What's Bugging You?

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While trimming your bushes you may notice a couple of small, white, barnacle-looking lumps on a stem. They are female Indian wax scales, Ceroplastes ceriferus (Fabricius). Sexing Indian wax scales is easy since males are not known in any wild population. Adults are covered with a thick, white waxy layer that not only protects them from predators, parasitoids, and pesticides, but also helps them to survive freezing temperatures during the winter. 

Offspring develop from unfertilized eggs. One generation is produced annually in Maryland, but two or more appear in warmer climates. The first crawlers, hatch in spring and early summer and feed on leaves. They are not covered with a protective wax layer and are very susceptible to dehydration, parasites, and pesticides.  Adult Indian wax scales are conspicuous in late summer and early fall and suck sap from at least 122 plant species in 46 families. Prolific breeders, they quickly cover ornamental plants. Massive wax scale populations not only ruin the plant’s appearance, but also cover them with sooty mold that develops on the large amount of sticky waste (honeydew) that they produce. TREATMENT: Heavily infested twigs or branches can be removed. Infested twigs and branches must be sprayed thoroughly with horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, or a contact or systemic insecticide after egg hatch and when crawlers are present on the plant to achieve effective control.