Asian Cycad Scale

mandi_s1December 17, 2007


Yesterday my neighbor who is getting ready to move showed up on my doorstep with a Sago Palm. At which I got very happy. It is too big to move to another state, (more like wouldn't pass agricultural standards) but as a plant lover one questions how big is too big.

On first glance it appeared to have an infestation of mealies or white fly.

So today I got out my scrub brush and my spectracide and got to work scrubbing layers of what upon closer examination was not mealies, or whitefly. The entire plant looked as if it were covered in dandruff. It came off in layers that turned into white mud with brown flecks.

No matter how gently you handle sagos, they sure as heck aren't gentle in return. I was able to get much of the scale off, but there is still a ways to go. With my scrub brush I have at the very least ruined a good meal for most of them.

Hrmmmm said I, so I went in to look up Sago Palms and their predators.

I now have a 2 foot Sago with massive Asian Scale problems.

What should I do?

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Cut off all the infested fronds and dispose of them properly. Spray the entire remaining plant with a strong systemic pesticide. Keep an eye on it. I have to prune about half the "fronds" off several of mine every year and treat. Some cycads seem to be fairly resistant to scale. Sagos are not among those.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2007 at 4:37PM
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Thats ALL OF THEM!!! :-(


Should I cut off all of them?

    Bookmark   December 17, 2007 at 5:54PM
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If you don't get them all off,and you get a new flush of leaves,not only will the new leaves get infested,but the old leaves will most likely die anyways,if not the whole plant eventually!

    Bookmark   December 17, 2007 at 6:49PM
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The other verse to this song is once they get that infested it is realy hard to keep that scale off .

    Bookmark   December 17, 2007 at 11:54PM
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cycadjungle(z9b Cent FL)

Keep in mind there are almost 300 species of cycads, and "sagos" are in the genus Cycas,in which there are about 100 species. Dioons are really good agaianst scale, and there are many other cycads that would do well. Anyway if you want EVERY scale off the plant before you plant it, I would remove the leaves and totally immerse the whole plant in a bath of Orthene for an hour. This will kill everything in the root area and on the stem. A long time ago I traded for some Cycas micholitzii plants, which well exteremly rare at that time, and they were covered with Asian scale. I dug a hole in the ground, lined it with plastic and filled it with water and poured a boittle or Orthene in the hole. Thoe plants never got any insects on them. If you don't want to do this, try wrapping the plant in plastic and get a bag of used grounds from Starbucks, mix that with water until soupy and soak the plant in that for a few hours and that will take care of all the scales too without using pesticides. Tom Broome

    Bookmark   December 18, 2007 at 3:39PM
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Well put Sir Tom. And ditto on the Dioons not being bothered by the scale. I have also found Dioons resistant to mealy bugs even when adjacent to an infested Coontie.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2007 at 5:50PM
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awww man. :-(

So it looks like it's cutting I shall be. It wont kill it?

I'm new to Cycads. I'm well versed in roses, camellias and things that count as weeds, but outside of Yucca, the guys growine leaves out of what looks like pinecones are a mystery to me.

Thanks everyone for the help, the foliage that had the bugs is very discolored anyways, but I had hoped it would do something miraculous.

Thanks again,


    Bookmark   December 18, 2007 at 6:08PM
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cycadjungle(z9b Cent FL)

Some people on this forum get all irrate when I post a link to my website, which I understand, but for info, I have written an article on just about every cycad cultivation subject you can think of, which would help you out a lot. In fact, I wrote an article on transplanting cycads and I suggest cutting the leaves off anyway. When people call me on the phone to find out how to transplant cycads, many times they have that same leaf cutting question. So, this is something I tell them to illustrate how tough cycads are...... Back whe Cycas revolutas were first brought to the US from Japan in the late 1700s, they would take a large stem, cut off all the roots and cut off all the leaves, they would put the plants in the hold of a ship, and it would take about 3 months to get to the US. They would then be planted and they would start growing again in the spring without any problems. If you take care of your transplanted cycad better than that, it will be fine. The scales have weakened the plant a little and reduced the starch content of them stem, but you should be ok. Oh yes, sorry for the last post with all the spelling errors, I should have looked through that first. Tom

    Bookmark   December 18, 2007 at 11:09PM
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Very informative- thanks Tom! I don't know much about Cycads other than they are slow growers. How long would it take (if all the leaves were cut off) before they grow back? I have a couple of small ones, but considering how fast they grow, I havent given them much consideration. I do love the way they look! Do you recommend any fast growing cycads? Most companies that sell them tell you that all of them are 'relatively fast' even though they arent. To put it in perspective, The 2 that I have grew one new frond a year. Granted, I do keep mine indoors in winter and outdoors in summer, but STIlL! Talk about slow! :)

