Gwynne/Folcarelli Garden - Little Compton, RI
Wordless Wednesday - February 2, 2011

Silent takeover - scale - Coccus hesperidum

  DSC_0002It seemed to happen overnight but, of course, it did not.  It takes time to build up a takeover population of hard shelled, syrup producing, life sucking scale. Anything with a Latin name of Coccus hesperidum, must be bad mustn't it?  I have had the flowering maple for several years now and, in fact, I have two which I have trained to standard form.  They are not tight and neat but loose and tree like.  I like having a maple tree or two in the window in the winter and it is even better when they bloom with hot scarlet/orange bells.    DSC_0100I noticed that the left maple seemed a bit droopy.  I checked the soil and it was moderately dry.  The edge of the container seemed sticky.  It takes a lot of scale to produce enough syrup to make the edge of a pot sticky.  The windowsill was also sticky. DSC_0004What had I been doing each time I watered it? I obviously was not checking it for scale. I know, I was looking at the birds or the snow or trying to see whether or not the dogs were still in the yard.  It pays to keep a close eye on your houseplants in January.  This seems to be the stress month for houseplants.  The heat has been turned up for a while, the air is dry,  new growth is beginning to emerge as the days reach ten hours of light or more.  But where did the scale come from?  I answer gardening questions all the time but I have to say I have never seen an adequate answer to this one.  DSC_0007I have introduced no new plants to the collection.  The only answer I have is that perhaps there were eggs in the soil which have been quietly and stealthily waiting to hatch and start the battle.  Do you have any thoughts on this?   I brought the plant to the sink and after I put on my glasses and the horror of seeing all these insects subsided, I saw absolutely no way to remove all those little hard cases.  I usually use neem oil on any insect problems but it only works on the crawlers which hide for a certain amount of time under the hard shell.  The life cycle is two to four months.  DSC_0009 Common sense prevailed.  I hacked it back.  It was five degrees outside when I stuck that stalk in the snow by the back door. I hope those little suckers are frozen solid by now.  Don't get mad, get even.  The plant is now a stick sitting in a pot.  I checked the remaining stick.  I see no scale.  I will keep an eye on it.  I just can't show it to you as it looks too grim.  I know it will send out new leaves.  It just won't match the other tree anymore.  That is the way it goes.  I am checking all the other houseplants for scale and so far, nothing.   They are all getting neemed though just in case.  Are you battling any insects in your indoor garden?  What, when, how?