How to spot harmful ‘sap sucking’ bug on hydrangeas – natural ways to get rid of insect

Gardening: Monty Don's washing up water tip in dry weather

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Hydrangea scale is a “sap sucking” insect, according to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). It is found on hydrangeas but can also feed on other woody plants including acer and prunus.

The RHS said hydrangea scale became established in Britain during the 1980s and has since become a widespread problem in English gardens.

It can also be found in parts of Scotland and Wales.

The RHS explained: “Affected plants can suffer a lack of vigour and leaf loss caused by the insect sucking sap from the foliage and stems.

“This is one of many types of scale insects encountered by gardeners.”

The experts said immatures scales are difficult to see and the presence of them becomes apparent in early summer.

This is when the adult scales deposit eggs on the stems and leaves.

Gardeners may see eggs which are covered in white waxy fibres that form smooth, oval patches.

According to the RHS, these white patches will persist on the plant long after the eggs have hatched.

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They added: “You may see newly hatched scales which are less than one millimetre long and are pale yellow.

“The crawler stage can be distributed in wind currents.”

Heavily affected plants lack vigour and may shed their leaves.

To help resolve the problem should it arise, gardeners should check susceptible plants frequently from spring onwards.

This can help them take action before a damaging population has developed.

The RHS said: “When choosing control options you should minimise harm to non-target animals by starting with the methods in the non-pesticide control section.

“If this is not sufficient to reduce the damage to acceptable levels then you may choose to use pesticides.”

Where possible, gardeners should tolerate populations of scale insects.

The experts said well looked after plants should be able to tolerate light populations.

Heavily infested plants can be removed and replaced.

Gardeners can also try to encourage predators into the garden including ladybirds.

The RHS said ladybirds as well as some birds will eat scale insects.

If seen, they can also be removed by hand.

However, this may not reduce large populations.

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