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INDIAN WAX SCALE

Steven D. Frank, Extension Entomologist

CAUTION: This information was developed for North Carolina and may not apply to other areas.


[General Information] [Biology] [Control] [Other Resources

General Information

Ceroplastes ceriferus (Fabricius), Coccidae, HOMOPTERA

Indian wax scale insects are tiny, brownish-purple females with microscopic legs and a thick covering of sticky, white wax. There are no males. wax scales on holly

The eggs are ovoid, pale purple, and resemble pollen when shaken onto a white surface. Eggs are found under adult scales.

From the eggs hatch crawlers which are the mobile stage. They are flat and tiny. In a mass, newly hatched crawlers appear rusty red. After molting, crawlers insert their mouthparts into the plant and remain fixed there.

Each scale secretes wax tufts, forming a star. This is called the star stage. Larger nymphs secrete wax tufts that merge to resemble a cameo pin. This is the cameo stage.

Biology

wax covered scale

The Indian wax scale is found from Florida to Maryland. Indian wax scales have been reported on hemlock, azalea, blueberry, camellia, Chinese elm, citrus, fig, eugenia, gumbo-limbo, Chinese holly, yaupon, jasmine, mulberry, pear, persimmon, plum, quince, sabodilla, turkscap, and other plants.

A severe infestation of Indian wax scale detracts from the host plant's appearance because of the many white scales and the copious honeydew that they secrete. A black fungus called sooty mold grows in the slightly sugary honeydew, further disfiguring the host plant.

Indian wax scales begin to lay eggs in March, each scale laying from 1,200 to 2,000 eggs. By late May, tiny crawlers hatch and move about, searching for a place to feed. Feeding occurs mostly along the twigs. Occasionally wax scales settle along the leaf midribs. Once the crawlers insert their sucking, mouthparts into the host plant, they do not change locations again. The crawlers then secrete the waxy covering from which the name is derived. The young Indian wax scales mature throughout the summer, producing a thicker waxy covering and becoming increasingly tolerant to pesticides. They overwinter as adults.

Control

Handpicking scales in winter (if practical) is an effective control measure. Since they may lay their eggs apart from their host plant, the scales should be destroyed after removal and not just knocked to the ground. The Indian wax scale seems to be one of the most difficult ornamental plant pests to control during much of the year. This is partly due to the fact that the insect is protected from contact insecticides by a waxy cover.  However, the crawlers are extremely susceptible to pesticides. Therefore control measures should target the crawler stage.  Insecticides with systemic activity will also help get insecticide to the feeding insects.

Because there is only one generation per year, applying carbaryl (Sevin) or a pyrethroid to the crawler stage in early June will give effective control. Several formulations of carbaryl are available.  However, these products are extremely detrimental to natural enemies and other nontarget insects.  Available products with systemic activity, reside within the plant and are less harmful to natural enemies.  Conserving natural enemies reduces the likelihood that pests will rebound or that a secondary pest will outbreak.

The following pesticides are labeled for soft scale insects and are more compatible with beneficial insects than carbaryl, acephate, or pyrethroids.  It is still important to target the vulnerable crawler stage which should emerge in late May or June.

Active ingredient

Trade name

Labeled location1

Activity

 Signal word

 IRAC
MOA
group

Compatible with
beneficials

acetamiprid

TriStar

G, N, L

Translaminar Systemic

Caution

4A

Yes

buprofezin

Talus

G, N

Contact

Caution

16

Yes

dinotefuran

Safari

G, N, L, I

Systemic

Caution

4A

Yes

horticultural oil*

many

G, N, L, I

Contact

Warning

-

Yes

imidacloprid

MarathonII

G, N, I

Systemic

Caution

4A

Yes

imidacloprid*

Merit

G, N, I

Systemic

Caution

4A

Yes

insecticidal soap*

many

G, N, L, I

Contact

Warning

-

Yes

pyriproxyfen

Distance

G, N, L

Translaminar

Caution

7C

Yes

thiamethoxam

Flagship 25 WG

G, N

Translaminar Systemic

Caution

4A

Yes

*Suitable for home use.

See a Moonpie® decorated like an Indian wax scale.


Other Resources

For assistance with a specific problem, contact your local North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service personnel.

Published by North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service

Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Employment and program opportunities are offered to all people regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.
© 2001 NC Cooperative Extension Service

Prepared by: James R. Baker & S. B. Bambara, Extension Entomologists. Revised by Steven D. Frank
ENT/ort-13   April 1994 (Revised) March 1997. Rev. May, 2009.  

Web page last reviewed, January, 2011 by the webperson.