Barnacle Scales

Barnacle scale insects look like unmoving growths on your cannabis stems and leaves

by Nebula Haze

How to Identify Barnacle Scales / Wax Scales

These unusual bugs hang out on your stems and under your leaves without moving. Scale insects suck the life out of stems and leaves, weakening your plant if the infestation gets out of hand. They may also release a sweet sticky substance known as “honeydew” (similar to aphids) which can attract ants and cause dark patches of sooty mold to appear on your plant. Luckily, scales aren’t the worst bugs for cannabis plants as they are relatively easy to remove, but you should get rid of them as soon as you notice them.

Wax scale insects are like barnacles on your plants. They gather on your stems and leaves but basically stop moving once they find a spot they like.

Example of barnacles / scales on a cannabis plantSome scales prefer to live on stems while others prefer leaves. These red scales have made themselves right at home on these marijuana leaves

Example of red scale bugs living on a marijuana leafHere’s a closer look at those red scale insects

Closeup picture of a red scale insect on a marijuana leaf

Scales can look like different things even though they all act the same. Some scale insects look like round growths on the plant, while others actually look like bugs

Example of a scale insect (barnacle) on a marijuana plant

All scale-like insects don’t move around a whole lot after they get established. They just sort of hang out and steal energy from your plant.

Example of a scale insect (barnacle that looks like a dark mealybug) on a cannabis plant

If you see bugs that look similar but are white and crawling around, you actually have mealybugs

If you have a bug that looks like a scale insect, but it's white and moving around, you actually have mealybugs

Solutions to Scale Insects

The way to treat barnacles or scale insects is almost exactly the same as what you would do for aphids.

1.) Remove all barnacle scales with a power sprayer

The first step to treating this insect infestation is to remove all the bugs from your plant. The easiest way to do that, in my experience, is to use a “One-Hand Pressure Sprayer” to physically spray off all the bugs. You can also remove heavily infected parts of the plant, and you can rub them off, but I’ve found you can remove 99% of them with a power sprayer. To double the effectiveness, use one of the insecticides below while spraying, so you’re getting rid of them and treating the plant against future attacks at the same time.

A One-Hand Pressure Sprayer is perfect for misting plants

2.) Insecticidal soaps

Fatty acid salts or insecticidal soaps can be a good choice against barnacles and wax scale insects. They weaken the outer shell of scales but are safe to use on your plants and they don’t leave much of a residue.

With soaps, coverage is very important as it does not stay on your plant for long, so follow-up applications may be necessary. Although this is considered safe, avoid getting any on your buds!

Get Inseticidal soap to kill cannabis aphids - available on Amazon.com!

3.)  Neem Oil

Neem Oil will leave an unpleasant taste/smell on buds when used to treat flowering plants, so again, don’t let this stuff get near your buds! There’s also some evidence Neem oil may be harmful to humans so use with care! That being said, Neem oil is an all-natural remedy that is very effective against many different types of bugs and mold including scales. You will need a mister (also called a “One-Hand Pressure Sprayer”) to spray all the leaves evenly since neem oil and water can separate easily.

Get Neem Oil Extract on Amazon.com! A One-Hand Pressure Sprayer is perfect for misting plants

4.) Spinosad

Spinosad Products (safe & organic) – Spinosad products are organic and completely harmless to pets, children, and plants. Spinosad products should be sprayed liberally anywhere you see scales and especially under the leaves. It may kill some scales on contact but their hard shell makes them resistant, so try to fully cover all the vegetation. Although maybe not as strong against pests as some of the more harsh insecticides, it does work and it’s very safe for plants, animals, and humans!

Recommended: Monterey Garden Insect Spray with Spinosad

Spinosad is an organic insecticide made from the fermentation of a specific soil bacteria (actinomycete Saccharopolyspora spinosa) and kills scales via ingestion or contact by affecting the insect’s nervous system. Spinosad can be a good choice for organic and outdoor growers, because it is very toxic to barnacles and scales, but is less toxic to many beneficial insects and spiders.

Note: Most spinosad products are effective for only about 24 hours after being mixed with water, so only mix as much as you will need per application. Anything left over will be waste.

You will need a mister (also called a “One-Hand Pressure Sprayer”) to cover all the leaves evenly when spraying them with spinosad products.

Spinosad products are organic and kill spider mites, caterpillers and thrips    A One-Hand Pressure Sprayer is perfect for misting plants

5.) Essentria IC3

Essentria IC3 Insecticide is a mix of various horticultural oils that is organic and safe for humans. It is often marketed as a “bed bug killer” but it can be effective against broad mites or russet mites when the plants are treated regularly. Unfortunately, it only stays effective on the plant for about 8 hours so you will want to either apply this daily or combine with other options. You will need a mister (also called a “One-Hand Pressure Sprayer”) to spray all the leaves evenly.

Get Essentria IC3 insecticide on Amazon.com - this can be a tool in the fight against broad mites or  A One-Hand Pressure Sprayer is perfect for misting plants

6.) Beneficial Insects

Beneficial insects, such as lady beetles, lady bugs, and lacewings may eat large numbers of scales and are welcome guests in the garden. Although you can order ladybugs to release around your plants, they tend to fly away in just a day or two. Additionally, the reproductive capability of scales is so great that the impact of the natural enemies may not be enough to keep scales at or below acceptable levels after an infestation has already gotten started. But they definitely don’t hurt!

 

 


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