Property, Gardens & Trees

Magnolia Scale

Scale is an animal that appears to have no resemblance to an insect. It has no legs, no eyes, and no readily apparent antennae; and it is hidden under a shell made of its own cast “skins”. Magnolia scale is white and ‘fluffy’.

Magnolia Scale lifecycle

Magnolia scale is our largest soft scale insect, reaching ½ inch in length.  This scale spends the winter on small twigs as tiny, dark-colored nymphs.  In the spring, the scales begin to feed, mature, and change color.  The males, which turn white, are smaller than the females, about 1/8 inch in length, and emerge as tiny, gnat-like insects.  The males mate with the females and then die.  The females turn white to brownish-purple in color and continue to enlarge through July.

Magnolia scale eggs hatch internally and the crawlers emerge from the mother insect. Crawler emergence occurs late summer into early fall.  Insect life cycles are dictated by heat so emergence of crawlers will vary from year to year.   On average crawler emergence occurs from late August through the end of September.  The crawlers move around until they find a suitable feeding site, usually on branches, where they settle down and remain through the winter.  The adult female dies after reproducing, but may remain attached to the stem for many weeks, making the population seem larger than it really is.

What homeowners can do to control Magnolia scale

Survey your property for egg masses and scrape them off surfaces into soapy water to destroy them.

  1.  Place your catchment container below the egg mass
  2. Use your scraper tool to remove the egg mass from the surface. Ensure that all eggs are scraped. Try not to leave any residual eggs in bark ridges or crevices.
  3. Empty the contents of your catchment container or bag into a bucket of soapy water
  4. Leave the eggs sitting in the bucket for a day or two, then dispose of the contents

Egg masses can be located high up in trees. Care needs to be taken if trying to access anything aloft, especially if using ladders. Some private tree care companies can be hired to provide this service at heights.

Magnolia Scale on branch

Magnolia Scale on Leaf