Eggs Discovered on House Plant

itsmekarakJuly 21, 2012

Last year I purchased a beautiful tropical plant for my house (oleander maybe) that I didn't realize produced sap until I got it home and it was well-established. I have continued to water it once a week for about a year now in which it has done very well. A couple of days ago the plant started to appear as though it were dying with brittle leaves. I deep watered the plant two days in a row only to realize it was not helping. Today I drug the plant outside to take a better look and noticed large numbers of eggs covering the leaves stem down even to the stocky portion next to the soil. Can anyone help me determine what these eggs are from and how to fix this? Is this plant gone? Any help or advice will be appreciated!!! �Pics here:

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Well those are not eggs. Those are scale insects. They are so nasty and very hard to get rid of for me anyway. The oleander does not look very healthy; which a sick plant will call all kinds of bugs. I find that scale are generally the first to appear. There are many kinds of insecticides you could use although if the plant is really weak it might not survive. You could also use a green solution. If you really want to try to save this plant use a soft toothbrush and dip it in soapy water with alcohol; not sure of the ratio though. This should help I think. If it were mine I would keep it outside a while. The summer outside should help it. Oleanders like a lot of sun btw. Dont just put it in the blazing sun though. Adjust it first.

I would try this and see if it has any life left in it. You might also cut it back really hard and hope this encourages it to produce new stems and leaves. Someone else more knowledgable should comment hopefully. Btw...if you didnt already know Oleanders are EXTREMELY poisonous! Careful how you handle any cuttings. Wash all your tools if you cut it and your hands. They are beautiful though, im hoping to maybe get another one someday soon.

Just my thoughts. Kyle

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 2:57PM
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Get a spray bottle of rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol. Spray the plant, make sure you wet it well. I use it full strength. Wait a few days, do it again. Doing it outside is best, away from open flames. End of scale.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 6:46PM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

I don't know anything about the scale insects but just another word of caution - if the plant doesn't make it be careful how you dispose of it. If you burn it, the fumes are highly toxic.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 9:07PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

your link.

Agreed, scale. Your plant has not been doing well, even if it didn't appear sick until recently. An infestation takes a long time to get to that stage.

Whatever treatment, without enough sun - FULL sun outside, it will continue to be unhealthy. Healthy plants aren't usually overcome by pests. Oleanders grow in full sun here, anything less and they are spindly, floppy, and don't bloom. Not a good fit as a house plant, IMO, and will continue to have health issues from the impossibility of giving it enough light, especially in the winter in MO.

You may want to consider replacing this with something like Scheffelera or a palm, which would be a lot happier in a home.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 9:18AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

As noted, the best remedy for preventing insect infestations a healthy plant and the higher metabolic rate that accompanies it. The bio-compounds that serve as a plants protection are a by-product of their metabolism, and healthy plants that are growing well are strongest.

If you DO decide to treat the plant, rubbing alcohol won't do it. While there is some considerable knock-down associated with alcohol's use for scale in the crawler stage, it's ineffective on adults, who reside under their protective shields. To kill the adults, you'll need something more effective and designed to either suffocate or break the life cycle by chemical means - not necessarily a toxin. If you decide to keep the plant, and you SHOULD consider carefully the advice you've already been given about the plant's suitability as a houseplant, let me know and we can explore your options.


    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 9:45AM
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Al, I have used isopropyl alcohol for dealing with scale for 20 years. It does kill the adults. The alcohol dissolves their waxy coating. I have used it on scale indoors and on Magnolia scale outdoors with 100% effective rate, that is, 2 treatments spaced about 3 days apart almost always handles the problem.
Have you tried it, or is this something from a book?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 10:13AM
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Try Fish Emulsion. It's has an odor that lasts a couple days, but well worth it.

1 cap per 16oz spray bottle of water. Shake thoroughly, spray all parts of your Oleander.
If you have more than one plant, especially plants neighboring your Oleander, spray them, too. Scale travels and will infest other plants.

It kills adults and crawlers/babies.

BTW, Oleander is a very, very poisonous plant..every part including leaves, roots and flowers. Wash your hands after handling, and keep away from children and pets. Please!


