Bay Laurel Leaves Infested
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Debbie Boisclair
Posted on: June 12, 2005

Eight years ago I operated a greenhouse and started my own bay tree seeds. Out of the fourteen seeds I started, eleven of them grew. Unfortunately after a while my children killed theirs. This past winter, mine has developed some kind of disease or something. The leaves all got a really sticky coating on them and it looked like a scale going down the center part of the leaf. I cleaned them several times but it kept coming back. Finally, this spring I took a electric toothbrush to the leaves and scrubbed both sides, then I changed the soil. Could you please tell me what this is and how to keep it from returning, I thought I had lost this plant last year when all the leaves dried on the plant. I picked every last leaf and have enough bay leaves to last me for ten years. I hate to lose the plant now.

You almost certainly have a scale insect infestation. Unfortunately it seems to be a very small species and as a result the youg scales are too small to spot before they are old enough to reproduce and you therefore keep getting re-infested. Spray with neem oil every week for three weeks and if you see any evidence of a return of the infestation repeat the spraying cycle. The oil has to hit the scales to affect them, but it will make young scales sterile and suffocate the crawlers as well. Be sure to store the oil in a fridge and just heat it under warm water to make it liquid enough to pour out of the container. The brown unadulterated oil works best. use at the rate of one teaspoon oil per liter (quart) of water plus add one half teaspoon dishwash detergent or better yet: insecticidal soap as an emulsifier and shake frequently while applying. Do not keep any left-over solution, because the insect sterilizing compound is very unstable and denatures after a few hours.

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