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common name: boisduval scale
scientific name: Diaspis boisduvalii Signoret (Insecta: Hemiptera: Diaspididae)

Introduction - Distribution - Description - Life Cycle - Hosts - Damage - Management - Selected References

Introduction (Back to Top)

The boisduval scale, Diaspis boisduvalii Signoret, is an economically important pest of orchids, and was reported as the most important insect pest of orchids in Florida (Dekle 1965). Miller and Davidson (2005) list boisduval scale as one of the 43 most serious worldwide armored scale pests.

Adult female boisduval scales, Diaspis boisduvalii Signoret, on banana fruit.

Figure 1. Adult female boisduval scales, Diaspis boisduvalii Signoret, on banana fruit. Photograph by Lyle J. Buss, University of Florida.

Distribution (Back to Top)

The boisduval scale occurs throughout the tropics, and as a greenhouse pest in more temperate climates (Dekle 1965, Miller and Davidson 2005).

Description (Back to Top)

Females are white to light yellow, approximately 0.05-0.09 inches (1.2-2.25 mm) in diameter, circular or oval in shape, and covered with a centrally located, white-transparent, flat circular or oval shed skin. When the scale cover is removed, a single, horn-like projection on either side of the body, near the head and thorax may be visible (Dekle 1965, Howard et al. 2001, Miller and Davidson 2005).

Close up view of adult female boisduval scales, Diaspis boisduvalii Signoret, on banana fruit.

Figure 2. Close up view of adult female boisduval scales, Diaspis boisduvalii Signoret, on banana fruit. Photograph by Lyle, J. Buss, University of Florida.

Adult female boisduval scales, Diaspis boisduvalii Signoret, with exuviae present. A centrally-located circle shape is part of the exuviae.

Figure 3. Adult female boisduval scales, Diaspis boisduvalii Signoret, with exuviae present. A centrally-located circle shape is part of the exuviae. Photograph by University of Florida.

Yellow colored body of the adult female boisduval scale, Diaspis boisduvalii Signoret. The oval-shaped cover has been removed.

Figure 4. Yellow colored body of the adult female boisduval scale, Diaspis boisduvalii Signoret. The oval-shaped cover has been removed. Photograph by Avas Hamon, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry.

Males are oval to elongate in shape, with a white cover and marginal shed skin. Males measure approximately 0.04 inches (1mm) in length.

Cluster of male boisduval scales, Diaspis boisduvalii Signoret, on Cattleya leaf. Notice the "fluffy" or "cottony" appearance.

Figure 5. Cluster of male boisduval scales, Diaspis boisduvalii Signoret, on Cattleya leaf. Notice the "fluffy" or "cottony" appearance. Photograph by Heidi M. Bowman, University of Florida.

Life Cycle (Back to Top)

Each adult female may produce up to 200 eggs and live as long as seven months. Eggs hatch within five to seven days and become crawlers. Egg color depends upon maturity, and ranges from clear to yellow, and finally orange. The development from egg to the adult stage averages 33 days for males and 50 days for females (Miller and Davidson 2005).

Male, female, and crawler life stages of boisduval scale, Diaspis boisduvalii Signoret, on Cattleya leaf.

Figure 6. Male, female, and crawler life stages of boisduval scale, Diaspis boisduvalii Signoret, on Cattleya leaf. Photograph by Heidi M. Bowman, University of Florida.

Hosts (Back to Top)

This species has been recorded in over 15 families and 65 genera in Florida alone, but is most commonly found on orchids and palms.

Within the palm hosts (family Arecaceae) the following genera are susceptible (Howard et al. 2001, Miller and Davidson 2005):

Recorded orchid hosts (Orchidaceae) include the following genera:

Other recorded host plant families include:

A full listing of recorded hosts for boisduval scale is available at: ScaleNet: A Database of Scale Insects of the World.

Damage (Back to Top)

Boisduval scales are normally found on the leaves and stems of palms. For orchids, this scale tends to prefer the leaf midrib and the portion of the petiole that is covered by the sheath. Boisduval scale is also capable of infesting orchid pseudobulbs and all aerial portions of the plant, including bark and fruit (Miller and Davidson 2005).

Chlorosis and "pitting" caused by boisduval scale, Diaspis boisduvalii Signoret, feeding on Cattleya leaf.

Figure 7. Chlorosis and "pitting" caused by boisduval scale, Diaspis boisduvalii Signoret, feeding on Cattleya leaf. Photograph by Heidi M. Bowman, University of Florida.

Management (Back to Top)

Various cultural, biological, and chemical control options may be effective for management. Nutritional problems may enhance a host's susceptibility.

Cultural control. Exclusion is the first measure to be taken to avoid boisduval scale infestation. Carefully examine all plants and propagative materials before purchasing them. However, buyer beware, it is easy to miss scales located underneath leaf sheaths and not all life stages are visible to the unaided eye. New plants should be isolated from collections and nursery stock for at least two weeks to ensure they are pest free. Spacing plants so that their leaves do not touch can help avoid biosduval crawlers moving from infested plants onto clean neighboring plants (Beardsley and Gonzalez 1975). The crawlers can also move from infested to clean plants through strong wind currents in greenhouses and rooms. If it is possible, isolate infested plants to avoid biosduval scale spread and begin a treatment regiment.

Biological control. Coccidencyrtus sp. (Hymenoptera: Encyrtidae) have been reported as parasites of boisduval scale (Miller and Davidson 2005, Tenbrink and Hara 1992).

Coccidencytrus sp., a parasitoid of the boisduval scale, Diaspis boisduvalii Signoret.

Figure 8. Coccidencytrus sp., a parasitoid of the boisduval scale, Diaspis boisduvalii Signoret. Photograph by Avas Hamon, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry.

Chemical control. Horticultural oils are often very effective for controlling scale insects, but product labels should be carefully followed. For example, dormant oils applied to the actively growing stage of a plant may result in a burning effect on the plant material. Because crawlers tend to establish themselves on the upper and lower leaf surfaces, near the base of the plant, and in leaf sheaths, thorough spray coverage is important.

For small collections, using 70% isopropyl alcohol and a gentle cloth or cotton swab to wipe away the scales can provide effective control. However, some soft-leaved orchids may be damaged by isopropyl.

The American Orchid Society has a helpful, online video demonstrating how to treat scales with alcohol (AOS Video Library 2008).

If a chemical application is used, remember that timing the application to target the immature or crawler life stage may be critical for appropriate control. As biosduval scale is an armored scale, the waxy covering may still be present even after it has been effectively killed.

Florida Insect Management Guide for ornamentals
American Orchid Society management recommendations

Selected Rererences (Back to Top)