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Fig Wax Scale

Q: My gaura has some sort of scale. Please let me know what this is and how to treat it.

Fig Wax Scale

Fig Wax Scale

Q:  I have a wonderful area in my front yard with the perennial Gaura planted in it and love to watch the “sunny butterflies” dance around in the breeze.  However, this year my gaura has some sort of scale.  I pinched a piece of it and put it on my scanner and have it attached.  Each little crusty scale has a very small hole on the top – for the insect to come out of I guess.  Please let me know what this is and how to treat it.

A:  The photo was perfect for helping identify which of the scale insects you had on your gaura or Whirling Butterflies.  There are dozens of cultivars of gaura but they have been a favorite landscape plant of southern gardens for several years. Most of them are drought tolerant and love full sun.  The insect on your plant is called fig wax scale, Ceroplastes rusci.   It resembles a small turtle which can become as large as the eraser on a pencil.  This insect is found on a large number of ornamental plants from impatiens to palms.  Some of the scale may be dead already, especially if it is dry and crunchy.  But I would suggest you mechanically remove a much of them as you can use a stick or plastic spoon – be careful not to damage the stems.  Then apply horticulture oil anywhere you found the scale.  The plant may require additional applications to keep the insect in check– just follow the directions on the label.  It is best to use Ultra fine oil which can be used all year here in Florida.  Do not apply in the heat of the day – it is best used in the mid morning or early evening. You will have to be diligent about scouting (checking) for the return of these insects as they reproduce rapidly. You may prepare your own horticulture oil mixture by adding one tablespoon of vegetable oil and one tablespoon of mild detergent (not a degreaser) to one gallon of water.  Be sure you shake the mixture well.