Tulip Tree Scale

The State Tree of Indiana is the Tulip Tree. Although it feeds on tulip trees, the Tulip Tree Scale is NOT the state insect. Scale insects have sucking mouthparts that drill into tissue for feeding. The Tulip Tree Scale taps into the phloem of the plant. Plant phloem is very high in sugar and low in other nutrients. Insects that feed on phloem typically secrete large amounts of sugar and water as waste in order to get enough of the other nutrients. The sticky droplets provide food for bees, wasps, ants, beetles and many other insects. The droplets can also make a sticky mess on a car windshield, much to the irritation of motorists.

Tulip Tree Scale
Photo: University of Delaware

This year, high populations of Tulip Tree Scale are damaging trees in Indiana. We suspect that the higher population is in part due to a mild winter in 2012. Cold and freezing can be a major mortality factor for overwintering insects. There are a number of insect natural enemies that can keep the scale population under control. Some of the weakest trees will be killed by the scale insects. Hopefully, the natural enemies will supply enough control of the scales to prevent widespread damage to our Tulip Trees.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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