How to Treat Scales on Cactus – 6 Causes & Solution

If you are searching for “How do you treat Scales on Cactus” before that let me tell you these can make the plant’s surface crusted fully. It is extremely important to treat it well and on time; otherwise, it can make the plant feeble, ultimately resulting in killing the plant. You must be thinking about what these insects are? Furthermore, you may also be wondering which techniques can prove helpful for its treatment. So, to know all these things, let’s delve into the article. 

Scale on Cactus

How do you treat scales on cactus? Treatment of scales on cactus would be by using insecticide, alcohol based solution or take them out manually with hands.  Scale on Cactus is common and in most places near gardening area female adults lays eggs that become scale which suck on cacti for sap juice and weakens it. The 

The methods mentioned below are useful in treating most pests not only scale. if you prevent them from early stage they won’t barge in to your cactus and your plant life would be saved.

What is the cactus scale?

We can define cactus scales as the scale insects that are attached to the sap of the cactus plants and feed from it. However, the cactus scales have an extensive range of species, for instance, Dactylopious and Diaspis Chino Cacti but all of these species have a lot of similarities, so it becomes difficult to distinguish them.

When it comes to the way of feeding, it is worth mentioning that these insects firstly insert their mouth into the juicy sap and start to suck it. In the initial stages, it only deteriorates the appearance of the plant. But in the case of extreme infestation, the plant can become highly weak and may die. 

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What does cacti scale look like?

What does cacti scale look like
Gilles San Martin from Namur, Belgium, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If we talk about the armored cactus appearance, it is imperative to mention that they have either round or oval scales and are dark. In addition to this, such scales are 1cm long in diameter. On the other hand, the soft scales are comparatively smaller in size. They have various colors besides black, brown, and gray. 

On the surface of cactus leaves and stems, the infestation of massive scales looks like cotton whitey mass. Here we will describe some common signs.


  • A white-colored coating on the cactus plants parts is quite identical to mealybugs. Moreover, there are also cases in which the whole plant turns white.


  • The plant’s leaves appear shiny, and when you touch them, they will feel sticky. Additionally, the surface or objects under this affected plant will also appear shiny as well as sticky.
  • Infested parts of the plant may become dry and have either white or yellow blots.
  • You can notice tanned or brown swollen areas on the plant.
  • Severe infestation in some cactus scales’ species, for instance, diaspis chino cacti, can make the whole plants’ surface crusty or gray.


What causes scale on cactus? 

In this section, we will shed some light on the causes of scales on cacti. It is extremely crucial to know the causes and make sure to prevent them. In North America, the cactus scales are common on local and imported succulents that include cactus. In the spring season, the adult females lay eggs, and then the young scales hatch out from the egg and are named crawlers. 

With the passage of time, these crawlers grow and become adults. Then just like their parents, they move to different areas and start consuming juices of plants. They also discharge honeydew, which are the small sugar droplets that gather on foliage below.

How do you treat scales on cactus?

Cactus scales, particularly the armored type of cactus scales, are stubborn, and it is challenging to get rid of them because it has an armored shell that plays a major role in keeping predators far away from them. 

Owing to this rigidity, you must have to treat the plant at least twice so you can free your plant from cactus scales. But if they are more intense, you may go for more treatments. The cactus scales can damage all of your cactus plants, so be quick and take action as soon as possible to minimize the loss of the plant.

Here we will share the details of some effective ways for treating scales on cacti, so depending upon the number of cactus scales and plant type, you should go for the most suitable way. 

1. Go for erasing the cactus scale manually

This is quite a convenient method of treatment. Take the old credit card tweezers, or you may go for fingernails for removing the cactus scales.

It should be noted that the cactus scales are quite different from other pests, and they don’t move actively here and there on their prey. Rather it sticks to the leaves and stems. Furthermore, it stays there for almost two weeks prior to moving to other areas of plants.

So, it is an effective method to go for and  it doesn’t demand much hard work as well. Always bear in mind that this way of treatment can only prove helpful if the insects are in small quantity.