    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 3:05PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

If it was something from a book, wouldn't the author & I BOTH be wrong - and you in the minority? ;-) I'm no stranger to being at odds with what you read in the houseplant books you find next to the checkouts, so we're good there.

Most university sites have some variation of this advice about rubbing alcohol for scale: "Use a cotton swab dipped in alcohol to wipe off insects such as aphids and mealybugs. Scale insects may need to be scraped off with a fingernail ...."; this, from Clemson - the key words here being wiped off/scraped off - i.e. mechanical removal.

I HAVE tried regular treatments of isopropyl alcohol at full strength and mixed 50/50 with water and insecticidal soap on plants infected with several different types of scale over the years. I always follow up applications of any insecticide to gauge effectiveness by checking the results of my efforts carefully with a loupe. The reason I can say that spraying rubbing alcohol is ineffective against adults is because I have made sure I have covered several species of actively feeding adults, only to check those individual insects several days later to find them still hydrated, alive, and doing what they do.

So, if our personal experiences vary, so be it. I wouldn't make something up just so I could say someone was off the mark. Either you believe me or you don't - either way is ok.


    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 6:03PM
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Al, I assure you, you do NOT have to remove them. They are dead and fall off. It is certainly not the mechanical removal that fixes the scale problem.

And I don't care how many books say to remove them. I volunteer at a botanical garden that used to have an enormous scale problem. Since I arrived with my alcohol in a spray bottle, scale is a minor annoyance. Obviously in large greenhouses that were soaped for years with little to show for it, the scale is still present on the palms and large plants that we can't reach. Scale on the Opuntias, Pachypodiums and other plants are never removed. The growing plant makes them fall off. You can do all the soap you want, nothing works for us like isopropyl in a spray. We used to have girl scouts, boy scouts and gardening clubs going through the greenhouses every day with toothbrushes and Q-Tips. Now, it takes one or 2 people a few minutes to clean the place looking decent. Put that in a book. Experience is worth 100 books.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 7:47PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Wow - I'm not sure where this book thing comes from - we just disagree. I'm not at all upset that you disagree with me .... It's not a personal thing, so lets not make it one - ok?

I'm not suggesting Q-Tips or tooth brushes, or soap (where did that come from?). In fact, I was waiting to see what direction the OP wanted to take before I offered anything specific. Isn't it possible that since isopropyl alcohol has no significant effect on the cuticular wax in the cuticles and epidermis of most plants (a given, or we couldn't use it) that it has the same noneffect on any wax in the shells of scale? After all, it's scope as a solvent is very limited. If it was all that effective, it would probably be marketed as a sure fire remedy for scale infestations, yet it's not even mentioned as a vehicle in any insecticide I've ever seen. It seems unlikely that so many operations would use horticultural oils, neem derivatives, systemic insecticides, and timed applications of other insecticides to take advantage of catching scale in the crawler stage if it was widely accepted that rubbing alcohol was a good choice?

Take care. No need to be upset ....


    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 9:07PM
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Manual removal and I use Provado (dunno if you have that in the states, active ingredient is something like Thiachlorpid - sp?)

To be honest unless you really love that plant, I suggest binning it & starting again, as that is one whupass scale infestation.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 3:59AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

SJ - not sure if it's available here or not, but we have other systemic insecticides in the neonicotinoid class (like imidicloprid) widely available over the counter that I'm guessing work about as well. I agree that they're probably the most effective remedy, by far.


    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 7:31AM
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Al, not a personal thing. Alcohol does have an effect on waxy coated cacti. If you use it on things like Pilosocereus (the blue color is due to the wax), you will get a green plant because the wax is removed. Been there, done that, and in climates like SoCal, with low humidity and strong sun, this might be a problem for a plant. Here in PA, high humidity and a lower sun angle might be the mitigating factor that allows the plaant to live without part of its waxy coating. Like I say, 20 years of experience has shown it to be useful, no matter what gardening books tell you. Biowaxes are commonly fatty acid chains (oils with alcohol, ketones, or other chemicals). All fatty acids and oils have triglyciderides, precursors to wax. Isopropyl alcohol can break those bonds. I'm guessing this is what causes both the wax on the plant and the wax on the scale to be disrupted.

This is not personal. I am refuting the claims you make that say cotton swabs (Q-tips being a brand name) need to be used and that mechanical removal is the working mechanism.

