Cycad (sago palm) scale infestations have been popping up around the county. Most of the counties in Florida experience a yearly outbreak, or two. Sometimes this infestation is confused with a fugal pathogen. But make no mistake, this is an armored insect.
The cycad scale, Aulacaspis yasumatsui, also known as Asian scale or sago scale. This scale does resemble magnolia white scale. Although, magnolia scale can be found on cycads and other ornamental plants in small populations, cycad scale is only found on cycads. Cycad scale is almost always observed in large populations, as well. The female is approximately 1/16th inch in length with a white, armored pear-shaped body. The male is also white, but much smaller, having an elongated shape with parallel ridges. Male scales almost always outnumber females in an infestation. Unfortunately, the season in Florida for scale is year-round. However, infestations increase as temperature rise during the summer months.
Is the damage a concern? Newly hatched eggs will infest both sides of the leaves and around the trunk. Scale insects can infest the cones and root system too. Symptoms of scale will begin by yellow spots on the leaves. Damaged leaves will turn brown. Severe infestations that can lead to plant death.
How does one mange this pest? Scouting during the spring and treating small infestations is key. Dead scale can stay on the plant for months. To verify if the scale is dead, scrape some off. If the scale is dry and powdery, the scale is dead. If moist, it’s alive. The first step in treating the plant is with vigorous spraying of water, which will remove much of the scale. Applying horticulture or neem oil over the entire plant once a week for a month can also be helpful. Be sure to remove and dispose of damaged leaves. Severe infestations may require malathion to eliminate large populations.
For more information contact Gulf County Extension Office at 639-3200.
Information for this article provided by the UF/IFAS Extension Tropical Research & Education Center Publication, “Cycad Aulacaspis Scale (Aulacaspis yasumatsui): https://trec.ifas.ufl.edu/mannion/pdfs/CycadScale.pdf
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