Snails and Scale: A Winning Combination?


Scale and Snail

Scale to the left, snail to the right,

No, I’m pretty sure it’s not a winning combination.  For now, however, it’s what we’ve got.  Ugh.

We had a major infestation last summer, with little to do for it while the tree was blooming. I pruned close to 30% of the branches, removing the worst of the infestation. Then, we waited.

Early this year, while the tree was dormant, I worked at removing all traces of the pest.  Once I’d scraped away the hard scale, I took a bucket of warm soapy water, and wiped down every single branch, removing the black, sooty scale as well.  I checked the tree the following day, removing what I’d missed.

Scale Removal

They’re back!  The infestation isn’t *as* bad, but it’s back nonetheless.

The interesting turn of events is the snails.  I counted six or seven of them as I inspected the tree.  I was momentarily hopeful.  Could it be that this garden pest would actually snack on the scale?

Snail on a Tulip Magnolia

That was a long climb to slime a flower

Scale encrusted branch

Scale encrusted branch

Snail on a branch

Snail making tracks

Snail at apex of tree

Y do you ask?


Nope!  My research tells me they eat fruit, leaves, even paper, but not scale.  Boo!

If you’re looking for pet snails, these are free for the asking. Time to move on to plan C.

13 thoughts on “Snails and Scale: A Winning Combination?

  1. I am sooo sorry to see the scale return and more hard work ahead. Could it be the lack of rain or cold? I always wonder what causes such things. Maybe you could find a neighbor that loves escargot and be their supplier? I even put out beer in saucers for the snails when living in So. Cal. They didn’t like my brand. Someone told me it would work.It didn’t. 😦


    • I think the snails are wise to the beer in the pan idea, Marlene.

      From what I’ve read, these trees are susceptible to scale and often arrive with the pests. The tree is fairly young, so it’s possible. The scale feed off the younger branches, and can actually kill the tree if left unchecked. In the summer, the ants actually fight off predators so they can harvest to honeydew produced by the scale. Some of the harsher solutions are also equally hard on the tree. It’s hard to know what to do. We bought beneficial insects last year, I’ve tried the manual removal of the branches, and then the actually scraping and cleaning of the branches. It seems never ending. It’s a beautiful tree with magnificent blooms. Sad to see it struggling.

      Thanks for commenting.


  2. oh bummer I had hoped it was gone 😦 boo it came back. I heard you have to keep at it but eventually it gets less and less. Hope its gone soon from your pretty little tree


    • Thanks for the support, Sheila. I’m going to stay on top of it.

      I know you mentioned an oil once upon a time, but the reading I did didn’t seem to support it. I’ll need to explore further.

      Have you dealt with scale before?


  3. Omgosh, Sharon we’re together on that, LOL

    Dang or what? All your hard work and it’s back. It is such a pretty tree, too bad it’s so high maintenance. Wow, how many hours do you think you’ve dedicated to this ‘eeck’ dilemma? I hope you can save it after all your efforts. I guess you can hardly blame the snails for being vegetarians, but it’d be nice if they could at least be helpful. I guess we are lucky in the north in this regard, if something is struggling with a pest or decease it usually won’t live thru winter. So, I never had to make a hard decision to try and save something because nature usually made my mind up for me. Good Luck my dear, if anyone can have a successful outcome, it’s you Alys.


    • Thanks so much for your vote of confidence. I removed a few of the heavily infested branches yesterday. The blooms are slowly dying back. Several of the flowers are eaten to the quick by snails. It’s a regular smorgasbord, poor tree.

      I’m off to a clients. Big, three week-project so I better get to it.

      Mwaaaa for all your comments, and for just being you.


Please join the conversation by leaving a comment, below.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.