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Scales. on my lemon and lime trees.. the holy battle continues.

May 6, 2007

Late and night and in the early morning light I keep up the battle to save my lemon houseplant. It was a major infestation by the time I moved them outside for their first real rays of sunlight this spring. The planter rim was sticky and the war was on. The kids and I used toothbrushes and soap for about 4 labor hours that first day. Then I sprayed it off forcefully. Man were they thick. They appear to be elliptical scale. I took off the top 3" of soil and replaced it and fed a systemic. Since then I have been smashing any that I see and have racked up another 8 hours. I find it amazing that after I think I get them all in a smashing session the next day or in new light it is like the spaceship lands more at night or something.

How fast do these suckers grow up.

Does smashing them just release eggs.

What happens if I dislodge one into the soil below.

I was using the q-tip with 50% (70% rubbing alchol) and 50% water and a few drops of joy dish soap. Does this kill them or what.

What are the chances this will spread to other indoor plants?

What about my extensive outdoor high mountain desert garden plants? I live in SLC, Utah.

My lime tree has a small case of these and I think it is since I moved them closer outside. I am now keeping them a drip distance apart.

My stuborness and about 150$ is all thats keeping me from using the pruners shears and taking this 3/4" tree to the dumpster. The lime is a small 5' bush and the lemon a 7' tree including large 25 gal pot

Comments (13)

  • elkski

    I almost forgot to say that at first the kids and I thought these creatures were gross. They have refused to help after the first day. I on the other hand have almost resorted to exacting some of my revenge by eating the squished critters.

  • elkski

    here are a few pics of my monsters.. Of course this is after about 3 times when I thought they were all gone. Then I just look and walla!

    hmmm I guess I don't know how to post pics here?

  • Kimmsr

    The usual method of control for citrus scale, or any other scale, is spraying with an oil spray. Whether to use dormant oil or superior oil depends on the time of year. However, the University of Florida says that scale seldom does enough harm to warrent control measures.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Citrus Scale

  • rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

    elkski, please send me the pictures personally. I'd like to see them. Some scale species are tougher to get rid of than others.

    Aside from the horticultural oil (read directions carefully), you could mix up a solution of one part alcohol to three parts water in a little spray bottle. Don't use soap in the solution. The mist will get into the nooks and crannies where eggs and nymphs lay hiding. The oil spray can smother them. But don't use these products at the same time, lol!

    Scale insects are often spread from plant to plant by US, on our hands, our tools, clothes, etc. And, when houseplant infestations are allowed to get out of control, they can kill the plant.

    Some folks are willing to put up a good fight against their scale infestation, and can be successful at gaining control. Others find it a much better idea to set the plant on the curb. ;-)

  • maine_cheryl_zn5

    I've owned a potted Persian lime for about 10 yrs. For 9 yrs. I battled the scale invasion that came from spending the summer outdoors. Two yrs ago I gave up on my Key lime and pitched it. I've used ultrafine oils, insecticidal soaps and fruit tree sprays to no avail. My lime is now 100% SCALE FREE! An employee of a local nursery suggested this as they use it extensively in their greenhouse. SIMPLE GREEN, yes the eco-friendly cleaner. Dilute it following the label directions, I think 30 to 1. Spray the entire plant thoroughly including trunk and soil surface. I sprayed a second time for good measure even though I could not find a live scale anywhere. I can still find scale but it's completely dead and slides off the leaves with a gentle rub- no new scale- no sooty mold or sticky pots or floors! Try it and good luck!

  • rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

    I've heard that, too.

    (It's not as eco friendly as they would have you think, by the way.)

  • elkski

    Thanks for the replies... I can now see why several folks in the know told me to "curb it".
    I have spent maybe 8 hours hand picking them. I will send the pics to the requester. I seem to be making headway but will try simple green. I recently used simple green to clean a garage floor and was quite impressed with it... not sure I want it in my lemonade or margarita's????
    Someone said this scale hardy does any damage and I just cant understand that. This poor plant has many branches without leaves. It lost the leaves like normal but just didn't grow them back. I have knocked off lots of new buds. It has kept blooming and maybe extra heavy in a last gasp.
    How can a person kill a plant like this. I take it in and out doors about 12 times each spring and fall as the weather dictates. It smells intoxicating.. Of course my buddies ride bikes and jog and do stuff like that while I play with plants.. What is wrong with me?
    you guys should see my native high mountain desert.

  • tweedbunny

    My mom had reeeeally bad scale on one of her potted orange trees, causing the leaves to be shiny, sticky, and droopy. After doing some internet research, she went out each day and dabbed the scales with a qtip dipped in alcohol. Took her about 5-10 minutes each day. After a few weeks they were cleared up and the tree was back to healthy. Like you said, I've also heard that qtip dabbing them with dish-soapy water works. Just be persistant and patient. It will work.

  • elkski

    I have heard that you need to be carefull with sun exposer after using soap??
    Do I need to wait 24 hrs? wash it off? what.

  • elkski

    Just thought I would post an update.
    My advice with anyone with a tree worth less than 200$ with scale would be to "curb it" as I have read here.
    That might not be safe or very nice to others so I suggest a flamethrower.
    seriously my plant is much better and keeps trying to make new growth. I have spent another 8-10 hours on hand picking and spraying. For a total near 20 hours. It now gets a weekly insecticidal soap spray. I still see smaller ones but am hope full they are to small for making babies?? I have noticed that when I have removed larger scale and then scraped off the remaining stuff and then looking under my 20x loupe that the stuff is small eyed babies. SO I now keep a alcohol soap water dip for my hands and wash often so I don't spread these around. About 200 is a good estimate for a large adults clutch.
    I am about at the end of my rope here and willing to resort to stronger chemicals if someone would suggest one. Maybe I will try the oil spray like neeme oil?
    If I don't have this problem all solved by sep first frost this plant will die in the first frost as I won't bring this plant back inside with any chance of bugs.

  • rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

    Absolutely use the oil! I strongly recommend Neem, as it also works as an anti-feedant, as well. Neem acts as a growth regulator for those insects that ingest it.

  • elkski

    Ok the final story::

    This winter both my lemon and lime trees were spitting sap on my newly laboriously tiled dinning/sunroom and so one winter day prior to trash man I carried the giant pots outside and cut both trees off near the base and "curbed them".
    Didn't really feel to bad.
    Now I left those pots and dirt outside all cold winter..
    My new question is are they trash or does the cold kill all the scale? or do I need to dump the dirt and wash the pots with clorox??
    Please advise they are the new lightweight painted foam pots. About 30 $ each

  • rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

    You'll want to start out with new potting medium, anyway....scale or no scale. Scrub the pots with soap and water and you should be fine.

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