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Help Treating for Scale on Sago Palm

Baton Rouge, LA(Zone 9a)

Hello - I posted this to the Identification group and got a reply that it is indeed scale of some sort -

Does anyone have a suggestion for treating / curing this? I am thinking of looking into trying 1 part fish oil to 100 parts water tomorrow, but it is going to be an education to figure out how to apply, etc.

original note:

I have found a quantity of tiny white specs on the UPPER side of a few fronds of several of my sago palms... there is nothing on the underside and it is not spead to all fronds of a particular cycad. I have attached a photo of the worst section.

I am in Louisiana and have read quite a bit of stuff on cycad scale problems in Florida, but the photos they show always look worse and they seem to consistently indicate more of an underside attack of the frond - especially in light infestations.

Could anyone please help with an identification and what the appropriate action would be to protect the plants?

Thanks -


Thumbnail by spicerd
Weston, FL(Zone 10a)

David, If I was going to use the fish oil and water, I would atomize the spray. Here in Florida we do have some maladies when it comes to cycads, like lethal yellowing. They are usually very hardy plants that go back a long way in history... Imagine a dinosaur trying to devour one...
not too appetizing. I'd like to know if your methodolgy works on the white scale. Keep me posted and good luck.

Thumbnail by Rainbowman18
Baton Rouge, LA(Zone 9a)

Thanks Rainbowman18...

Hopefully by "atomize" are you talking about using one of those pump-up-the-pressure spray bottles... I have one of those and intended to mix everything in that and spray... the only thing is - I saw something sold by the gallon called "Fish Oil Spreader Sticker" and I have no idea what that means (the company you could order it from didn't have a description)... so I am just trying to figure out if there is anything aside from water and fish oil that I need in the mixture...

I am going to do some more digging around about it (no gardening pun intended), but if you have any further insight into how this is best done, please let me know...

Thanks again,


Russell, KY(Zone 6b)

Fish Oil Spreader Sticker emulsifies the oil/water mixture so you don't have to keep shaking it up to keep it adequately mixed. It probably also contains something to help the solution adhere to the foliage to better smother the scale.

Baton Rouge, LA(Zone 9a)

Thanks Cearbhaill -

So this is something that you add to fish oil, or does it already have the fish oil in it?

Thanks again -


Russell, KY(Zone 6b)

Depends on the product- check out the ingredients on the bottle.

The Woodlands, TX(Zone 9a)

RU "organic" only or willing to try another option?

Baton Rouge, LA(Zone 9a)

Hello ceejaytown -

I would certainly be open to investigating an option...

I thought I had removed enough fronds to escape the problem, but I noticed this morning that other fronds are turning brown near the core of the plant... so, please suggest away!

Thanks -


The Woodlands, TX(Zone 9a)

I've had the same problem. And it does seem to reoccur - drat! Imidacloprid is a systemic insecticide, and lasts for about 3 months. Best if watered in at the base of the plant, or injected into the soil, it is sold as Merit, and Bayers Advanced also has an imidacloprid product. There are more names listed in these links, which are very informative:
Because it takes some time for Imidacloprid to be taken up and effective, I would also use the fish oil or horticultural oil as recommended. You'll note that one of the articles adds Malation to the oil, and this combo can also be purchased pre-made.
I don't like using pesticides, but this stuff kills sagos and they are a very important part of my landscape. Whatever you decide to do, please let me know what you did and if it helped.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

I used NEEM concentrate last summer on an every 7 day spray regimen. That's Asian leaf scale on your Sago. Problem is, they can burrow down into the soil. I got them on the run last summer, but as soon as I stopped the spraying, they came back, but not as bad. also, they seem to die out in the cold of winter, so I would start to spray with the NEEM as soon as your frost is over, and spray regularly throughout the summer. They multiply in the heat and humidity, too. Remove your most damaged fronds and put them into your TRASH can. Leaf scale is AIRBORNE. So, if one of your neighbors has it, it can migrate right back to your Sagos....

Best I can advise is diligence with the NEEM spraying, clean your tools with bleach between your plants. Isolate and/or quarantine diseased plants to a "HOSPITAL" area of your yard for individual treatment and attention. Do NOT use soils from diseased plants ANYWHERE else on your property; check with your neighbors to see who else might have this and pass on the treatment regime to them.