2. Apply Isopropyl Alcohol

The undiluted form of isopropyl alcohol can prove effective when killing the cactus scales or several other types of pests involved in the infestation of succulents. This method of scale on cactus treatment is beneficial for those plants that are more prone to damage. So, going for other treatment methods may result in damaging these plants. 

The process of this method is to take the same amount of undiluted isopropyl alcohol and water and mix some drops of dish soap into it. Shift this solution into a spray pump, and your spray is ready. After that, you have to spray this solution all over the affected cactus. Then you have to wait for a period of ten minutes, and after this, you have to scrape off the dead scales. 

If you want to get maximum results, repeat this treatment every week until your plant is scales-free. It is important to mention here that you can utilize cotton swab as well and can spread it to the colony. 

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3. Go for using insecticidal soap

Insecticidal soap is a solution having less toxicity. Commonly gardeners used it to get rid of the bugs as well as scales. When it comes to its composition, it is basically a potassium salt that has fatty acids. It is produced by adding fatty acids into chemical compounds such as alkalis. These fatty acids are present in natural oils taken to make insecticidal soap. 

Add a quart of water with insecticidal soap’s one tablespoon such as if you have one gallon of water, you need to add almost 4-5 tablespoons of the soap. Apply this solution to the infected part of the plant. After 10 minutes, scrape off the dead scales with the help of a soft brush. Do this treatment every seven days and repeat it until you get rid of scales.

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4. Biological Control 

Biological control can be defined as the biocontrol that depends on herbivory predation, parasitism, and several other natural processes for the purpose of pest control. So, for the treatment of scales, you need to introduce ladybugs, lacewings, or Mealybug destroyers that can feed on the scales having a soft body.

Keep in mind that there are some demerits of the biological process as well. Firstly the utilization of ladybugs and lacewings usually demands an active involvement by the humans. In addition, the treatment will not have any effect in the case of large-scale infestation.

5. Pruning of affected parts

Pruning is another effective way of treatment for getting rid of scales that are present on large cacti plants. It is important to define pruning here; it is the reduction or removal of those areas of dead and dying plants. In other words, we can say that removing those parts of plants that have no aesthetical appearance or those that are lethal for the overall health or development of that plant. 

You need to prune the affected leaves and stems and dispose of them. Furthermore, if the whole plant is damaged and it becomes impossible to treat it, it is inevitable to quarantine it immediately. If you delay quarantining it, it may affect the nearby plants. Even after separating it, make sure to keep checking other plants regularly.

6. Practice Great Cultural Techniques

If you possess a strong immune system, you can combat infections and diseases in a better way, and the same applies to plants. It is highly significant to keep good care of your plant because a healthy plant has the tendency to overcome insect and pest infestation. Therefore ensure to provide your plants with excellent conditions such as sunlight, proper drainage, and water.

In addition to this, you must take care of plant hygiene, and for that, you need to remove the dead and decaying leaves. If the cactus plant is healthy, it must have upright spines and strong succulent stems. Furthermore, it should have leaves that possess either a greenish or bluish appearance.

But if you notice some white, brown, or gray mass on the leaves’ surface, then it’s a clear sign that there is something wrong with your plant. So, in this situation, you have to go for treatment so you can save your plant from the scales. 

How do you stop scales on cactus?

You can stop scales on cactus by using insecticidal soap and it can be sprayed on the cactus leaves. Secondly If the cactus is fully infected with scales then use neem oil with malathion and mix it, this can be an effective solution for stopping scales on cactus. Same way this can work on many plants as well as succulents. 

Nowadays there are so many insecticides, scale treatment solutions in the market. If you want to use a direct liquid that uses a different formula but works best for scale treatment then below is the link for it.

Here is the horticultural oil that has a pesticide & insecticide blend. It is used to control aphids, insects, whiteflies, and scales. This solution is specially formulated for these types of pests. You can use it in any of the indoor, outdoor plants.

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How fast does scale spread?

Scale insect life cycle has multiple stages, and the whole cycle will take about 7-10 weeks. Firstly, the eggs need a few weeks, the eggs will be hatched, and the nymphs will be released, also named crawlers. After that, these crawlers can grow to adults, and this process will take another 6-9 weeks.

