Sago Palms: Cycad Scale

I've recently received calls about sago palms and "some white stuff" on them. Others have described it as a "snow-like dusting" or even "a white fungus like film." In most cases, the problem is an insect called Cycad Scale.

sagopalmCycad is the scientific name for sago palms. Tiny and white, cycad scales cover and leech on sago palm fronds. The technical name of this troublesome insect is Cycad aulacaspis scale, which is also known as Asian Cycad Scale.

These insects were inadvertently brought here from Thailand and were first found in Florida in the early 1990s. Recently, they made a devastating impact in the Rio Grande Valley here in Texas.

Cycad scales are easily controlled with insecticidal sprays or a homemade organic scale control. However, the problem is that the average homeowner fails to notice the condition and take the proper course of action before the infestation is beyond repair.

In Texas, cycad scale problems emerged in 2001. I discovered the insects on my sagos last year, and I treated the condition by using Malathion on the entire plant. I haven't seen the problem since.

sagopalmIf you have serious infestation, prune off fronds that are heavily coated with cycad scales. To help prevent re-infestation, dispose cuttings in double-sealed plastic bags. For the earliest onset of these pests, chemical controls like Malathion work wonderfully. Other products for control are Acephate or Carbaryl (Sevin).

Organically, there are two ways to get control. You can use a dormant oil spray in December and January, or you can use our homemade version of scale control. Licensed applicators, such as pest control companies or certified landscaping services, can also use products containing dimethoate, pyriproxyfen and dinotefuran.

The best way to prevent cycad scale infestation is to check your sago palms once a week or at least once every two weeks. That way, you can look for anything out of the ordinary and catch these pests in their earliest of stages.

Randy Lemmon is the host of the GardenLine radio program on Newsradio 740 KTRH. Randy has been doing GardenLine in one capacity or another since December of 1995, for all three of the now Clear Channel AM stations - KTRH, KPRC & KBME. When Randy took over GardenLine, he replaced long-time Houston radio veteran and GardenLine originator, Bill Zak. For those who remember that far back, GardenLine was a weekly radio staple on KTRH from 10 a.m. to Noon Mondays through Fridays - along with a Saturday show as well. Now GardenLine is heard exclusively on Newsradio 740 KTRH on weekend mornings.