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Scale Insects (Various spp.)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Scale Insects.




Scale insects seem cemented to tree branches and this immobility makes them unusual among most insects.



 Updated: 5/1/2020; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.InsectIdentification.org




Scale insects are often overlooked because many do not look like typical bugs. While males resemble flies and have legs and wings, females become stationary on tree bark or branches and lose their legs and eyes by reabsorbing them. They grow a waxy covering that gives some species a protective shell. Some are shaped like tiny, headless turtles. Others may look like they are covered in white fluff or powder. These immobile females feed by tapping into the tree or host plant using a long needle-like mouthpart and sucking out plant juices. Some species of scale do not require males to reproduce, using parthenogenesis, a form of asexual reproduction, to create offspring instead.

Some species of scale are beneficial for chemicals that they produce that can be collected and used as dyes and wood finishing. Some feed on invasive plants, reducing their health and ability to spread. There are a variety of reasons why scale insects are considered undesirable, too. Their feeding habit can deplete a plant of vital resources on plant, weakening overall health. A few species of scale are tremendous crop pests. In addition, scale insects excrete a sweet, sticky substance called honeydew. The sweetness of it attracts ants. It also creates a perfect environment for a fungus to grow called sooty mold. This fungus is black and powdery, and notorious for coating stems and leaves, hindering photosynthesis, and causing affected areas to turn yellow. This makes the plant look sick and/or unattractive. The black sooty substance also falls onto pavement and cars beneath it.

Scale insects use all sorts of plants as hosts, and many species are plant specific, choosing to only live and reproduce on one type of plant. Trees, shrubs, ornamental house plants and flowering plants can all host scale. They are often seen on the underside of leaves and on tree branches. Dead ones remain on branches and their dried, waxy coating may easily come off when rubbed. Live ones are like little barnacles, clinging to the substrate. The best time to control scale populations is when they are still crawling and susceptible to treatments and removal, but pruning off branches and leaves after they have settled also helps reduce their numbers and impact. Natural controls include parasitic wasps and lady beetles.


General Characteristics


Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hemiptera
        Family: Diaspididae
          Genus: Various
            Species: spp.
Identifying Information
Scientific Name: Various spp.
Category: No Category
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; white; orange; green; yellow; red; brown
Descriptors: turtle; shell; powder; white; waxy; frilly; cotton; small; stuck on; hard; armor; soft; squishy
Territorial Map
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
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Territorial Reach (A-to-Z)
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming
Canadian National Flag Graphic
Alberta
British Columbia
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan
Mexican National Flag Graphic
Mexico
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.