What Is Tea Scale?
This pest affects a wide variety of plants, but is most serious on camellias and holly species. Camellias are in the same Genus as the tea plant used for beverages, hence the name. Tea scale (Fiorinia theae) is an invasive armored scale insect originating from South East Asia. Female scales initially form a flat yellow test (shell) that turns brown and hard as they mature. Male scales form a soft white test.
Why Don’t We Like It?
This insect has multiple generations per year beginning as temperatures warm in late Fall. As crawlers hatch they move to new leaves and begin feeding. Damage from tea scale results in leaf yellowing, early leaf drop, reduced blooms, and decreased plant vitality. Early symptoms of the pest are mottled leaf yellowing, which is an indication of the insect feeding on the leaf’s underside.
What Can We Do?
Tea Scale, like most armored scales, can be very difficult to control. A three-pronged approach is recommended, so that all life stages of tea scale may be addressed. A full program greatly improves the chances of this not becoming a chronic issue.
Adults can be targeted through most of the growing season with a systemic application, ideally late-spring or early-summer. This protects the tree from the inside out for a limited amount of time, killing any pest feeding on the tree. This application may not fully protect against crawlers maturing in late summer.
Crawlers can be targeted with an insect growth regulator. Insect growth regulators disrupt insect development, preventing younger life stages from developing into adults.
Overwintering eggs should be addressed with a dormant oil spray. Dormant oil smothers the eggs. A dormant oil spray should be applied in winter during the period after leaf drop and before bud break to prevent reemergence.
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