I have quite a large number of different pine trees in my garden. I have Scots pine, Austrian pine, Pinus parviflora, mugo pine and others. These are really amazing plants that unfortunately sometimes get into trouble.
If you see white spots on the needles of your pine tree, it is most likely Pine Needle Scale. This is a pretty nasty pest that is not easy to deal with. In this article I will tell you everything I know about it.
Introduction to Pine Needle Scale Insects
This pest has the scientific name Chionaspis pinifoliae. It is quite common throughout North America. They can infest both ornamental and wild plants in the forest.
It usually parasitizes conifers and most commonly pine. Hence its folk name, Pine Needle Scale.
These are very small pests that are white in color. They move from tree to tree creating colonies. The females lay eggs and die. Their body serves as protection for the eggs until they hatch.
Impact on Pine Trees
The spread of Pine needle scale through the tree usually begins in the spring when the larvae hatch from their eggs. They spread through the needles and attach themselves wherever convenient. Then they pierce the tissue and start to feed on the tree sap.
After a while, a hard shell of white color appears on the larva’s back. This is when they become most visible. The needles are covered with white spots, each spot is a separate insect.
As a result of the activity of these pests, the needles gradually lose their juices and lose color. Eventually the needles dry out and turn brown and then fall off.
How do I get rid of Pine Needle Scale?
The easiest way to get rid of Pine needle scale is to spray the tree with a horticultural oil solution. However, there are cases when you need to use other remedies.
There are two types of remedies against this pest: biological and chemical. I will tell you about them in more detail below.
Biological Control Methods
Pruning. The first thing you can do is to remove the branch on which the pests are located. However, this is only effective if one or two branches are affected. If the pest has taken over a large part of the crown, you cannot cut the branches.
Beneficial insects. The second biological method is to put beneficial insects on pine branches near the Pine needle scale. It has been proven that ladybugs are the natural enemies of this pest.
Buy some ladybugs online or at a garden store. Spread them on the affected pine tree. Quickly enough, they will kill all the pests on the pine.
Horticultural oil. The third method is to treat the pine tree with horticultural oil. This method is most effective in spring when the larvae hatch from eggs. At this time they are the least protected from outside influences.
Buy a concentrate of horticultural oil and dilute it in water as indicated on the label. You can also use ready-made horticultural oil. Spray the pine tree several times at 1-month intervals starting in March.
Chemical Control Options
Insecticidal soap. The first chemical I recommend using is insecticidal soap. It is a fairly safe product that can easily be used on almost any plant.
Insecticidal soap works best when the larvae have hatched from their eggs and are migrating to a new location. Once they have settled in the new location and reached maturity, this product is no longer as effective.
Systemic insecticide. The second option is a systemic insecticide. It should only be used if the others are not working. In addition, insecticides are not available in many states.
The advantage of this product is that once sprayed, it penetrates the plant and then enters the pest with the sap. As a result, the systemic insecticide is quite effective even against mature pests.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
To maximize the effect you need to use a combination of methods. In other words, you need to use a combination of biological and chemical remedies.
For example, if there is a minor infestation, you can cut the branch that has a Pine needle scale on it. The second step is to spread ladybugs that will destroy the rest of the pests.
However, it is worth remembering that you cannot use beneficial insects together with an insecticide. Otherwise the beneficial insects will also suffer.
There are some preventative measures that can greatly reduce the possibility of spreading Pine needle scale in your garden. This is the best strategy because it minimizes the possible damage.
The first is the proper planting of pine trees. Plant them at a considerable distance from each other. This will make it very difficult for pests to migrate from one tree to another.
The second is garden cleanup. Keep your garden free of plant debris as this is where pests can hide.
Take proper care of your pine trees. Fertilize them once a year with a slow-release fertilizer. Prune dead branches and provide them with plenty of sun. All of this will improve the tree’s immune system and it will be able to handle some number of pests on its own.
Always keep an eye on your pine trees and as soon as you see Pine needle scale immediately destroy them with your fingers. The next thing is to treat the tree with horticultural oil or spread ladybugs on them.
In conclusion, the Pine needle scale is not a terrible pest. If you notice it in time, you can get rid of it quite easily. Also, preventative measures can keep pests away from your garden and they will never bother you.
This article has come to an end and I hope it has been useful for you. I wish you good luck and all the best.