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Magnolia trees & sap-sucking scales

Scales have a waxy & fuzzy looking protective cover

Looking for help with your magnolia tree care?  If you live in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), please contact us.

Magnolias are always recognized as the harbinger of spring.  Their flowers are grandiose and magnificent.  Magnolia scale threatens these trees and is one of the stranger insects you’ll see.  Becoming noticable at the end of June and all through July, it is normally only noticed once the tree is infested.  Scale covers itself in a whitish dome for protection, so it is often mistaken for a fungus or other growth- but is actually an insect. It looks a lot like the puffs on a pussy willow. Scale is a serious concern – if left unchecked it will weaken and eventually kill the tree. We have been seeing them more often in the last few years, and it only seems to be getting worse.

The scale insects drink the sap from the tree, robbing it of nutrients. Then, adding insult to injury, they excrete a waste product called honeydew. Honeydew is a clear, sugary, sticky fluid. It drops onto cars and patios making a gummy mess, and attracts lots of stinging bees and wasps to your yard.

A fungus called sooty mould also grows on the sticky honeydew, turning the tree’s leaves and branches black.

Prevention is the best defence.  If you have magnolias we can combat this pest problem with an insect management spray when the nymphs emerge in September or October. If the weather co-operates, we also have a narrow window for prevention in Spring before the tree’s new buds open.  Proper fertilization is also imperative.

If your magnolias are infested right now, we can reduce the problem with a special injection each year. And as always, fortifying your tree’s health in the Fall with a deep root fertilization will strengthen the trees natural defenses by replacing the stolen nutrients.

Price for Magnolia Scale Programs are based on the size and number of trees, so contact us right away when you find scale on your magnolias. The sooner the problem is identified, the sooner we can act to protect your tree’s health.

In the meanwhile, you can also help protect your trees. Scale can be scraped off of lower parts of the tree with a soft, dull plastic knife. Higher in the tree, a strong spray of water can knock some of them off. Do NOT use a pressure washer, though. That will harm the tree’s soft bark.

Multiple scales begin to suck the life (literally) from a Magnolia.

Other common scale insects are “Euonymus Scale” which appear as tiny white flakes on the stems and leaves of those shrubs. Depending on the landscape value of those shrubs, replacement vs. treatment options need to be considered.

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