Pest Alert – Cherry Laurel Scale

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Cherry laurels are having many health problems lately. As of September 26 I have had four reports in two days about scale insects infesting cherry and skip laurels. If you have these plants you should get out and check them for white fuzzy growth on the stems. Scale insects can definitely kill plants.

bark scale on cherry laurel

According to the NC State Plant Disease and Insect Clinic the insect is definitely a scale, probably white peach scale. Scales are small insects that feed use needle-like mouthparts to feed on plant sap. Heavy infestations of the insects leads to leaf yellowing, browning, and eventual dieback of branches.

Scales are easier to manage if you catch them early. Scouting for scale on laurels should begin in June. Scales can reproduce three times annually. Most scales produce a waxy substance that protects them from predators and makes pesticides less effective. Scale insects are definitely easier to control when you catch them early.

bark scale on cherry laurel
When there is a heavy infestation of white prunicola scale and dieback is severe, it may be best to remove the shrub altogether rather than try to treat it. Depending on where the infestation is located, you may be able to prune out branches selectively and discard them.

Scale insects overwinter as eggs. Dormant season sprays of horticultural oils are recommended to help prevent infestations. Horticultural oils are relatively toxic to scales, aphids, spider mites, and other plant pests. Horticultural oils are relatively non-toxic to people but should not be inhaled. Oils can cause serious lung problems if inhaled.

According to the NC State Pest Control Manual the following products can be used to control armored scales on landscape shrubs:

acephate (Orthene)
acetamiprid (TriStar)
afidopyropen (Ventigra)
azadirachtin (Azatin)
bifenthrin (Talstar)
buprofezin (Talus)
carbaryl (Sevin)
dinotefuran (Safari) systemic
horticultural oil (various)
insecticidal soap (various)
neem oil (Triact)
pyriproxyfen (Distance)
spinetoram + sulfoxaflor (XXpire)

The manual does not recommend imidicloprid (Merit), probably due to concerns about bees. If you wish to use a systemic insecticide, choose dinotefuran (Safari).

bark scale on cherry laurelbark scale on cherry laurelbark scale on cherry laurelbark scale on cherry laurel

*Inclusion of product names neither implies effectiveness, nor endorsement by the author or NC State University. Not all products described may be locally available, and the active ingredient content may be changed by manufacturers. Read the label CAREFULLY and follow all label instructions whenever using any pesticides as required by the EPA.