Advice for the Home Gardener from the Help Desk of the
UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County
UC MG Help Desk Response: Thank you for contacting the UC Master Gardener Program Help Desk about the problem with your citrus and also thanks for sending that great picture as it allows for a clear diagnosis. Your citrus is infected with scale – but don't worry, scale can be managed.
Scale is an insect that sucks on plant juices. Left unchecked it could cause damage to or reduce the vigor of your plant. Regarding whether the quality of your fruit will be impacted - I don't believe so. The problem with the scale on the rinds is that it is primarily unsightly. If you were going to leave the rind on for your use of the fruit then you would want to scrub the surface to remove the scale bodies..
The scale on your citrus stems and fruit is an armored scale. From your picture I am unable to identify the particular species of armored scale but that does not matter because management would be the same.
What you see residing on your plant are females and immature who do not have wings and therefore simply reside there – feeding.
Understanding the basic life cycle will help to understand the pest management practices:
Adult females produce eggs that are usually hidden under their bodies. Eggs hatch into tiny crawlers (immatures) which settle down and begin feeding within a day or two after emergence. Settled immatures may spend their entire life in the same spot without moving as they mature into adults.
Chemical treatments are most effective when the crawlers are just emerging in spring. See the link at the end of the narrative (below) for additional information on monitoring when crawlers are crawling.
Provide plants with good growing conditions and proper cultural care, especially appropriate irrigation, so they are more resistant to scale damage. You can prune off heavily infested twigs and branches, if they are limited to a few parts of small plants.
Horticultural oil is effective in spring or summer on deciduous plants when sprayed soon after most crawlers have emerged and most scales are in the young immature stage. Late spring and summer are also the times to spray avocado, citrus, and many other broadleaf evergreens. Horticultural oil kills the scales through suffocation.
Where plants can be sprayed, complete spray coverage of infested plant parts with horticultural oil at the proper time provides good control of most scales. Horticultural oils (e.g., Bonide Horticultural Oil and Monterey Horticultural Oil) are specially refined petroleum products, often called narrow-range, superior, or supreme oils.
Other non-persistent, contact sprays for garden include insecticidal soap (e.g., Safer Brand Insect Killing Soap Concentrate II), neem oil (Bayer Advanced Natria Neem Oil Concentrate, Green Light Neem, Garden Safe Brand Neem), canola oil (Bayer Advanced Natria Multi-Insect Control), and other botanical (plant-derived) oils.
Thoroughly cover with spray the plant parts where scales occur, typically on twig terminals and the underside of leaves. Follow the product label with respect to target plant, timing etc. Do not apply oil or other insecticides when it is foggy, freezing (under 32°F), hot (over 90°F), when relative humidity is above 90%, or if rain is expected in the next 24 hours. Especially at locations with hot weather, be sure plants are well irrigated before spraying foliage.
Below is a link to the UC Integrated Pest Management website that provides additional information on Scale lifecycle and management.
Armored scale do not produce honey dew (a sugar based excrement) so disregard the information about monitoring honeydew and controlling ants.
Help Desk of the UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County (EDC)
Note: UC Master Gardeners Program of Contra Costa's Help Desk is available almost year-round to answer your gardening questions. Except for a few holidays (e.g., last 2 weeks December), we're open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 2380 Bisso Lane, Concord, CA 94520. We can also be reached via telephone: (925) 608-6683, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us/. MGCC Blogs can be found at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/HortCoCo/ You can also subscribe to the Blog (//ucanr.edu/blogs/CCMGBlog/)
Advice from the Help Desk of the
UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County
Response from the Help Desk: Thank you for contacting the UC Master Gardener Program Help Desk, and for resending the photos of your plum tree.
It looks like your tree is heavily infested with Kuno scale (Eulecanium kunoense), which is a common pest in plum trees in the Bay Area. Kuno scale females are almost spherical, resembling beads on stems. They are dark brown and shiny most of the year, turning yellow/orangish during egg production in spring. The nymphs (young scale) are yellow or brown and flattened. They feed on leaves during summer, then go to the branches to overwinter. There is one generation per year. This link will take you information from the University of California on Kuno scale: http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/GARDEN/PLANTS/INVERT/kuno.html. And for more information on scale management in general: http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7408.html.