Good Luck!

Here're some links I used last summer. I've done much homework on Sago Palms, as I grow them for fun!

Thumbnail by Gymgirl
Brownsville, TX

use a insecticide with maliathon spray it on ( Asian leaf scale ) is what it is and it will turn it all brown and die
i also used a power washer to clean off the scale
had 4 sago 's with the white flakes and all are ok now

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Which product did you use with Malathion in it? I'm about to begin repotting and spraying my Sagos. Not nearly as much scale as last year, but a tiny bit. I'd like to get it on the run before the summer heat and humidy sets in.

Have you ever tried the NEEM Concentrate? It works well, and puts a tremendous shine on the Sago leaves. That's why I like it so much.


Brownsville, TX

hi gymgirl,
no i have never used neem
last year was the first time i heard of the white scale killing sago palm in this area. the local paper said to spray with malathion also to wash off the scale.
i used (ORTHO MALAITHION PLUS) insect spray from home depot, then washed it with a power washer later, on sale at target ,$80.00.
worked for me, good luck

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Thanks, badwolf2. Yeah, I remember now. Ortho Malathion. I'll remember the power washer this summer!

Brownsville, TX

Sago Palm-Killing Insect Sighted in Bexar County --------------- OCT. 2006
By William Pack, San Antonio Express-News

Oct. 17--The insect that is killing sago palms in the Rio Grande Valley has expanded into the San Antonio area and possibly other parts of South Texas, a researcher who is monitoring the outbreak said Monday.

"I wouldn't be surprised if it were everywhere in South Texas where we have sago palms," said Carlos Bogrn, a Texas A&M University extension entomologist, about the spread of the cycad aulacaspis scale.

The minuscule insect is blamed for destroying about half the sago palm population in Florida after it arrived there in the mid-1990s, probably from Thailand. Since then, it has infested palms throughout the Gulf Coast, reaching Texas in 2002.

The Corpus Christi and Katy areas were among the earliest to report the pest, but bigger tolls have been recorded recently in Cameron and Hidalgo counties, particularly in a line from Harlingen to South Padre Island. Plant specialists were not aware that the insect had moved north into Bexar until about 10 days ago, when worried homeowners began calling about white coatings on palms that indicated the scales had arrived.

Molly Keck, an extension entomologist in Bexar County, said other scales are creating problems for sago palms, but two of three samples from San Antonio palm owners confirmed that the aulacaspis scale, also called the Asian scale, has arrived.

"We've been getting tons of calls," Keck said.

Sago palms are a valued component of the state's $1.4 billion horticulture industry.

The scales reproduce rapidly and have not been restrained by wasps or other natural enemies, so they can grow from being barely noticeable to covering the fronds of the tropical plants in weeks. One expert estimates that the pest may have taken close to a $1 million bite out of the palm industry in the Valley already.

But there are effective treatments that palm owners can use to protect their plants, officials said. At the earliest stage, the insects can be washed off with a high-pressure water spray, and oil applications and commercial pesticides can eliminate the insects if sprayed thoroughly and often enough, officials said.

Still, Pam Thibodeaux, an Alamo Heights resident who has found evidence of the scale on about half of the 20 palms in her yard, said she may be forced to replace sagos that die with something else.

"It's pretty devastating," Thibodeaux said.


Copyright (c) 2006, San Antonio Express-News

This message was edited Apr 19, 2007 6:15 AM

The Woodlands, TX(Zone 9a)

Here's some more good informationn. I have three large Sagos that I am watching carefully...

Titusville, FL(Zone 9b)

Hey ceejaytown! I opened the website you posted and was pleasantly surprised to find the name of the guy who actually replied to an email from me concerning scale on my cactus! Greg Hodges! Nice person and very knowledgeable in scale!

