The small whitish oleander scale can affect a variety glasshouse plants, including oleander, dracaena, palms and ornamental asparagus.
Scientific name Aspidiotus nerii
Plants affected A variety of glasshouse plants
Main symptoms Whitish 2mm diameter scale insects on leaves and stems
Caused by Sap sucking scale insects
Timing All year
What is oleander scale?
Oleander scale is a sap sucking true bug that appears as a flat, oval, whitish-brown insects on leaves and stems of indoor plants. The whitish covering of the insect is waxy and repels liquids. The adults reach up to 2mm long, the immature stages (crawlers) are much smaller. It does not produce honeydew and breeds throughout the year. It is one of several 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.
Check susceptible 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. 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
- It can be worth considering replacing heavily infested plants
- Adult scales and egg masses can be removed when seen but this may not reduce large 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 oleander scale, 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 shorter persistence pesticides (that are usually certified for organic growing) are likely to be less damaging to non-target wildlife.
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.
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.
Spraying works best against the more vulnerable newly hatched scale nymphs, this scale breeds all year round and so there is no ideal time to spray.
- 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
Pesticides for gardeners (pdf document)
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