Dactylopius coccus ('Cochineal Scale')

How to Treat Cactus Scale Infection

If you’re reading this article then it’s rather likely that you’re either trying to discover how to treat cactus scale infection, or maybe you’ve previously suffered the joys of scale and are checking here in case we’ve some miraculous technique that’s hitherto been undiscovered!


How to Treat Cactus Scale Infection – Materials:

  • Alcohol wipe (or alcohol and a clean cloth)
  • Container
  • Infected cactus (or other plant)
  • Metal or plastic scraper (we use a small penknife)
  • Water
  • Cactus gloves (optional)
  • Garden hose or spray mist bottle (optional)

How to Treat Cactus Scale Infection – Method:

  1. First, disinfect the scraper by wiping it several times with an alcohol wipe or alcohol-soaked cloth.
  2. Carefully, take the infected cactus (we prefer to wear our handy cactus gloves when picking up larger and/or longer-spined specimens) and identify the scales which you’re going to remove.
  3. Take the clean scraper and gently (at least at first) start to pry off the scale, causing the minimal possible damage to the skin’s surface as you do so. They usually detach pretty easily, but you might need to apply a little more pressure as necessary. You’ll soon get the hang of this after the first few attempts. You can also use a cotton bud or similar (soaked in alcohol if you wish), if you want to try the gentler approach first.
  4. Once you’ve removed as much scale as you can from the plant using the scraper, place them into a sealed container and throw it away!
  5. Optional: Spray the water with a garden hose or spray mister to remove any obviously remaining scale. Be careful not to use a spray strong enough to damage the cactus and try to get into all the furrows and folds if you can.
  6. Now – as with most unwanted plant pests – the problem with scale is that it’s hard to eradicate completely, hence will often reappear sporadically over time.
  7. For the best chance of total destruction, most people recommend applying one or more doses of a systemic insecticide (we know, we don’t often suggest anything non-organic, but sometimes needs must!). If at all possible, introduce it in solution at the beginning of the growing season. Keep an eye on the plant in the weeks following this, as you will need to scrape off any scale which appear before the insecticide starts to work.
  8. Once you’re removed all of the scale insects, there’ll likely be a few tiny, pinprick-sized puncture marks where they were attached. Presuming the plant is healthy and you’ve managed to kill off all of the scale, these should heal over time.
Dactylopius coccus ('Cochineal Scale')
Some ‘orrible Dactylopius coccus (‘Cochineal Scale’)