Cushion Scale

Pulvinaria floccifera

Cushion Scale, Cottony Camellia Scale

Photo by Susan Marley (CC BY 4.0)
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A close up of Pulvinaria floccifera Cushion scale insect beneath the leaves of a green plant
Photo by Susan Marley (CC BY 4.0)
1 of 5
Cushion Scale is a sap-sucking true bug. They're closely related to aphids and whitefly. Cushion Scale is a soft scale insect. This means they have a soft shell of protection attached to the body concealed beneath it. They also produce a 'fluffy' wax coating that keeps the eggs protected. Pulvinaria floccifera generally won't impact a plants vigour; however, the sticky-sweet honeydew they excrete during feeding may cause problems indirectly. Honeydew secretions can attract black sooty mould to the infested area, which can reduce the rate of photosynthesis and turn leaves yellow. Lighter to moderate infestations are tolerable when plants are healthy and established. They can be active on plants year round.
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Traits

Sticky honeydew can attract black sooty mould and ants to the infested plant.
Won't impact flowering or vigour.

Appearance

Adult: They're ovular and pale orange-brown. They can be located beneath the leaves of host plants. Sometimes they aggregate along the central leaf vein. They are typically associated with long cottony tails which are the egg masses. Nymphs: Tiny, white insects, which unlike the adult Scale, can move about the plant. Eggs: Normally located near the adult insects. The white cottony wax can be pulled, and it comes away from the plant as if a thread of cotton. It conceals the eggs and young nymphs.

Symptoms

Copious amounts of a clear sticky honeydew on leaves. Fluffy, woolly patches may appear on the underside of infested plant leaves. Black sooty moulds on foliage. Ovular, yellow-orange, flattened insects on undersides of leaves. White, waxy, fluff stuck under leaves.

Activity

Diurnal

Personality

Order

Hemiptera

Family

Coccidae

Metamorphosis

Incomplete

Distribution

Almost worldwide

Biological treatment

Infested branches may be pruned, removed and disposed of sensibly. For lighter infestations, the scale may be rubbed or picked off with hands. You can then rub an alcohol-soaked cotton ball or neem-based leaf shine over the surfaces of the areas infested. Capturing natural enemies and releasing them on the affected area may improve infestations. These include insects like ladybirds, hoverfly larvae, lacewing and earwigs. Likewise, by letting parts of the garden 'grow wild' and pairing this with an abundance of pollinator-friendly flowers, you can attract the latter into your own garden. Insecticidal soaps can be advantageous if applied regularly over several intervals. Please take care to follow the instructions as application quantities may differ from product to product. Horticultural oils may be used as the next alternative. They are oil-based and environmentally friendly, and these will give some coverage over adult stages. If ants are also present at the site, these may be providing some protection to the scale. These can be controlled using a product such as Tanglefoot Pest Barrier. This will hopefully present a barrier for the ants that are attempting to reach the scale.

Chemical treatment

Spot treating your plants and trees where the scale insects are present is one of the most effective ways of getting rid of them. Insecticidal soap and neem oil are effective treatments. You can also use insecticide containing natural pyrethrum or synthetic pyrethroids for quicker results. However, there are many alternative and less harmful methods of control. If a chemical option is sought, check with your local garden centre and please take care to follow the manufacturers' instructions. Also, check with your local regulating body for guidance on active ingredients and their authorisation for use. For plants which are intended to be eaten, be sure that it is safe to spray by following bottle instructions carefully. Spray treatments are best applied in summer when the nymphs are still newly hatched and more susceptible to the chemicals. This period falls from June to August with this species. Always attempt to scrape away any dead scale before applying any treatments. Dead scale stays attached to the host plant, and this offers added protection for the emerging insects.

Attracts

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