Q: I have a sago palm that is covered with insects. The fronds actually look as though they are covered with snow. What insect is this?
A: The insect may be a scale insect called the cycad aulacaspis scale, Aulacaspis yasumatsui. It apparently originated from Thailand but it is kept in check overseas by local parasitoids. Of course, here in the U.S. this scale has no natural enemies. In 1996 it was found in Miami, Florida infesting cycads grown as ornamentals. Aulacaspis scale has since been rapidly spreading throughout Florida and has been located in Nassau County too.This scale is difficult to manage because it is found on the roots, stems and fronds of palms. Sometimes it has been incorrectly identified as magnolia white scale but experts can easily tell them apart. The aulacaspis scale female has an orange-pink body that is short and stout whereas the magnolia white scale female has a longer body structure and beige in color. Homeowners can use horticulture oils on the fronds and trunk to help control this pest. Some systemic pesticides have been applied to sago palms but the success against this pest has been limited. It may be a combination of methods will result in better control. Be careful to use sterile procedures when pruning to avoid infesting other plants. Some pruning of cycad fronds may be beneficial but do not remove too many as this will put the plant under additional stress.