Las Vegas, NV(Zone 9b)

Have there been any cases of scale in California? Last spring my neighbors Sago produced a flower and then seeds. Now, the previous years(spring 2005) growth has brown spots. Unfortunately my digital camera was stolen, so I can't post a picture. The 04 spring growth looks really bad. Some of the fronds are completely brown. Then again, some of them are only spotted. As far as I know, my neighbor has never fertilized. I know I haven't given you much to go on. Could this be an insect, a fungus, a lack of nutrients? A few houses up the block there is a Sago that has year after year of dark green growth. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Thanks, Dave

Granada Hills, CA(Zone 10b)

I had my small sago (only 6 fronds) inside for a while last winter, not realizing this was the wrong thing to do. It got those awful scale insects and was pretty bad before I realized what was happening, as most of the problem was on the bottom side of the fronds.

I brought the plant outside and kept it there and washed off every single frond, front and back, by hand. I used a stiff brush (like a toothbrush) and also manually scraped off the dark scales. I prepared a horticultural oil mixture and sprayed the plant.

Sometimes it looked like the scales might be coming back, but I watched it carefully and scraped off any sign of the scales and kept using the oil mixture, for about 3-4 weeks. I am happy to say those gross things have been gone for months.

Of course with a big plant (or many plants) it wouldn't be possible to manually scrape the scales. According to what I read about the oil, it kills the insects by suffocating them.

Keaau, HI(Zone 11)

President of the Palm Society here....and prof. at the UofH Hilo tells of using coffee grounds UNDER the plant...seems the scale travels back and forth. Startbucks has had quite a run.

For a while the university gave out Lady Beetles who devourded the scale and moved on. And the scale comes back and the university says there is no longer scale on the island. HUH? It is all over!!!

Lafayette, IN(Zone 5a)

We are using coffee grounds at Fairchild. If you would like more info, dm me.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

The scale can survive in the SOIL. Which is why you should might have to treat the soil beneath the palm. It won't hurt the plant at all. Also, clean your tools between plants, and check with your neighbors, cause the scale is AIRBORNE and can keep on coming around from yard to yard.

But, don't get discouraged, cause you can get it under control, and work with your neighbors, too.

DON'T Spread Sago soil around your yard
WATER BLAST the leaves periodically

Murrieta, CA

Thin out the leaves to promote good air movement and dump your coffee grounds around it, Believe it or not

Montgomery, TX(Zone 9a)

I know all of you have been talking about Sagos, but I have this scale on my pygmy date palms and now my oleanders are covered with it. So far my Sagos have been spared, but I'll keep a close watch on them.

Have any of you had this scale on any of your other plants? Would NEEM, coffee grounds, and malathion work on other plants, too.

I have been fighting these scale for several years now, but didn't know what they were and the only thing that helped at all was Sevin spray. It didn't completely get rid of them, but I also sprayed the palms with water and wiped each blade, a daunting job I'll not attempt again. Between that and the Sevin spray I could keep the scale under control.

I'm not having as much luck with it on my Oleanders. Any suggestions?

The Woodlands, TX(Zone 9a)

I got oleander scale heavily on mine, so bad that I told the yard guys to remove them. When we went to look at them, twice-stabbed lady beetles had moved in and it was almost all gone! I was truly amazed at the massive job they had done. Spraying will kill them too, so I was lucky I had not sprayed. My suggestion would be to leave them alone and wait and see what happens, or take them out, wait awhile, and replace them if that's what you want. I tend to replace with plants that don't have the problem.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

We have Birds of Paradise plants that also get the scale. My DH almost died ('cause I almost killed him) after he moved two infected Birds out of my quarantine area and back into the gen'l plant area. I separate infected plants into my quarantine area, to treat them and to keep the scale from traveling from plant to plant.

Montgomery, TX(Zone 9a)

ceejaytown thanks for the reply. Oleanders are so poisonous I never thought they would have any kind of bug problem. I guess its only poisonous to pets and humans; not the "bad bugs". LOL I think I'll just let it go and see if I get any help from lady beetles like you did. I sure wouldn't want to poison them. Between the cold weather that's killed all my palms and the scale that's eating the other plants, I'm about ready to pour concrete over my whole yard. Just kidding, but I'm really getting discouraged!

Gymgirl, I'm assuming you have your Birds in pots. Or do you really dig up sick plants and replant them in your quarantine area? Having an area for sick plants sounds like a good idea, but wouldn't work for my Oleander hedge as the plants are too large to move. I'll definitely make an area for sick potted plants, though. Good idea. Thanks!

