May 16, 2016
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Scale insects are showing up all over the greater metro Atlanta area this spring. While scale insect infestation is not an emergency, spring and summer are the best times to deal with them, so keep an eye out for sticky or shiny honeydew droplets on low-growing leaves and plants below the tree, as this is often one of the earliest signs of an infestation (you can find a more detailed description of honeydew in our recent Blog article).

Scale insects are a superfamily of parasitic insects that establish colonies on plants and trees. They feed on the sap, which can seriously weaken the tree and make it more susceptible to drought or to other causes of tree decline. The honeydew they excrete collects on branches, leaves, and other plants around the infected tree, where it attracts insects and encourages sooty mold to grow.

The three types of scale insects that greater Atlanta tree service providers are seeing in our region are lecanium scales (found on oaks), gloomy scales (on maples), and cottony maple scales. These insects’ life cycle starts when the newly-hatched bugs, called “crawlers” or occasionally “nymphs,” travel from the twigs and branches to the leaves of the tree; when they are older, they migrate back to the woody parts of the tree and settle there, where the females eventually become permanently attached to the tree.

Treating a tree for scale insect infestation depends heavily on timing. Some treatments target the dormant insects before they wake for the spring. Other spray treatments target the mobile crawlers, and must be applied before the insects return to attach to the branches, when they grow harder, armored or waxy shells that make them resistant to pesticides. Lecanium and gloomy scales are mobile in mid to late summer, while cottony maple scales hatch in the early spring and are returning to the branches by the end of summer, making correct identification crucial for your tree service Atlanta provider. Still other treatments, known in the trade as basal root drenches of systemic insecticides, are mixed with water and poured around the tree so that they will be absorbed into the tree’s sap; these treatments are intended for serious infestations, and are best applied in the spring. If particular branches are very heavily infested, your arborist may recommend that they be trimmed or pruned to protect the rest of the tree and nearby plants.

If you are seeing signs of scale insects on your trees, contact an Atlanta tree service right away to be sure that you can get the right treatment started as soon as necessary. Whether the solution is tree trimming to save the rest of the tree, timed treatments to target the insects chemically, or tree removal to safeguard the rest of your yard, call 404-CUT-TREE today to have your tree examined.