Scales secrete honeydew, a sticky sweet substance that attracts ants. Ants in turn protect the scales from their natural enemies that could help control their population. So, the first thing to do is to control the ants. If the tree's branches touch other plants or structures, prune those branches back so the ants don't have that access route. Use a sticky substance on the trunk to prevent ants' access that way. Wrap the trunk with a collar of heavy paper, duct tape, or fabric tree wrap and coat it with a sticky material such as Tanglefoot. Check the coating every week or so, and stir it to expose new sticky material. If left too long, ants, other insects, and debris will collect on it and obscure the sticky material, allowing access once again. You should also be aware and check to assure that birds occasionally get stuck in this substance trying to eat the trapped ants, etc.
You can also use bait stations to reduce the ant population. Borate-based products seem to be the most effective, as the bait is sugar based and should attract the honeydew-eating ants. Place the station near the base of the tree. Ant baits take a while to work, so it may be a while before you see any results. This link will take you to information on ant management: http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/GARDEN/CONTROLS/antmanagement.html. For more information about ants: http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7411.html.
You mus also make sure you are giving good cultural care to your tree, especially with adequate irrigation, to make it more resistant to scale damage. To immediately reduce the scale population, you can prune off the most heavily infested twigs or branches, if that's appropriate for the tree's form. Your pictures look like it is a mature plum that might benefit from a little summer pruning anyway. By opening up the tree, it may increase scale mortality from exposure to heat and predators.
Chemical controls can be used for especially bad infestations. Horticultural oils (narrow-range, superior or supreme), insecticidal soaps, neem oil, or other botanical oils have low toxicity to people and pets, and appropriately applied should have little impact on pollinators and natural enemies. Make sure you follow all instructions on the products' labels, looking especially for which plants not to use the product on. For your plum, spraying with an oil during the dormant season may be the easiest. Foliage spray can be effective to get the nymphs in their crawling stage, but it can be difficult to make sure the product covers all leaf surfaces on a large tree.
To recap: Ant control is the first thing to do. Good cultural care is next. To encourage natural enemies, grow a variety of flowering plants to help attract and support them. Adults of predatory bugs, lacewings, lady beetles, and parasitic wasps live longer, lay more eggs, and kill more scales when they have plant nectar or pollen and insect honeydew to feed on.
It will take several months of efforts (such as controlling ants) or until the next season or longer before scale populations are reduced by biological control. If the level of scales is still intolerable, then consider spraying insecticidal oils to reduce scale populations while conserving natural enemies.
Please let us know if you have further questions.
Good luck with your plum tree!
Help Desk of the UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County (SEH)
Note: The UC Master Gardeners Program of Contra Costa's Help Desk is available year-round to answer your gardening questions. Except for a few holidays, we're open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 75 Santa Barbara Road, 2d Floor, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523. We can also be reached via telephone: (925) 646-6586, email: email@example.com, or on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us/ MGCC Blogs can be found at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/HortCoCo/ You can also subscribe to the Blog (http://ucanr.edu/blogs/CCMGBlog/).
Advice from the Help Desk of the UC Master Gardeners of Contra Costa County
Client: I have an Australian Tree Fern that looks unhealthy and appears to be turning reddish-brown. It appeared o.k. until recently. I believe it has adequate shade and water.
MGCC Help Desk Response: Thank you for contacting UC Master Gardeners of Contra Costa County and bringing the sample of your “scorched” Australian Tree Fern.
We took a look under our microscope at the sample of your Australian Tree Fern (Dicksonia antarctica) your brought in. It appears that you have a red scale (probably California red scale: Aonidiella aurantii) on your fern. This pest would explain the scorched look of your fern stems. Scales are sucking insects that insert their tiny, straw-like mouth parts into bark, fruit, or leaves, mostly on trees and shrubs and other perennial plants. Some scales can seriously damage their host, while other species do no apparent damage to plants even when scales are very abundant. The presence of scales can be easily overlooked, in part because they do not resemble most other insects.
We believe that your scale is an armored scale based on their appearance. The photo displays the pest we see under the microscope.
Some scale species, when abundant, weaken a plant and cause it to grow slowly. Infested plants appear water stressed, leaves turn yellow and may drop prematurely, and plant parts that remain heavily infested may die. The dead brownish leaves may remain on scale-killed branches, giving plants a scorched appearance. Scorched appearance is how we would describe the damage to your plant.
Management of Scale - A well-timed and thorough spray of horticultural (narrow-range) oil during the dormant season, or soon after scale crawlers are active in late winter to early summer, can provide good control of most species of scale. Certain scale problems on large plants and hosts especially sensitive to scale damage may warrant the application of a systemic insecticide.