Alcohol is not used in many insecticides because of its solvent properties? (guessing here.) Also, it evaporates at a fairly low temp, and cannot be used with salts. Added to its flammability and you have a chemical that is more volatile than other insecticides.

BTW, Imidacloprid is being implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder in bees.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 9:59AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I understand that alcohol does react with the cuticular waxes in some plants, which is why I qualified what I said to read most plants instead of ALL plants.

I never said that Q-tips need to be used to remove the adult scale. What I said is the university sites (more credible than anecdote - can we agree?) usually suggest "wiping the adults off with a Q-Tip soaked in alcohol". Personally, I wouldn't bother because its ineffective - you miss too many adults and leave all the crawlers. BTW - you're not refuting - you're disagreeing, and that's fine, but some support other than anecdote would be nice.

We already reviewed what Clemson University says above, so let's see what U of Colorado has to say:

Management - Soft scales can be difficult to control since their protective covering largely prevents contact insecticides from being effective. However, spray oils are the most effective treatments for scales [normally what I suggest first]. Alcohol and soap sprays may also provide some control of scales, particularly crawler and very young, poorly protected stages. [the reasonable reader translates this to read that alcohol provides only marginal control of crawlers and young, poorly protected adults, which is entirely consistent with what I offered in my first post.]

Where infestations are not widespread, scales can be killed by rubbing or picking them off. Fairly minor disturbance of the settled scale can break its mouth parts, causing it to starve. Scales killed in this manner, or by soaps or oils, may remain in place and appear similar to living scales.

Crawler stages are susceptible to most houseplant insecticides. However, insecticides must maintain coverage throughout an entire generation of the insect (two to four months) to eliminate further infestation. Short persisting insecticides, such as pyrethrins and resmethrin, need reapplying at least once per week. Longer persisting treatments, such as bifenthrin and permethrin are effective for scale control when used at longer intervals. Soil applied systemic insecticide imidacloprid should be effective for most soft scale infestations.

Armored scales are much less common than soft scales. ..... Unlike soft scales, they do not produce honeydew and, except for a very brief period after egg hatch (crawler stage), are immobile. Horticultural oils are the most effective treatment for armored scales ....

Everything credible that I read, and my own observations, support the fact that rubbing alcohol is only effective against scale in the crawler stage, and I have no issue with extending that to poorly attached or vulnerable adults, but those qualifications were made by the university site for a reason, that being that the adults of scale populations are largely unaffected by applications of rubbing alcohol.

I've read the studies that argue about CCD the effects of imidicloprid on apian populations, but A) I didn't recommend imidicloprid - said only that it's commonly used and effective, and B) I'm guessing that none of us maintain bees indoors.

Hey - we disagree - it happens. I support my position with some university sites and my own considerable experience dealing with plants. If that's not enough for the original poster, he's as free to use rubbing alcohol as he is to avoid it. He likely won't hurt anything, and we agree there is at least some knockdown associated with its use.

Of course, if you persist with spray applications of alcohol on a regular basis you can gain control through knockdown of the crawlers and senescent mortality of adults, but depending on senescence would actually be an additional contraindication of alcohol's effectiveness on adult populations.

I'm sure you're a wonderful volunteer, and have a lot of experience - that's not the question. It's apparent many other learned individuals agree with what I said or they wouldn't have qualified their information so carefully; so you're disagreeing with, or refuting if you'd rather, a more significant number of individuals than a single lonely voice on a forum somewhere.

Good growing.


    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 3:32PM
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Al, you are confusing anecdote with experience. Your sources are anecdotes. My 20 years are experience. You argue with every statement I make and accuse me of making it personal. Well, it is now. I do not use alcohol on a regular basis, as you imply. I clearly stated that 2 applications about 3 days apart controls them. Period. No need for continuous applications.

When your sources mention insecticides, they do not mean alcohol, so no need to include references to that in your posts. I am not in favor of insecticides.

And finally, if you claim you didn't recommend Imidicloprid, why do you write "I agree that they're probably the most effective remedy, by far." Sounds like a hands down recommendation.

You make it sound like I am one voice in the wilderness. You show all kinds of info on insecticides. You claim to not make it personal, but you have 2X said I am the only one taking this position, but nothing personal you say. Let me point out, referring to one person makes it personal.

