again.

If the plant is pretty much coated,  now I have two choices. Do I try to repeatedly spray something,  which will only work on the immature scale (those without the hard brown shell) to knock back the infestation,  or do I ditch the plant?

In the case above–the two birds nest fern fronds–neither is so badly infected that I would need to ditch the whole plant.  In fact, just by cutting off these fronds, and a few others, I have controlled the infestation for the moment. (And by the way, the top leaf shows mature scale with the hard brown shell; the bottom leaf shows mostly immature scale without the hard shell. )

I did have a smaller plant that was completely covered in scale.  It was between these two.  I had to discard it.

In most cases, the plant goes out. I resist spraying anything  (even though I only use organic remedies ), particularly in the house.  My indoor air quality is not worth that.

If, for some reason,  I feel that I must try to save the plant, I will usually isolate it, and then wait until a warm day when I can take it outside for a few moments to spray.  So for I haven’t had to do that yet. I have,  however,  tossed one plant.

As we get nearer to spring,  other insects like aphids become more of an issue.  But for now, watch out for scale.

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