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How to Treat Scale on Shrubs

By Debra L Turner ; Updated September 21, 2017
Protect shrubs from scales with good management practices.

Scale insects are sap-suckers. They dine upon the foliage, fruits or stems of your shrubs. Diets vary according to the assailant’s species. Damage inflicted upon a plant by scales can eventually cause part or all of the victim to wither and die. Adults are difficult to control due to body coverings that protect them from contact pesticides. Scale larvae, however, go through vulnerable stages of development. Initiate a good management regime for effective control of scales. Work around the life schedules of insect allies present in your area to utilize their services rather than eradicating the good with the bad. Exercise healthy plant maintenance and incorporate natural controls into your pest management efforts before spraying your shrubs with toxins.

Apply strips of double-sided tape on the limbs of affected plants to trap scale insects. Inspect shrubs carefully each day. Hand-pick and squash any bugs or larvae that you find. If you don’t care for squashing, drop the little beasties into a bucket of soapy water.

Spread a plastic garbage bag out beneath the infested plant. Shake the stems and branches to dislodge scales. Pick them up and squash them when they fall onto the garbage bag.

Treat scales with horticultural oil in March or April before your plants set buds. Mix with water to form a 2-to-4 percent solution. The concentration will depend upon the species of the plant and composition variations between individual products. Spray in temperatures above 32 degrees F. Coat all leaf and stem surfaces thoroughly. Follow manufacturer’s recommendations carefully.

Spray crawlers on affected plants with insecticidal soap as needed. These products are effective only for scales still in their soft-bodied forms.


Things You Will Need

  • Double-sided tape
  • Plastic garbage bags
  • Bucket
  • Soap


  • Your most significant available asset for fighting these insects is their own natural predator species, particularly lady bugs. If at all possible, wait until late June or even July before applying insecticides. That's when the ladybugs head out for summer vacation.
  • Provide your plants everything they need throughout the year to maintain vigor and good health. This will help fight off scale infestations. Expect nymphs that have over-wintered to become active in early April. New nymphs begin emerging by mid-June.


  • Horticultural oil asphyxiates over-wintering nymphs as well as scales in other development stages; horticultural oil and insecticidal soaps kill insect predator allies as indiscriminately as they kill scales. Follow manufacturer's instructions carefully.

About the Author


A full-time writer since 2007, Axl J. Amistaadt is a DMS 2013 Outstanding Contributor Award recipient. He publishes online articles with major focus on pets, wildlife, gardening and fitness. He also covers parenting, juvenile science experiments, cooking and alternative/home remedies. Amistaadt has written book reviews for Work At Home Truth.