What Is Pine Needle Scale

What Is the Pine Needle Scale?

Whether planted outside or inside, plants are a great addition to our homes and offices. They improve the appearance of a space, boost moods, reduce stress, eliminate air pollutants, and increase creativity. They make a healthier, happier you!

The pine trees are one of the most beautiful and eye-pleasing plants to have in or outside your home or office. They improve the appearance of your outdoor and indoor area, generate soothing sounds, and even help prevent soil erosion. 

Unfortunately, however strong these trees may appear, they are attacked by pests, leaving them at risk of dying. Specifically, scale on pines can take down even the biggest, most mighty trees over time.

This post discusses the pine needle scale, including its life history, the damage it causes, and how you can manage it. We’ll also look at the control options for this silent killer.

Let’s get started!

Pine needle scale explained

The pine needle scale is a piercing/sucking insect that feeds on the sap of pine needles. Scale attaches itself to the pine needle and produces a waxy, white covering that protects it while it feeds. If left untreated it can lead to needle discoloration, decline, and eventually, death. Host plants include Pine, Spruce, White fir, Douglas-fir, Cedar, and Mugo pine.

A professional arborist can advise you on treatments available to control scale insects.

Life history and biology of pine needle scale

As mentioned above, the pine needle scale has two generations each year. The females lay about 20-30 eggs in the fall and overwinter under their scale covering. Although most of these females die during the winter, some survive and lay more eggs in spring. 

Eggs that overwinter hatch sometime from late April to mid-June, releasing crawlers. 

The crawlers or nymphs then wander over the needles for several days, choose a needle, insert their sucking mouth part, and start feeding on the plant’s sap. The wind blows the crawlers to the healthy plants in the region.

After they’re settled, the pests secrete the characteristic waxy covering over their bodies. The scales mature by early July. The males emerge from the scales as small, winged adults, flying off to find females. They mate with the females and then die. The second generation of eggs is laid in mid-July, and the scales mature in September.

Damage caused by pine needle scale

If not prevented or treated, the infestations result in premature pine needle shed and reduced growth rate. Heavy infestations for a long period severely weaken or kill your plants.

If you notice the white, oyster-like scabs on your pine tree, you should approach an arborist near you for diagnosis. They’ll help you understand the condition and how better to manage it. Let’s look at some management tips that an arborist may provide you with.

Managing pine needle scale

A plant in or around your home improves your environment. That’s why you should take care of the trees you believe are being attacked by pests. Here are a few things you can do to protect the trees from the pine needle scale:

  • Prune branches that are heavily infested with the pests
  • Avoid planting pines and other hosts along dusty roads
  • Refrain from planting pine trees in areas of heavy air pollution
  • Reduce the trees’ stress

These are some of the most common methods of keeping the scale population low in your pine trees. Managing the issue also reduces the susceptibility of your plants to other disease pests and insects.

You can also use chemicals to protect your trees from pine needle scale or treat the condition. However, the application of chemicals should be carefully timed against the crawler stage to ensure you eliminate the pests. Enlisting the help of an arborist will see you through the process smoothly. 

Below is an outline of the methods you may use to control and manage the pine needle scale:

1. Biological

These are the biological methods that you may use to control or reduce the pine needle scale infestation. For instance, you may use natural parasitoids and predators to manage small infestations. The two-stabbed lady beetle and a jet-black beetle with two red spots are among the predators you may rely on to help you control the infestation. If you use this method, you may want to talk to a professional to know the insecticides to avoid. 

The predators and parasitoids may not help manage a larger pine needle scale infestation. You can use other pest control methods as advised by your arborist in such an instance. 

2. Mechanical

This is the manual work you do on the trees to reduce the population of the pine needle scales. For instance, you can prune and destroy heavily infested branches. You can also prune the branches that have been in contact with the infested branch.

Note: do not remove or mow the infested trees during crawler emergence as this may spread the disease to other plants. An arborist can help you identify when the crawlers emerge from the scales.

3. Biorational

This involves using insect growth regulators (IGRs) to disrupt the development and emergence of the crawlers from the scale. IGRs are insecticides that mimic hormones in young pests and disrupt how they grow and reproduce. Again, enlisting the help of an arborist will help you know when to use the IGRs.

4. Chemicals

This involves using chemicals to kill or prevent the development of pine needle scale. You should hire an arborist to assess the degree of the infestation and damage caused. This will help you choose the right chemical to use and how to apply it.

For instance, if the infestation is not extreme, you may be advised to apply a chemical for 2-3 weeks at a 7-day interval.

Warning: Most pesticides are poisonous. Read and adhere to the safety precautions provided in the label. Store the chemicals as advised by your arborist and dispose of the empty container in the right place.

Pine needle scale - The Bottom Line

The pine tree needle scale is a nightmare for most homeowners. It sucks the beauty that comes from trees, destroying your home’s appearance. Even worse, these pests kill the trees that freshen the atmosphere, provide privacy, and absorb noise around your home. 

Luckily, this silent killer can be prevented and managed. For instance, you may use biological methods or chemicals to reduce the population of these pests. Enlisting the help of a professional arborist like Mayer Tree Service will ensure you use the right methods to protect and treat your trees.

If you have questions about tree service or plant health care or would like an estimate, give us a call at 978-768-6999 or click here to contact us.

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