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 5:32PM
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cycadjungle(z9b Cent FL)

Well, that IS slow. When I originally conducted my fertilizer experiments over a 3 year period I found that a high nitrogen fertilizer like I mention in my article would make some species grow faster and for some, it didn't make any difference. So it comes to that some species react very well to fertilizer applications and some do not. In my experiments, I used good soil, good fertilizer and watered them with 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch of water every other day, and most were in a greenhouse. Given that, there were a half dozen species that were the best. (out of 70 species at that time and studying multiple plants per species) All of these were larger plants that typically don't produce as many flushes per year as seedlings usually do.
The best results were:
Cycas taitungensis at 6 flushes in a year
Encephalartos arenarius 5 flushes
Encephalartos ferox 4
Ceratozamia hildae 3-4
Cycas revoluta (king sago) 3-4
From there, most produced 2 flushes
and species like Dioon merolae produced 1
Faster growing can mean different things to different people. Larger cycads like Encephalartos laurentianus can be thought of as being the fastest to grow because in 3 years from seed you can get a plant that is already producing 7 foot long leaves with a 6 inch stem diameter. Cycas debaoensis is very fast growing and can produce a cone in 3 years, which is very fast for a cycas species, because king sagos being grown in good conditions will still take a good 10 years to produce a female cone which needs a stem size of 12 inches in height, on average. Many zamias will produce cones in 3 years and C. hildae will produce cones in 4 to 5 years, so when you think about fast growing you have decide if you are looking for a large plant, or something that matures in less time. A Zamia pygmea will proiduce male cones in just over 2 years, but 15 years later, the leaf spread might not be over 2 feet and no more than a foot tall.
Anyway, you are getting slow growth but if you have a sago and you are growing it inside where the sun is not where good enough for good growth, you can't expect a lot. Container size, soil, light, temperature, and water are all factors that will relate to how your plant grows. I can grow many cycads fairly fast compared to many people, but then on the other hand, I know someone who lives in Hawaii that kicks everyone's butts. I'm doing good, but on an encephalartos that takes 8 to 10 years for me to get female cones, in many cases, he has done it in 5 to 7 years.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 10:13PM
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Thanks for the info Tom. Don't worry about those people that would complain about a link to your site. Like many nurseries, such as Jungle Music, loads of useful information is found on their web sites.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 10:23AM
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I thin we gottum here in PSL also.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 8:24PM
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Regarding Orthene -

For the past 5 years I have been able to keep the Asian cycad scale pretty much at bay on our King Sago by spraying it with toxic insecticides as recommended by various local "experts". It's the only plant I spray in my yard, and I'd like to move on to something less toxic if possible.

How dangerous is Orthene to birds, lizards, pets, etc., compared to other insecticides?

Also, I would prefer to use a systemic control, and I recently read that Orthene is "locally systemic" if sprayed on the plant. How long does it last, and is it possible to get the same effect from watering the Sago with it rather than spraying it?

Thanks for any advice you can give me on this.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 12:22PM
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cycadjungle(z9b Cent FL)

Orthene lasts about a month. When this thread first came out, my article had not been published, but now I can send a link to the cure that doesn't use any pesticides. People all over the southern US have already cleaned up their cycas species, including Fairchild gardens in Miami. I now, have now used a pesticide in 2 1/2 years now on my 30,000 cycads.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 2:34PM
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Where the heck did you find enough coffee for 30K plants????

    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 7:05PM
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cycadjungle(z9b Cent FL)

Luckily, I haven't had to use anything on all the plants. I have never used insecticides unless I had a problem. I am using it as a mulch, probably on about 3000 plants. I go to Starbucks and get the big bags they are working on in the garbage can instead of getting the ones in the silver bags just to make it easier on everyone. Those bags have weighed as much as 80 pounds and they double bag those. That bag alone would have brewed 1500 gallons of spray. Now for mass spraying for all the smaller plants, every once in a while, I inject the liquid into the irrigation system and hit everything in the greenhouses, but I really have never had a big insect problem luckily.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 10:37PM
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Thank you for the article. I've started saving used coffee grounds at home and at work, and will be checking our local Starbucks. We have the only Sago left in our neighborhood. All the others died from neglect. Ours is huge and healthy, thanks to manganese sulfate, and I want to keep it that way just to annoy the neighbors a little!

One more question - has anyone ever tried coffee to control cinch bugs? Just wondering.....

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 11:32AM
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