One of the hardest Epi pests to control is Scale.
Scale insects can be devastating to Epiphyllums they attack many types of other plants too; fruits, ornamentals, trees and houseplants . Two of the more common types are the armored scale or hard scale and the soft scales.
Since scales suck the sap or juices from plants and plant leaves, the leaves may turn yellow and fall off. The plant may die, at the least it can leave your Epis with many ugly looking scabs. Having plants very close together in cramped conditions and poor airflow will make the perfect conditions for scale to settle in and make it a home.
So... What are Scale?
Scale insects can be devastating to Epiphyllums if the infestation is severe. Two of the more common types are the hard scale and the soft scale. Many similarities occur within these two types, although there are some notable differences that can affect which methods of control you select.
(Below is a picture of an Epi stem infected with a type of soft scale)
Hard scale have detachable covers and soft scale's covers arenít detachable. Both are hard and waxy. Hard scale tend to stay on woody tissue (twigs, branches, trunks) and soft scale migrate to foliage during growing season and back to woody tissue to over winter. If your winters are mild they never leave!
(Below is a picture of soft scale on an Echinopsis)
Both species' females have a rounded shape and range in size from 1/10"-1/5" in diameter. They do not have legs or wings and cannot fly.
In the soft scale species, females are larger than males who resemble very small flies. The female hard scales produce a waxy protective substance over themselves and their eggs, often making control a challenge.
In both species, the nymphs begin as tiny crawling insects, but then after a short period, they settle down, lose their legs, and stay in one spot, with the female hard scale becoming immobile. The female soft scale does not lose its legs, but they become so small they are rarely used to move anywhere. The male scale of both species become small fly-like insects.
Reproduction Patterns of Scale
Female scale may have live offspring or may lay eggs. The nymphs, after they are born or hatch, crawl around for a short period of time to feed and then go through a stage where they lose their legs or their legs become very tiny. They stay at one place, immobilized for the rest of their short lives.
Male scale will turn into very small insects that resemble flies. The nymphs or eggs of scales spend the winter on the underside of Epi stems, thatís where you should inspect for them.
Over 1,000 species of scale can be found in the United States and Canada. Soft scales are found throughout the U.S. and Canada, while the hard scale is found largely in the southern regions of the U.S.
They can thrive in all types of plants besides Epis; fruit bushes and fruit trees, ornamental plants and shrubs, and shade trees as well as houseplants.
How to control scale in Epiphyllum, Aporophyllum or Echinopsis
Most soft scales can be washed off with a hard spray of water or wiped with a firm finger from the stems. If the infestation is too large or time consuming, or if the plants become re-infested immediately in a day or two after washing off, then use the same means of control for hard scale below. Hard scale cannot be washed away with water.
I by no means care to use much if any chemicals in the garden. It can take your garden out of balance by killing many beneficial insects. I also know when Iím out numbered by the bad insects that its time to use chemicals, but not over the whole garden only where the infestation is located. If you find only one plant or a few stems infected scrape off the hard scale with your fingernail or a sharp edge tool and rub with alcohol.
Systemic insecticides to control hard scale
Systemic insecticides come in granular form which you sprinkle on the soil of the container or liquid types which are mixed with water and applied on the top of the soil. Some granular types can be mixed into your soil mix also. The roots take in the insecticide and take it up to the leaves and stems killing any scale thatís present, preventing re-infections if regular applications are made every few weeks.
There are many products that work effectively BAYER-rose & feed systemic works good. Another brand is MARATHON systemic to name a few. Another low tech, safe and effective tool is wax paper to control flying types of scale before they lay there eggs.
Above shows small black dots (flying scale) caught using this method. These products mentioned and many more are available in our supplies section. Heres a link to the wax strips. Theres full instructions there on how to use this product effectively.