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Extension Agent: Cottony cushion scale menace to satsuma trees

July 6, 2010 at 2:06 a.m.

Fluted, white, cottony structures on this female scale insect houses many eggs, which hatch into pinkish-orange scale insects, which have legs allowing them mobility on the plant.  Lady bugs are active at this site as there is a lady bug pupa case just below the mid-vein of the leaf.

By Joe Janak

Homeowner septic systems have changed from the old-style drain field type, to the aerobic treatment systems that are now required for all new establishments. In fact, all new homesites or homesites with renovated septic systems, must install the aerobic treatment system. As with any system, maintenance is always a concern and must be kept up for the system to operate efficiently and effectively.

Residents with aerobic systems in DeWitt, Calhoun and Victoria counties can maintain their own systems. To answer questions related to septic systems and maintenance, two meetings will be held next week that will address questions for professionals and homeowners.

On July 15, the Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department of Texas AgriLife Extension Service is conducting a course for professional installers to increase their knowledge concerning management of domestic wastewater. Eight hours of OSSF, continuing education training on the Basics of Onsite Wastewater Treatments Systems, will be offered at the Dr. Pattie Dodson Public Health Center classroom, 2805 N. Navarro St., from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The course fee is $135.

The following day, the homeowner course will be held to discuss the function, operation and maintenance of aerobic treatment units, including hands-on evaluation techniques to determine operational status of the system. This course, held from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., will be held at the same place and has a fee of $35.

Anyone interested in attending must pre-register by July 13 online at http://agrilifevents.tamu.edu (keyword search: Homeowner) or get forms from the Extension office or the Health Department.

COTTONY CUSHION SCALE

Insect pests continue to thrive, and the latest brought in is somewhat mystifying with its cottony appearance, hence its name cottony cushion scale. It is a soft-bodied insect that feeds on numerous woody ornamentals, and in this reported case, satsuma trees.

This scale pest is one of the largest and most conspicuous scales that affects woody plants and it has a unique history.

Accidently introduced in to California from Australia in 1868, the most striking feature of this scale is the large, elongated, cottony white and fluted egg sac that protrudes from the end of the adult female's body. Inside the sac are hundreds of bright, red, oblong eggs ready to hatch into crawlers. This scale, unlike others, retains its legs and is mobile throughout life.

According to "Insects That Feed On Trees And Shrubs," by Johnson and Lyon, the cottony cushion scale is a classic example of an insect that has been brought under biological control by the introduction of a natural enemy from the native home of the pest. After extremely serious losses to the California citrus industry, a small, red and black lady beetle, known as the vedalia, was introduced to control the pest. Within two years, cottony cushion scale ceased to exist as an economic pest.

This stresses the importance of integrated pest management, which involves about four steps:

1. Identify the problem.

2. Identify the threshold.

3. Consider treatment options (cultural, biological, mechanical, chemical).

4. If chemical means are needed, use the least toxic method first.

In this case, if no or few lady bug larva or adults are around, the pest numbers are up and control is warranted, the summer oils or neem oil is a good recommendation for controlling cottony cushion scale.

Joe Janak is a Victoria County extension agent.

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