NC State Extension Publications

Description and Biology

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Cottony camellia scales, Pulvinaria floccifera, are cream to tan, elongate oval, and relatively flat. Females grow to about 3/16 to 1/8 inch long. They are also called cottony taxus scales as this scale is a fairly common pest of yew. Young females have a dark stripe down the middle and mottling at the sides. Older scales are dark brown. Eggs are laid in an ovisac produced beneath and behind female. Ovisacs are two or more times longer than the scales and are relatively flat, white, and fluffy. If males are present, they emerge in the fall and mate with females and die (no mouthparts). Females overwinter on twigs or leaves and lay eggs in mid to late spring. The eggs hatch in late May through early June and the tiny new crawlers feed along the veins on the lower leaf surface. Like most soft scales, cottony camellia scales suck out sap and excrete honeydew, a sweet, sticky liquid in which dark sooty molds often grow. There is one generation per year.

Cottony camellia scale insects, their ovisacs, and sooty molds growing in their honeydew on camellia.

The egg sacs of cottony camellia scales are the most conspicuous stage.

Photo by Trisha Gensic

Cottony camellia scale insects and ovisacs on the underside of a camellia leaf

Ovisacs of the cottony camellia scale contain hundreds of eggs.

Photo by Trisha Gensic

Sooty mold fungi growing on honeydew excreted by cottony camellia scale insects.

Plants infested with cottony camellia scales often blacken with sooty molds.

Photo by Trisha Gensic

Hyperaspis lady beetle adult.

A Hyperaspis lady beetle (male) feeding on eggs in a Pulvinaria scale ovisac in late May.

Photo by J.R. Baker

Host Plants

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Cottony camellia scales infest many types of plants in Florida and the tropics. In North Carolina they seem to be limited to camellias, taxus, Chinese holly and jasmine although it can infest English ivy, euonymous, hydrangea, maple, mulberry, pittosporum, and rhododendron.

Residential Recommendation

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June is a good time to spray as the Hyperaspis lady beetles that specialize on feeding within the egg sacs of Pulvinaria scales will have then departed for their aestivating sites. If sprayed earlier, the lady beetles would be killed but not the eggs (The eggs are protected by the waxy ovisac the mother scales secrete during oviposition). Consequently, spraying earlier in the growing season does more harm than good. In June and July, one of the sprayable formulations of Sevin will give wonderful control although the pyrethroids such as permethrin, bifenthrin, and lamda-cyhalothrin should work well, too. These pesticides are all available in the gardening sections of big box stores as well as retail nurseries and garden centers.


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For assistance with a specific problem, contact your local N.C. Cooperative Extension center

This Factsheet has not been peer reviewed.


Professor Emeritus
Entomology and Plant Pathology

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Publication date: May 7, 2014
Revised: Feb. 20, 2024

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