Soft scale insects

Soft scale insects

Are you spotting brown or yellowish "caps" at the leaf and stem attachments? There's a good chance you're dealing with a soft scale insect! A nasty pest that is also harmful to your plant. Despite the fact that the plague is difficult to combat, your plant fortunately has a good chance of survival. Have you spotted a soft scale insect? Then put your shoulders to the wheel and get to work on fighting them as soon as possible. Here you can read all about the cock aphid and the best ways to combat it.

What is a soft scale insect?

A soft scale is a louse that has a shield. The shield is fused to the body and is therefore attached to the insect, unlike the scale insect where the shield is separate from the insect. Soft scale inare a common pest and are found on the leaves, stems and stem of a plant. Small scale insects are often light brown or green/yellow. Larger ones can be recognized as brown caps located on the plant. They are often clustered around the veins of the plant. By the way, there are different types of soft scale insects, such as the flat, half and wounded. Generally, they are about 4 millimeters in size and are brown or gray in color.

Only female soft scales are produced. Therefore, no intercourse is required to reproduce! When the female soft top louse matures she produces eggs that hatch inside her body, giving birth to very small caterpillars, or crawlers. These caterpillars live under their mother's hard cap for the first few days, but then move to colonize parts of the plant. The stem is the most favorite place of the cap caterpillars, but they can also occur on the leaves. This initial "creeping period" is the insect's most mobile stage. It is at this stage that they are most likely to infest the plant and other plants because they can spread easily.

Once the little caterpillars have found a nice spot they will settle down and begin feeding through their straw-like mouths. They insert their proboscis into the plant's phloem vessels to ingest sugar-rich fluids. As they do this, they excrete the excess water and excess sugars back out. This leaves a sticky, shiny substance on the plant: honeydew.

Within a week or two of the caterpillar stage, they will molt into a second stage. Here they are still very small, about 1 millimeter. At this stage, the soft-bodied aphid can still move, but usually does not. This second stage can take up to 8 weeks before they molt back to the adult form. The adult soft top louse grows considerably as the females produce eggs and those within her "shell" mature. Once they begin to reproduce, a few crawlers will be born every day. She keeps this up for about 3 to 4 weeks before dying.

How do I recognise soft scale insects?

There are thousands of species of lice in the world. The soft scale belongs to the Coccidea family, which in turn belongs to the scale insects. A soft scale is a small insect with a hard "cap". This protects them from natural enemies and insecticides. You can easily recognise the scale insect with the eye. If your plant is suffering from a scale insect, you will see many brown or yellowish "scales" at the leaf and stem attachments. You can easily wipe the scales off the leaf. The cap of the soft scale makes this insect difficult to control.

The soft, waxy outer layer of the soft scales cannot be separated from the insect. So the cap is really attached to their body, unlike the scale insect where the shell is separate from the insect body. Another sign of soft scale is the honeydew or sooty mold. This sticky substance and fungus can be present on and under the leaves of affected branches.


How do soft scale insects damage my plants?

Soft scales feed on the juices from your plant. They pierce the plant tissue with their proboscis, which resembles a straw, and attach themselves to the vein. There they suck nutrients from the plant, weakening your plant and making it look less beautiful. The surplus sugars from the nutrients are excreted by the plant lice and is called honeydew. This nectar-like substance is also left behind by aphids, scale insects, mealybugs and white flies, among others. The honeydew forms the perfect base for mold growth and can be recognized by a black, sooty layer on the leaves. This is sooty mold!

In addition to poking holes in the plant with their proboscis, the presence of sooty mold and/or honeydew can also stunt the growth of the plant. The sticky layer can cover the plant to the point of suffocation. If the leaves are covered in honeydew and sooty mold, the plant is simply not getting enough light.

Do you already see honeydew or sooty mold on your plant? Then don't ignore these signs! This is because growth may be stunted and your plant's leaves may eventually die. In addition, the sweet honeydew can also attract other insects which can cause even more plant damage and viruses!


How can I prevent soft scale insects?

