Q: My magnolia has small white specks on the leaves. What are they and how do I get rid of them?
A:Diagnosis of spots on leaves is often difficult but I was able to identify these pests easily once you sent them to my office. Believe it or not – they even survived the postal service delivery! The spots are insects called False Oleander Scale, Pseudaulacaspis cockerelli. At one time this insect was called magnolia white scale and oleander scale. It was originally detected in palms from California but quickly became established here in the early 1950s. At this point it can be found throughout Florida and most of the southern Gulf States. It has become an economic pest for many local growers and garden nurseries especially since it is found on many ornamentals such as magnolia, dogwood, sweet bay, banana shrub, Aucuba, and oleander.Scales, especially armored scales are very difficult to control when mature. The protective covering of the female prevents pesticides from reaching the eggs. Examine plants for live scales by crushing the wax cover. Dead scales do not fall from plants. If you find live scale, apply horticulture oil, which is the best method of scale management. More than one application will be required – usually within two weeks. Be sure to follow the directions on the label. If the infestation is small, you can wipe them off with a paper towel and toss the towel in the trash. Continue to watch the plant and try to catch any future infestations early.