Magnolia vs Scale: This Tree has Game

tulip magnolia March 2012

Tulip Magnolia
March, 2012 BC (Before Scale)

All is not lost!

Last week I wrote about my struggling tulip Magnolia. It’s infested with scale, a nasty soft scale insect.  It’s been a problem for two seasons.  You can continue reading, or pop over to this page to view graphic photos.

Did you go look? It’s not pretty, is it?

I met with a certified arborist today to discuss the tree’s plight. The arborist nodded and said ‘yes it’s a problem,’ and agreed that gardens with tulip magnolias frequently harbor scale.  He went on to say the problem is systemic and that most treatments don’t work.

He did, however suggest a fairly new product that has recently shown promise.  Bayer Tree and Shrub Protect and Feed.   It’s applied at the roots so no spraying.  Further, it’s supposed to have minimal impact on beneficial insects, always a concern. I’m going to give it a try.  He said improvement wouldn’t happen ‘over night’ but that with time, it may help.  He noted the green shoots on the tree and the lack of mold as two good signs.  Apparently all my scraping and washing helped.

Two hours worth of scale removal.

Two hours worth of scale removal.

The arborist also approved of the banding  my husband banded did last summer.  It’s an ant barrier, a sticky substance that the ants won’t cross.  Since ants protect the scale in order to harvest the secreted honeydew, it’s another step toward protecting the tree.

Hope, renewed.

In other news…

Special thanks to Betsy of What’s Green With Betsy!?! and Pauline of The Contented Crafter for including me in there list of recommended bloggers.  I’ll write more about this later in the week.

15 thoughts on “Magnolia vs Scale: This Tree has Game

  1. A little glimmer of hope then – that’s goodish news. Nasty scale!
    I meant to do a bit of research to see if there was a beneficial you could introduce to ‘harvest’ the sticky pesty scale [instead of ants who encourage it!] but forgot 😦 Hopeless! I suppose you did all that yourself anyway – I have aphids and am on the lookout for some praying mantis [which I confess to not being fond of] and ladybugs [of which I am very fond]. Do you remember when lady bugs were common and many in our gardens – now they are quite rare.


    • I do remember how common they were. It’s sad to see so many beneficial insects and bugs disappear.

      We used to have praying mantis eggs at the school garden. One day my job was to ‘babysit them’ so that kids didn’t become over zealous. Unfortunately, I stumbled upon a video of one eating a hummingbird, so I’ve been afraid to invite them in ever since. They are amazing.

      Yes, we did a lot of research on scale. We ordered lacewing eggs (the larvae supposedly eat them) but they didn’t…or we had too much. I see that squirrels might eat them (not ours) I assumed the snails were also eating them since I spotted four of them in the tree, but again, so many. The red shells pictured below protect the scale, so once that happens, they are probably harder to deal with. I’m just grateful they’ve remained isolated to one tree.


  2. Yuck! Bless your heart for going above and beyond the call of duty to save this tree.
    We get some kind of whitish mold on some of our trees that gradually kills them and I have no idea what it is. I’ve tried looking it up but I’m not very proficient in these matters!



    • It might be scale as well. It looks white in the infancy stage, then later gets a hard, dark shell. Do you see sticky residue on the trunk or beneath the tree? It looks like clear sap and tends to attract ants.

      I hope you have something else. This stuff is the worst.

      Thanks for dropping in.


  3. I did see the previous blog when you posted it and was waiting to respond until after the visit with the arborist. I’m glad there is some hope! Good Luck to you and your beautiful tree!


  4. You are so dedicated to continue on your mission. Cheering you on from a safe distance, HA. I think I’d manage the scale but ant’s really give me the eebie-geebie’s. You’d come across the odd giant hill out in the forest at the lake and i’d think, man…they look so prehistoric. They probably were one of the few things that survived that giant asteroid that killed all the dino’s. Glad for you news from the arborist, good luck !!


    • Yeah, I think you’re pretty safe cheering me on from Alberta. Hee!

      I chipped off a bit more scale today while we were outside putting up Christmas decor. I was thinking today that I should put a ribbon on a few branches, scrape them clean and then photograph. Then check back in a week. I saw more scale today from places I was sure I scraped away. I couldn’t image it was back that fast. I’ll let you know if I get around to it…in my spare time.

      Tis the season.


  5. Oh wow. I think my tree is doomed. I did remove all the scale I could yesterday, and well… Since I live in a very artificial community- a preplanned retirement community (yes, I’m well under retirement age, but these things happen!) with a strict HOA regarding everything that can be planted, and the tree is young, I may ask them to remove and plant something new…simply because we have so many magnolias and I’d hate for them all to become Scale infested. For now, I’m going to try to keep removing manually and I think I’ll get some of the Bayer tree and shrub and go for it. The tree is still growing, and has buds on it.. but…


    • Please keep my posted. This scale is a real problem for Magnolias, but only certain types. We have a beautiful Magnolia nearby and it’s doing ok, but looking leggy from the drought. No bugs, though.


  6. Pingback: Thirty Days in the Garden: Wisteria – Gardening Nirvana

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