Prevention is better than cure, but unfortunately we can't 100% prevent your plant from getting soft scales. However, you can take a few precautions to reduce the chance of getting these scales. Soft scales travels with the wind and can also be found on your clothes or, for example, your pet. This makes us, unknowingly, the biggest spreaders of the pests! You should also make sure to inspect and clean any new plants, pots or plant tools before you use them on your little plants. Unfortunately, no matter how careful you are, there is still a chance of soft scales.


A well cared for and healthy plant is the best protection against diseases and plagues. Therefore, make sure that your plant is in the right location, receives the right amount of light and water and once in a while give it some extra plant nutrition. To protect your plant against scale insects you should also make sure that your plant is not in a draught. The scales blow with the wind or choose your coat to ride on. They see your green houseplant as the perfect landing strip. If a plague of soft lice should occur, the plant will be well cared for and strong enough to survive the attack. Cuttings and young plants often do not have enough strength to withstand an attack on their delicate roots. If you suspect that you have a plague of soft scale, keep a super close eye on it and intervene as soon as possible!

How can I control soft scale insects?

Have you found scale insects in your houseplant? Then it's important to start fighting them as soon as possible! Fortunately, there is no reason to panic yet. Your green friend will not die immediately because of the scales. However, the leaves are affected and the chance of diseases and fungi through the honeydew is greater. With cuttings and young plants it can go wrong quickly: They are not yet so strong! So it is very important to treat them immediately.

Once one of your plants is infected, there is a big chance that the soft scale will also infect your other plants. Therefore you should separate the infected plant from your other plants, preferably in a separate room. Female scale insects do not need males to reproduce, which means that you could have a persistent infestation on your hands in no time. With the following tips we hope that you will be rid of the soft scale insects quickly so that your plant can live happily ever after!

PLNTSdoctor Kit

Suffering from soft scales in your plants? Then the PLNTSdoctor Kit is the perfect remedy! Among other things, the kit contains neem oil. This is a natural miracle cure for pests and fungi on your plant. Make a mixture with neem oil, water and detergent and pour it into a plant sprayer. Spray your plant and possibly the potting soil with this. Keep in mind that the scale insects are not immediately gone, it may take a few days: so keep on spraying and checking!

Fight the soft scale with methylated spirits

An age-old remedy for, among other things, combating soft scale is methylated spirits. Apply it to a cotton swab and dot all the soft scale insects one by one. You can also mix a little spirit with water and give the plant a nice spray. It is quite a precise job, because you have to make sure that you really get to each and every soft louse. Besides the leaves, also check the underside and the stems of the plant. Repeat weekly and keep checking in between to make sure all bugs are really gone.

Ecocure Leaf Insect Spray

This insect spray is an alternative to chemical pesticides. It is safe for humans, animals and the environment and therefore perfect for a simple way to combat your affected plant. Spray the product homogeneously over the plants where you have spotted the soft scale. Do not forget to include the underside of the leaves, where the soft scales are often hidden! Treat from the moment you see the first insects and spray twice a week, with one week in between.

PLNTS Hacks against soft scale insects

If you search online for the best way to fight soft scale you will come across a huge number of options. It is good to know that there is not one specific method that works for everyone. For some plants one way works better than the other. It's a matter of trying!

Below you will find a number of alternative hacks that will help you fight the soft scale insects.


You can control soft scale insects by watering the affected leaves with cold coffee. If necessary, add some extra water to the cold coffee so you can spray several plants with it. Cold coffee is a natural solution and is not harmful to the health of your plant. So you can feel free to repeat the method with coffee several times, until the plant has no more soft scale.

Garlic and onions

Since garlic and onion is poisonous to soft scale, it works super well to control the critters. Boil 1 liter of water and add about five cloves of garlic and 2 onions in rings to it. Let it boil for a few minutes and then cool down. Then add a generous dash of organic dish soap to the mixture and pour it into a plant sprayer. Because the leaves of some plants may react to the mixture, it is best to spray a few leaves as a test. If after a day or two no changes can be seen in the leaves you can safely treat the entire plant. Don't forget to also spray the underside of the leaves and the petioles thoroughly. Repeat the control until all the scale insects are gone.

Hi, I'm Emma, your guide!

Hi, I’m Emma, your guide!