I am continually amazed at the way life makes a living on this planet, and everywhere I look.

Spending a good bit of time, now and then, at the microscope, I’ve not failed to find things alive in the oddest places. The black plastic on my wood stacks holds just enough water between storms to brew a batch of rotifers. Did the stork drop them there as babies?

This morning, I finally took the clippers behind the house to take out a volunteer poplar that did not belong so close to the house.

Pictured above, what I found at the base of the lower branches. I guessed it might be called poplar scale and found it–also as magnolia scale.

I brought the small branch in the house to show Ann, and tried to sell them, in my most enthusiastic Dr. Science voice, as “tiny turtles that only feed on poplar trees.” She didn’t buy it. Lived with me too long, she knows all my tricks.

Here’s a bit of natural history regarding these turtle-like insects (that can be up to a half inch across!)

“Magnolia scale attacks primarily magnolia plants but will also infest daphne and Virginia creeper. Tuliptree scale infests tuliptrees (Liriodendron sp.) as well as magnolias, basswood, and redbud. Scales have “syringe-like” mouthparts and suck tree sap.  Excess sap is excreted by the scale and is called honeydew.  Honeydew is then a growth medium for black sooty mold.  The mold reduces sunlight reaching the plant and reduces the vigor of the plant.  Also, the honeydew is a food source for ants, flies, wasps and bees, which then become pests.”

Now. Can I please get back to work! Nature is SO distracting!

Published by fred

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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1 Comment

  1. A few years ago, I had a glorious garden, and could have used some help identifying the pests that infested my magnolia tree, and sucked the life out of the daphne, every time I tried to grow it. Of course, I realize that just because you can identify it, doesn’t mean you can treat it! But very interesting, just the same!

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