How about you google "kill scale with alcohol" and see that I am not alone, and that your characterization of my position as outside the norm is unjustified. I'm done with this post. Someday you may actually try alcohol for a scale problem (or better yet, you will never have scale) and you will see that it kills them, adults included, and a few applications works. Al, don't believe everything you read. And remember, years of experience is very different from anecdotal tales or reading about insecticides and confusing that to mean alcohol.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 4:55PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Personal experience goes an awfully long way in finding solutions to plant problems. I weigh university based reseach very heavily but also know that it has limits when it comes to something like this. For one, research (and results) seem to beget the same research and data at other institutions.

The second issue is that of funding. I remember asking one of my professors why more attention wasn't paid to non-chemical methods of pest control. His answer was simple : no money in it.....not for research and not for businesses. I knew then that not until some of the big chemical companies started dabbling in alternative products would the market ever see some creativity in this field. Well, we all know that that has been true.
University research is funded by corporate dollars. I doubt that there have been too many rubbing alcohol studies. But that's not going to stop us from experimenting ourselves.

I've used alcohol for decades to control spider mites, mealy bugs, aphids, whitefly nymphs, and scale crawlers. I know for a fact about the scale because I know what these little things look like, how to find them, and how to check on efficacy. I know that if I find no evidence of immature scale on an infested plant within a few hours of a misting, that the ones observed earlier are gone. I have also used alcohol treatments on adult camellia scale with success.
I've never used swabs and usually dilute the alcohol to a 1:3 solution (alcohol to water) .

The one negative aspect about using this or any other "home remedy "....and it's a that there are no directions on the container of alcohol or soap or whatever. Thus, we must rely on the experiences of others for creative and safe pest management, potting mix alternatives, pruning and propagation techniques, and more.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 6:18PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

R - I too, have used and recommended alcohol and mixes of alcohol & water, as well as neem oil preparations with alcohol; you've seen all that, so you know we're not debating whether or not alcohol has any value - we know it does.

In the university information I referred to, they heartily recommended alcohol for aphids/mealies/mites, the effectiveness of which is consistent with what I observe, but in the same breath/same column they were reluctant to recommend it as remedial for adult scale, while specifically noting that it is of some value at reducing crawler populations and poorly attached or vulnerable adults - hardly a glowing recommendation. This indicates that some consideration must have been given to its effectiveness against scale in the adult stage and it came up wanting. Adult scale was specifically excluded for a reason .....

University sites actually DO pay a LOT of attention to nonchemical pest control, even if research is shorted. If we look up any university site, we soon see a pattern of reluctance to even mention insect toxins. Almost invariably they operate under the umbrella of IPM practices, and often if not usually recommend alcohol and other less noxious remedies first as viable treatments for soft-bodied insects like mealybug/aphids/mites while conspicuously foregoing the mention of scale, unless it's in the crawler stage or unless the alcohol is used in concert with mechanical removal. Hort oils are usually the go-to choice.

I'm always pretty careful to make sure I never mislead anyone, so I do a lot of experimenting to be sure my information is sound. I've actually noted the positions of several species of adult scale on branches & foliage of indoor plants and plants in the landscape, then sprayed them with 70% rubbing alcohol @ full strength, and returned several days later to check their viability, only to find the shell full of body fluids, indicating a viable insect.

Looking at the big picture when it comes to finding reliable information on IPM on the net, I think university sites consistently get marks far higher than the average site where most of the information is anecdotal. It's not like I depend on websites for my information, but when it comes to supporting something I've said, a university site usually lends a fair degree of credibility.

That's what I've observed, so that's the view from here. YMMV.


    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 8:29PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

itsmekarek....sorry that we seemed to have lost you....or lost your interest, lol. Of all the good advice and suggestions you've been the recipient of, there is ONE that I agree with the most. SrewartsJon hints that 'binning' it and starting over would be a good idea.

I TOTALLY agree with him! Oleander makes a terrible houseplant for the typical indoor environment and one that is overrun with scale insects should probably be flung from a three story window or put in the blender. At the very least, stick it in a black plastic bag for collection on trash day.

I'm not even kidding! :-)

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 11:01PM
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