Cultural Control - Provide plants with good growing conditions and proper cultural care, especially appropriate irrigation, so they are more resistant to scale damage. You can prune off heavily infested twigs and branches, if they are limited to a few parts of small plants. In areas with hot summers, pruning to open up canopies can reduce populations of black scale, citricola scale, cottony cushion scale, and possibly other scales by increasing scale mortality from exposure to heat and parasites. You should probably consider replacing problem-prone plants.
The link below from UC Davis (free) will provide more information for you to look over and decide which course of action you wish to take with your fern. There are many choices and the Pest Note outlines each approach: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PDF/PESTNOTES/pnscales.pdf
Please let us know if you have additional questions.
Help Desk of the UC Master Gardeners of Contra Costa County
Note: The UC Master Gardeners of Contra Costa's Help Desk is available year-round to answer your gardening questions. Except for a few holidays, we're open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 75 Santa Barbara Road, 2d Floor, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523. We can also be reached via telephone: (925) 646-6586, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us/ MGCC Blogs can be found at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/HortCoCo/ You can also subscribe to the Blog (see column to the right)
Advice from the Master Gardeners of Contra Costa's Help Desk
The Client's Concerns and Requests:
Response from the MGCC Help Desk:
Thanks for bringing the Ficus benjamina (Weeping Fig) leaf samples and photos into the MGCC office this morning. Having a sample made it easy to see the white sticky globs at the base of each leaf. When we looked at the leaf under the microscope, there were no insects present on the leaf or under the white waxy substance. We also looked at another Ficus growing in our office and found that it, too, had the same white sticky globules on the base of each leaf.
You also mentioned that you might also have a sticky substance in the middle of the lower surface of some of the leaves. If these are in locations where they wouldn't be a drip from the leaf gland of possibly a nearby leaf, it is possible that you might have scale or another sucking insect. As I mentioned, we didn't see anything under the microscope. You might want to examine your leaves, and contact us if you do see any signs of scale or other insect. (Although not a UC guidance document, the UC references cited in the article on Ficus Benjamina Pests” at http://homeguides.sfgate.com/ficus-benjamina-pests-40044.html would be the primary UC guidance MGCC would use to determine appropriate care if there were pests on your Ficus.)
Ficus are notoriously finicky about water, light, and transplanting. From the picture you provided, it looks like you have a nice light filled location for your tree. Because the back corner is dark, it is a good idea to frequently rotate the pot. You mentioned that some of the leaves are turning yellow. Yellowing leaves can be a sign that it is either getting too much or not enough water. (We did mention that Ficus are finicky?) You said that you water your plant once a month, just until runoff, and that the roots are “tight”. It may be that the root ball is very compacted and not able to take up enough water because the water is quickly running through the pot. One method of helping to get the root ball to take up water we would propose would be that several times a year when you water the plant, completely submerse the pot in a tub, bucket or pot of water. Leave it for several hours, giving the rootball a change to become fully saturated. You will want to drain off any free flowing water when you remove your plant from the tub/bucket/pot. After that continue watering as usual.
Regarding repotting, check the roots of your Ficus tree to determine if/when it is time to repot the Ficus. If the pot appears crowded with roots and there is little soil left, your Ficus has probably become root-bound and needs to be repotted. When repotting, after removing the tree from the pot, brush the soil away from the root ball to assess how badly root-bound the Ficus has become. If some of the roots have begun to circle around the ball, carefully unwind them with your fingers. Gently separate the roots in the root ball, releasing any dirt that may have been clogging it. Cut off any dead or rotten roots using a small pair of gardening scissors or pruning shears. If any of the roots have begun to grow through the drainage hole in the pot, prune these back as well. Select a new pot that is 1 or 2 inches wider in diameter than the old pot. Fill the bottom with several inches of fresh potting soil, place the tree into the pot, and backfill with new potting soil to cover the roots and stabilize the tree. Often when their environment is changed, whether a change in water, light, rotating the plant, or transplanting there is a chance the Ficus will drop its leaves - but in time they should grow back.
Feel free to contact us if you have any additional questions.
Happy gardening with a great indoor plant.
Master Gardeners of Contra Costa's Help Desk
Note: The Master Gardeners of Contra Costa's Help Desk is available year-round to answer your gardening questions. Except for a few holidays, we're open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 75 Santa Barbara Road, 2d Floor, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523. We can also be reached via telephone: (925) 646-6586, email: email@example.com, or on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us/