WHB #87: My Bay Tree is under attack!

Imagine the horror. I go outside to my herb garden (for this is also my post for Weekend Herb Blogging, over at Rachel’s Bite) to pick leaves from my Bay Tree to find they’re all covered in a sticky mess and strange small lumps. It’s the dreaded scale insect (cue scary music).

Bay Leaf

I’m not much of a gardener at the best of times and the extent of my talents is cutting the grass, pruning herbs, and picking berries from the handful of bushes in my garden. When something like this goes wrong, I’m usually stuck – but I’ve seen this one before (and thought I had it beat!).

There’s a few symptoms of scale insect infestation that give it away. Firstly there’s a sticky residue on the upper side of the leaves, which is secreted by the insects on the leaves above. Secondly there might be a fuzzy mould growing on the leaves – this feeds on the sticky stuff (‘honeydew’). Lastly, as you can see in the photograph, are these strange brown insects not more than a couple of millimetres long.

Dealing with Scale Insect

The insects are easily scraped off with the blunt end of a table knife, after which the leaves should be wiped down with alcohol. I’m lucky that my tree is still quite small so I can do this – but it would be impossible with a larger one (in which case, chemicals are called for).

Apparently, ladybirds (ladybugs) are great predators of the scale insect, too. I found one in the garden, sat it on the tree, and waited to see what would happen. Maybe my management style needs refining as the ladybird appeared entirely unaware of it’s purpose and promptly flew away.

Does anybody else have any tips on how to deal with this little scaly pest?