What Is Soft Scale?

Soft scales are not just any type of scale insects. They are very different from other types of scale insects. For example, they have no hard exoskeleton like most other kinds of scale insects. Their body is made up mostly of soft tissue such as hair, feathers or even fat which makes them very difficult to identify with certainty when seen under a microscope. Some species may look similar but some species have distinct differences.

How Do You Know If A Plant Has Scales?

Scales are usually found on plants at the base of leaves and stems. These scales will vary in color depending upon their size, shape and location. Most commonly, these scales are brownish or blackish in color. Other types of scales include yellowish-brown, greenish-black, pinkish-white or white with red markings (see image).

The best way to tell if your plant has scales is to use a magnifying glass. If you see scales on the surface of the leaf, then it probably does indeed have scales. However, sometimes scales may appear on parts of the leaf that do not touch the ground. In such cases, it is possible that there are no scales present at all!

Sometimes these non-scaled areas might contain small hairs or other organic matter.

The presence of red, purple or yellow spots on the underside of leaves is an indication that your plant might have mealy bugs or other types of insects instead.

Soft Scale Characteristics

Soft scales are a specific type of insect known as Hemiptera. This order of insect contains many different types including mealy bugs, aphids, and even cicadas. Of these, soft scales are most closely related to mealy bugs. Like other insects in this order, female soft scales have a swollen looking body and large appetites.

Unlike other types of insects in this order though, adult female soft scales do not have wings. This is why when they are born they look nothing like their adult forms. Even as nymphs, they do not have the plump body of their parents.

Where Do You Find Soft Scales?

Most types of soft scales like to live in trees, shrubs and other areas that contain plants. Most types of soft scales also prefer to live on the underside of leaves where they are least likely to be exposed to human predators. There are many different types of these insects and each one has their own preferences for what types of plant they like as well as where they prefer to lay their eggs.

Sources & references used in this article:

Systematic Catalogue of the Soft Scale Insects of the World by Y Ben-Dov – 2020 – books.google.com

Scale insects of central Europe by M Kosztarab, F Kozár – 2012 – books.google.com

An exceptional family: Ophiocordyceps‐allied fungus dominates the microbiome of soft scale insects (Hemiptera: Sternorrhyncha: Coccidae) by P Gomez‐Polo, MJ Ballinger, M Lalzar… – Molecular …, 2017 – Wiley Online Library

Grapevine leafroll-associated virus 3 (GLRaV-3) transmission by three soft scale insect species (Hemiptera: Coccidae) with notes on their biology by K Krüger, N Douglas-Smit – African Entomology, 2013 – BioOne

Biology of the hyperparasite Marietta javensis (Howard)(Hymenoptera: Aphelinidae) reared on Microterys flavus (Howard) in brown soft scale by D Kfir – Journal of the Entomological Society of southern Africa, 1981 – journals.co.za

Tests of male soft scale insects (Homoptera: Coccidae) from America north of Mexico, including a key to the species by GL MILLER, ML WILLIAMS – Systematic Entomology, 1990 – Wiley Online Library

Phylogeny and higher classification of the scale insects (Hemiptera: Sternorrhyncha: Coccoidea) by PJ Gullan, LG Cook – Zootaxa, 2007 – ibigbiology.com

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