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Cottony Camellia Scale Insects: A Threat to Pennsylvania’s Plants

May 23, 2023

Scale insects are small, sap-sucking pests that can cause significant damage to a wide variety of plants. Among these pests, cottony camellia scales (Pulvinaria floccifera) are particularly troublesome for gardeners and homeowners in Pennsylvania. In this blog post, we explore the characteristics, damage, and effects of this invasive insect on local plants and how to control them using horticultural oils and other methods.

What are Cottony Camellia Scale Insects?

    Cottony camellia scales are soft scale insects that infest many plants, including hydrangea, maple, and English ivy. These insects are characterized by their oval, yellow-brownish bodies with a waxy coating and can grow up to ⅛” (3 mm) in length. Another distinctive characteristic is cottony white masses that the insects produce to protect their eggs, which the females lay on the underside of leaves. Cottony camellia scales typically have one generation per year, with eggs hatching in late spring or early summer. addition, the females lay these egg masses on the underside of leaves.

    Damage Caused by Cottony Camellia Scale Insects

    When scales infest a plant, they feed on the sap, weakening the plant and causing leaves to turn yellow and drop. Feeding on the sap can also stunt the plant’s growth and leave it vulnerable to diseases. In addition, these insects excrete a sticky substance called honeydew during feeding, which attracts ants and promotes the growth of sooty molds. These molds can further weaken the plant by blocking sunlight from reaching its leaves.

    One leaf with Cottony Camellia Scale Insects | Burkholder PHC
    Leaves with Cottony Camellia Scale Insects egg mass | Burkholder PHC
    Tree Leaves with Cottony Camellia Scale Insects and egg mass| Burkholder PHC

    Pennsylvania Plants Affected

    In Pennsylvania, cottony camellia scale insects have been found on various affected plants, including hydrangea, maple, mulberry, and pittosporum. The damage scale insects cause can be particularly severe in ornamental plants, reducing their aesthetic value and potentially killing them if left untreated.

    Controlling Cottony Camellia

    One effective method for controlling cottony camellia scale insects is horticultural oils. These oils are applied directly to the affected plant, smothering the insects and their eggs. Horticultural oils have several advantages over traditional pesticides, including being less toxic to beneficial insects and having a lower risk of causing pesticide resistance.

    In addition to horticultural oils, other control methods for cottony camellia scale insects include pruning infested branches and encouraging the presence of natural predators, such as ladybugs and lacewings. Regular monitoring and early intervention are crucial to preventing severe infestations and maintaining healthy plants.

    Cottony camellia scale insects pose a significant threat to Pennsylvania’s plants. However, we can minimize the damage that these pests cause with proper plant health care.

    Contact Burkholder PHC for Scale Insect Treatment

    If you suspect your plants may be infested with cottony camellia scales or other insects, contact Burkholder PHC for more information or to schedule a consultation. Our team of qualified plant health care experts has years of experience managing and controlling pest populations. We are here to help you protect your plants and keep your landscape healthy and vibrant.