Identifying and Treating Magnolia Scale

When you see yellow or brown leaves on your magnolia or tulip trees, you may assume the plant is diseased or stressed. However, in many cases, the problem is actually a type of scale insect known as the magnolia scale. These tiny insect pests are very difficult to see with the naked eye and are easily overlooked. As a result, it’s common for a magnolia to develop an infestation before its owner realizes something is wrong. Luckily, once you know what you’re looking for, diagnosing and treating this pest is fairly straightforward. Let’s take a look at some of the most common symptoms of magnolia scale and learn about some effective treatment options.

Identifying Magnolia Scale

Magnolia scale is a very small insect that grows on the bark of trees and shrubs. When full-grown, these pests can be as small as 1/2 of an inch long, making them almost invisible to the naked eye. Magnolia scales are gray or brown in color, have a waxy exterior, and have several tiny legs. When magnolia scale nymphs are young, they are red in color and immobile. This means that if you discover red on your magnolia tree, you are almost certainly dealing with magnolia scale. If you see red on your magnolia tree, you can be almost certain that you have an infestation of magnolia scale. Magnolia scale leaves behind a sticky substance on the bark of trees. This substance can look like a brown or yellow crust and is often referred to as “honeydew.”

Treating Magnolia Scale

There are a few different magnolia scale treatment options available. These include biological sprays, chemical sprays, soaps, and oils. The majority of these treatment options are only effective against magnolia scale nymphs. These immature pests are red in color, meaning that adult magnolia scales, which are gray and brown, are much less susceptible to most treatment options. The most effective way to treat magnolia scale is with an insecticide spray. There are a number of effective options available, including those that are biological or chemical in nature. Biological sprays use the pests’ natural predators to kill them and are generally considered the most environmentally friendly treatment option. If you are primarily concerned with aesthetics, you may want to try an oil or soap treatment. These treatment options are generally only effective when used to treat nymphs and are not very effective at killing adult magnolia scales.

How to Get Rid of Magnolia Scales

The best way to get rid of magnolia scales is to use a combination of biological and chemical sprays. Start by treating your magnolia tree with insecticides designed to kill magnolia scale, such as a product containing oil sprays or neem oil. If you have a large magnolia tree, it may be helpful to treat the entire tree. Treating the large bottom branches first and moving your way up the tree should help you hit all the insects on the tree. Once your magnolia scale treatment has been applied, you need to wait a few days for it to take effect. Treat your tree again after you see the initial signs of treatment wearing off. You may need to treat your magnolia tree as many as two or three times in order to completely eliminate the magnolia scale infestation.

How to Prevent Future Infestations

The best way to prevent future magnolia scale infestations is to keep your magnolia tree healthy. Magnolia scales feed on leaves and buds, which can damage your tree and lead to yellow or brown leaves. Keeping your magnolia tree properly maintained can help prevent a magnolia scale infestation and allow your tree to remain healthy. You may also want to consider planting magnolias in a part of your garden that is more out of the way. Magnolia trees need a lot of sunlight, which is why they are often planted near the center of the garden. If your magnolia tree is getting too close to your house, it may make more sense to plant it in a more shaded area of your garden where it will be protected from harmful UV rays. Magnolia scales thrive in warm, sunny areas, so planting your tree in a slightly shadier area may help keep it safe from this insect pest.


Magnolia scales are tiny, almost invisible pests that can cause yellow or brown leaves on your magnolia tree. The best way to get rid of these pests is to use a combination of biological and chemical sprays. Once treated, you should keep your tree healthy to prevent future magnolia scale infestations. The magnolia scale is a common issue for magnolia trees and is easily treated with the right tools.

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