Our Entomologist Explains The Best Way To Identify And Eradicate Rose Scale In The Garden

Roses can be difficult plants to grow in your garden, as they can struggle in poor soil and always need the right amount of moisture at the right time. The last thing you need is to complicate things with an invasion of tricky insects attacking your prized flowers. One of the most challenging insects to combat is scale. Figuring out how to eliminate these insects from your garden is tricky for a novice. That's why we reached out to Daniel Perry, an entomologist at Procter and Gamble, for help with the best ways to get rid of scale on plants like roses.

The first step is properly identifying the issue. "Rose scale is an aphid-like insect that lives its life under a protective, waxy shield, called a scale," Perry told House Digest in an exclusive interview. "Like aphids, rose scales feed on plants by sucking out their juices, which can cause severe damage to rose plants as well as raspberries and blackberries." More than 8,000 species fit under the definition of scale insects, making identification challenging because they appear in so many different configurations. You'll typically encounter either armored or soft scales. The soft-scale black variety is a common pest on roses, ranging from black to dark brown with a rounded shape. The armored Bouché variety often appears on roses, too. It is grayish-white with a flat body and a round or elliptical shape.

How to eliminate scale insects from your roses in the garden

Eliminating this issue can involve deploying natural techniques to get rid of scale insects from your roses and other areas in your garden and on your property. In an exclusive interview with House Digest, Perry says these natural remedies are among your best choices. "Like many other pests, rose scales have natural predators that can be used to help keep them out of your garden," he says. "Growing plants native to your area will encourage ladybugs and lacewings to move in and eat the rose scales before they become an issue." Using these natural predators to your advantage works best when the scale infestation is small in your rose garden. 

If you don't notice this problem until you have an infestation of these pesky insects, Perry recommends considering an insecticide as long as you use it safely and at the right time of the year. "If you already have lots of rose scales, you might need something more powerful," Perry says. "Insecticides meant for garden use can do the job, but make sure to follow label directions carefully. The best time to spray for rose scales is in mid to late spring when they are not fully grown. Note that rose scales stick to plants, and you may have to shake them off after you kill them."

Preventative measures you can use to keep scale away from your roses

Perhaps the best idea is to try to prevent the scale insects from moving into the rose garden in the first place. One option is to give your roses the nutrients they need to be as strong as possible. "Rose scales have a harder time infesting healthy plants," Perry told House Digest in an exclusive interview. "So, giving your roses the right amounts of water, fertilizer, and sunlight is key." Before you plant your roses, having other plants established in the garden that encourage natural predators like ladybugs to live around your roses is a helpful preventative measure, too, Perry says. 

Not only can such preventative measures keep scale away, but they also keep scale from infesting other areas of your home or property. Perry says they may attempt to invade your house plants if you don't eliminate the issue quickly. They often will move around your property after establishing themselves in your garden. "Preparing for pests to appear in your garden is not only good for your plants; gardening may inadvertently introduce bugs into your home, especially into areas like a garage, back patio, and even indoors when bringing plants inside," he says. "Zevo can help you be proactive about keeping your space clean with its flying insect trap. And Zevo insect killer sprays offer a quick solution if you spot a bug at the moment."