The brown soft scale is an insect pest that feeds on numerous ornamental, fruit and flowering plants throughout the world, and they are well known for being one of the most commonly encountered plant pests within homes. In southern regions of the US, brown soft scales are frequent pests of both indoor and outdoor ornamental plants, but in Massachusetts and other northern regions, these pests infest and feed almost exclusively on plants within homes and buildings.

While it is difficult to accurately estimate the number of plant species that serve as hosts to brown soft scales, the latest research states that these pests infest at least 125 plant families in 363 genera. Many pest control professionals claim that Ficus, Schefflera, English ivy, ferns and citrus are just a few of the common indoor plants that frequently become infested with these extremely destructive insect pests. Brown soft scale pests use their piercing mouthparts to suck sap from stems and roots, which causes a thick and sticky coat of honeydew to form on leaves, which usually attracts ants into homes. The honeydew develops fungal growths, and heavy feeding causes leaves to shed and branches to retract from dehydration.

In addition to establishing particularly heavy infestations within indoor potted plants that are unusually difficult to eradicate, brown soft scales reproduce indoors, induce mold growth on plants, and attract additional insect pests into homes, particularly ants. Eliminating brown soft scale infestations typically requires professional pest control treatments, and several types of chemical, non-chemical, organic and biological pest control tactics have been successfully employed to combat these pests within homes.

According to reports filed by state agricultural officials during the early 1900s, brown soft scales were discovered numerous times within plant shipments arriving in Massachusetts from western Europe. The flat, oval-shaped and reddish-brown adults are slightly convex and around ¼ of an inch in length, while immature specimens are similar in appearance but slightly smaller. However, during their mobile stage, these pests are oval-shaped, pink, and possess six pairs of visible legs as well as two prominent hairs on their abdomen.

Have you ever brought insect-infested potted plants into your home?