Remember that the eggs and nymphs of scale insects have small sizes; therefore, most people could not notice their presence, and when they get to know about it, its population has already increased to a great extent.

Fortunately, they do not affect the plants quickly, and hence you get some time to go for treatment. They are not much fast compared to the various other pests, and they are not extremely devastating. But you need to be highly careful about it, and it’s imperative to keep an eagle eye on your plant.

If you don’t care about your plant, it may cause huge damage, and you may have to deprive yourself of your favorite plant. Additionally, while buying the plant, check it and ensure there is no pest on it. While adding soil to the pot, make sure it must not be contaminated. Moreover, it is imperative to NOT put your plants outside during the summer season. Crawlers are extremely small so that they may enter from an open window, so make sure there is no place for the entrance of scales. 

Do cactuses get scales?

Yes, the cactus got scales. Basically, the scales are pests, and for feeding, they attach to the plant’s surface. They can attack both indoor as well as outdoor plants. In some cases, only a few scales attack, and the damage is bearable. If you want to control things, you must opt for treatment; otherwise, they may reproduce, and their quantity will enhance.

On the flip side, there are some cases in which they are in large numbers and can make the whole surface of the plant white. Furthermore, in such a situation, they may damage the plant to an extreme level, and eventually, it dies. 

Types of scale insects 

Scale insects are diverse and a big group, and it has 8,000 species that are described. They belong to the order Hemiptera’s Coccidae’s family. Commonly there are two types of scales the one is soft scales, and the other is armored scales.

  • Soft Scales

The soft scales are more significant as compared to the other group, and they are commonly found in indoor plants. The shape of soft scales is round to oval dome, and after maturity, their size is 1/8 to 1/4 inch. 

  • Armored Scales 

The Armored scales belong to the Diaspididae family. They have a waxy and hard covering on their body. Their size is smaller than soft scales, and they usually range between 1/16-1/18 inches.

Cactus Care

We have mentioned in this article that taking care of your plant in the best possible can play a significant role in keeping the plant healthy. So, your plant can fight insects and pests. Here are a few tips that will guide you about cactus care:


  •         Provide enough light to the plant(but avoid giving it too much exposure)
  •         Water cacti plant and don’t think that cacti don’t require water
  •         Utilize the right fertilizer and soil for the cacti plant
  •         Get rid of decayed and damaged areas of cacti plant


If you follow all these tips accurately, it will surely assist in improving the health quality of your cacti plant.


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Wrap Up

I hope you get the answer on “What does cacti scale look like”. Also Check my other articles.

  1. Why Is My Cactus Squishy? (10 Reasons And How to Fix Them)
  2. Cactus Corking: What Is It, How To Identify And What To Do
  3. 15 Tall Cactus Plants With Names
  4. What Type Of Cactus Do I Have? Ways To Identify Your Cacti Type
  5. Does Cactus Need Direct Sunlight?
  6. Is Peruvian Apple Cactus the Same As San Pedro Cactus?
  7. Cactus Puns: Pricklin’ Funny Power Words That Make Life Succ
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  9. Why is Cactus Fruit Called Tuna?
  10. Is Cactus a Fruit Or Vegetable?
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  12. Can You Eat Cactus – Edible & Non Edible List
  13. Understanding the Differences between Cactus and Aloe Vera
  14. How to Graft Moon Cactus: Propagate Without Grafting Possible?
  15. Moon Cactus Growing Arms, Propagation, Care, Grafting
  16. Health Benefits Of Cactus Tuna Fruit

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Amelia Clark

I'm Amelia Clark , a seasoned florist and gardening specialist with more than 15 years of practical expertise. Following the completion of my formal education, I dedicated myself to a flourishing career in floristry, acquiring extensive understanding of diverse flower species and their ideal cultivation requirements. Additionally, I possess exceptional skills as a writer and public speaker, having successfully published numerous works and delivered engaging presentations at various local garden clubs and conferences. Check our Social media Profiles: Facebook Page, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Youtube, Instagram Tumblr

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