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

The Birds are in pots...I treat them with Neem Concentrate, spraying on a regular basis.

The Woodlands, TX(Zone 9a)

Oleanders get aphids really bad, too. They are definitely a "bug" magnet.

Montgomery, TX(Zone 9a)

Thanks to both of you. I really appreciate your help.

The Woodlands, TX(Zone 9a)

I see you're a new subscriber - welcome to Dave's Garden!

Lafayette, IN(Zone 5a)

If plants are out in the open (not in a greenhouse or enclosed shadehouse) natural predator insects can feed on the bad ones. This kind of control (vs. sprays) provides "food" for natural predators - keeping them around and breeding, and controls the unwanted insects. Sprays will kill both "good" and "bad" insects, upsetting the natural balance.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

That is very true. However, I have yet to meet the predator that will eat the scale on my Birds and Sagos. Hence, the spraying with the Neem Oil which is actually also used to "shine" up plants. I only use it on the scale infested plants, and very sparingly.


Thumbnail by Gymgirl
Montgomery, TX(Zone 9a)

I was telling my daughter today that I had found this great gardening site and how much I was learning already. I mentioned to her that I had finally found out what the white specks on my oleanders and pygmy palms were and she reminded me that several years ago she had scale on her sagos and some other plants. She ordered lady bugs on line and they arrived several days later in good shape. That evening, about dusk, she let them out onto the plants affected by the scale and within several days they had eaten all the scale.

As soon as I know there'll be no more frosts, I'm going to order some of these lady bugs and see if they can get the job done. I would rather not use insecticides if I can find another way to conquer the problem. However, if that doesn't work after several tries I'll definitely use Neem Oil.

The Woodlands, TX(Zone 9a)

Your daughter's experience is not at all common. The problem is - ladybugs have wings, and they use them. This species of ladybugs are gathered in the Sierra Madre mountains in California while they are hibernating. They are packaged, shipped, and hopefully kept in cool conditions before they are sold. They've had no food or water up til then. We sort of joke about the fact that they tend to fly back to California when you release them. The hope is that they will stick around long enough to mate and lay eggs because the larva don't have wings and they are very effective predators. The species that you buy are into aphids, not hard scale. I had scale on my Sagos in an enclosed swimming pool area (screened in) so thought I had a great chance of keeping them. They couldn't get out! I sprayed the Sagos with water, and released the ladybugs onto the Sagos at night. The next morning I found them at the top of the screen, where they stayed until they died. It didn't take long in the heat.

Knowing that these aren't the right species ladybug, and that it most likely will not work, if you do decide to try them, here is what is recommended:

First be sure the plants you are releasing them onto have food for them. They love aphids. Spray the plant with sugar water, and then release the ladybugs onto it, at the bottom, so that they hopefully will climb up and discover the sugar water. Do this at night. Keep your fingers crossed.

Montgomery, TX(Zone 9a)

Thanks, ceejaytown. l should have know that it wouldn't be as easy as it sounded. I guess she was just lucky. I may go ahead and try it once when the weather warms up, but I'll definitely give them some sugar water to eat and I'm sure the aphids will be back by then to also supplement their food supply.

Thanks for the heads up on this. Actually it sounds kind of cruel to the lady bugs. I may have to give this more thought.

The twice-stabbed lady beetles you mentioned in one of your above posts....are they the native "lady bugs" that are here in our area? No way to invite them into my yard, is there? LOL

The Woodlands, TX(Zone 9a)

The twice-stabbed lady beetles are one native, but there are many more. I'm afraid that the only way to invite them is to not use pesticides and then hope they happen by when you need them. My oleanders were covered with them in all stages - larvae, pupas, and adults. The exoskeletons of the scale was all over the place, looking like white fluffy stuff - hard to describe. I called a friend so she could come see, and she brought a box with her to take some home with her. My next door neighbor had about 6 oleanders lining our fence, and I checked them to find that the lady beetles were progressing down the line of oleanders there.

Wish I could find a picture. I just had a cheap little camera then, so the photos weren't great. Let me go look.

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