Euonymus scale

Euonymus scale has become widespread in England and can cause severe dieback on evergreen Euonymus species.

Euonymus scale (<EM>Unaspis euonymi</EM>) on spindle (<EM>Euonymus europeus</EM>)
Euonymus scale (Unaspis euonymi) on spindle (Euonymus europeus)

Quick facts

Common name Euonymus scale
Scientific name Unaspis euonymi
Plants affected Euonymus, especially Euonymus japonicus
Main cause A sap-sucking insect
Timing Present all year round

What is euonymus scale?

Euonymus scale is a small sap-sucking insect that feeds on the stems and foliage of Euonymus. It became established in Britain on the south coast of England during the 1950s. It is now found in gardens throughout Southern Britain. This insect has a soft flattened body that is covered by a shell or scale. This is one of many species of scale insects encountered by gardeners. 

Scale insects are sap sucking true bugs belonging to several families in the Hemiptera. Typically the adults are immobile having a flattened or raised appearance, with no visible legs. They often look like a ‘scale’ on a leaf or stem, many species produce a white wax often covering egg masses. There are more than 100 species found in Britain, 26 of which have been introduced. More than 25 species can be found in gardens or on houseplants.


Heavily infested plants develop a yellowish mottling on the foliage and this may be followed by extensive leaf fall and dieback.

Male and female euonymus scales differ in appearance. The males are mainly on the foliage and are covered with narrow white elongate scales that are 2mm long. The females mainly occur on the stems and are covered with blackish brown pear-shaped scales up to 3mm long.

This scale has two generations a year with nymphs present in late spring and autumn.

The most susceptible host plant seems to be Euonymus japonicus but other evergreen and deciduous spindles can also be affected. Heavily infested plants may lose most of their foliage and suffer dieback. These plants sometimes recover but replacement may be necessary.


Check Euonymus plants frequently so action can be taken before a damaging population has developed. When choosing control options you can minimise harm to non-target animals by using the methods in the non-pesticide section below. Pesticide treatments are likely to kill natural enemies and are only likely to be successful if the entire plant can be reached.  

Light infestations are of little consequence and can be tolerated, but heavy attacks can be dealt with in late spring or autumn when the more vulnerable newly-hatched scales are present. Note that dead scales can remain firmly attached to the plants. The success of any treatment can be gauged by the extent to which new growth remains free of scale insects.


  • Where possible tolerate populations of scale insects. Well-tended healthy plants are able to tolerate light populations of these insects and so they do not necessarily require control
  • Adult scales can be removed when seen but this may not reduce large populations
  • Encourage predators  in the garden, some ladybirds, parasitoid wasps and some birds will eat scale insects. The native kidney spot ladybird, Chilocorus renipustulatus, specialises in feeding on scale insects and can naturally colonise affected plants reducing populations


The RHS recommends that  you don't use pesticides. Most pesticides (including organic types) reduce biodiversity, including natural enemies, impact soil health and have wider adverse environmental effects.
Where you cannot tolerate cabbage caterpillars, manage them using the information above as your first course of action.
Pesticide treatments are likely to kill natural enemies and so reduce the likelihood of natural control and can lead to resurgence of the target animal.
The pesticides listed are legally available in the UK. This information is provided to avoid misuse of legal products and the use of unauthorised and untested products, which potentially has more serious consequences for the environment and wildlife than when products are used legally.

Shorter persistence pesticides (that are usually certified for organic growing) are likely to be less damaging to non-target wildlife.
Always follow the instructions on the products. For edible plants, make sure the food plant is listed on the label and follow instructions on maximum number of applications, spray interval and harvest interval.

Homemade products are not recommended as they are unregulated and usually untested. 
Be aware that products such as Neem oil are not registered for use in the UK and we cannot advise on their use

Plants in flower must not be sprayed due to the danger to bees and other pollinating insects.

  • The best time for spraying is in late spring and early autumn when the more vulnerable newly hatched scale nymphs are present 
  • Organic sprays, such as natural pyrethrum (e.g. Bug Clear Ultra 2, Neudorff Bug Free Bug and Larvae Killer) or plant oils (e.g. Vitax Plant Guard Pest & Disease Control, Bug Clear Fruit and Veg) can give good control of scale insect nymphs. These pesticides have a very short persistence and so may require reapplication to keep scale numbers in check. Plant oil products are less likely to affect larger insects such as ladybird adults 
  • Plant invigorators combine nutrients to stimulate plant growth with surfactants or fatty acids that have a physical mode of action (e.g. Ecofective Bug Control, RHS Bug and Mildew Control and SB Plant Invigorator). These are not considered organic.
  • Further information about the use of pesticides available for management of scale is available on the pesticides for gardeners leaflet

Inclusion of a pesticide product does not indicate a recommendation or endorsement by RHS Gardening Advice. It is a list of products currently available to the home gardener.


Pesticides for gardeners (pdf document)


Euonymus scale has two generations a year. The females deposit their eggs underneath their bodies. Nymphs of the first generation emerge in June and crawl over the plant in search of suitable places to feed. They reach the adult stage in mid-late summer and lay eggs that hatch in early autumn.


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