Brown Soft Scales & Ants on Lemon Trees

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Brown Soft Scales & Ants on Lemon Trees
Brown scale insects can kill lemon tree twigs. (Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Brown scales are soft-bodied insects that can damage lemon trees far more than their tiny dimensions would suggest. These immobile, round flat pests blend almost invisibly into a lemon tree's surface. Ants are a telltale sign of brown scale infestation.

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Brown Scales

Motionless, adult female scales produce several small batches of eggs on lemon trees in the course of a summer. The quickly hatching, yellow-shelled larvae crawl and feed on the trees' twigs and leaves.

Scale Effects

Adult and larval brown scales suck on lemon tree leaves. Heavy populations can weaken tees, kill new growth and reduce fruit crops. Scales also produce honeydew, a sticky, ant- and sooty mould-attracting waste. The ants protect scales from predatory insects. Sooty mould-covered lemons have reduced commercial value.

Ant Control

Removing the ants that discourage brown scales' predators is critical to controlling the largely pesticide-resistant insects. Cut back tall grass and prune low-hanging branches that allow ants access to the trees. Paint a band of sticky polybutene material around the trunks to trap ascending ants.

Ant Control Effects

Eliminating ants from your lemon trees encourages the return of brown scale's enemies for natural control. The insects include ladybirds, spiders, lacewings and the parasitic wasp Metaphycus angustifrons.

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