Scale is the name given to a range of sucking pests that feed on the sap of leaves and stems, mostly of citrus. Largely immobile, they do not often move over the plant, preferring rather to attach themselves and stay put, giving the appearance of a ‘thing’ – a tiny shell-like bump – rather than a pest.

Left uncontrolled, they slowly reduce the health and productivity of plants. They are broken into two groups, soft and hard (or armoured). Soft scale produces a honeydew as they feed and have a waxy protective coating over their body, whereas hard or armoured scale have a tough, shell-like cover and do not produce honeydew. As in the case of other sucking pests, it is the presence of ants (feeding on the honeydew) that is often the first alarm to an infestation of scale.

Optimal Conditions

Dry, warm environments


Shell- or oval-shaped dots attached to the underside of your plants, typically amongst the honeydew that ants have come in to feed on.


Growing healthy plants will make them more resilient and in better shape to deal with scale


Small amounts of scale can be rubbed off with your fingernail or a hard-bristled toothbrush, while larger infestations should be trimmed from the plant. Cleaning the plant of the honeydew – with a soapy spray and sponge – will diminish the ants’ interest in proceedings. Note that ants often protect and spread the scale to protect their food source.


Using a pyrethrin spray (a mix of the pyrethrin daisy extract and oil) will help smother and kill the soft scale, the hard scale however will resist such attempts. A homemade version of this can be made by mixing 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon of liquid soap with 1 litre (34 fl oz/ 4 cups) of water and spraying the affected foliage

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