Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bees Eating Scale Insects' Leftovers on Lemon Tree

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bees Eating Scale Insects' Leftovers on Lemon Tree

Article excerpt

Byline: BECKY WERN

Lately, a lot of bees have been hanging around my lemon tree. There aren't any blooms, so I'm puzzled as to why they are there. I also have some scale insects on the limbs, but I'm a little worried about spraying for the scale and hurting the bees.

Bees are great opportunists. There is limited nectar at this time of the year, and they have found an alternate source of the same kinds of plant sugars that are in nectar.

Your citrus has scale insects, a common pest of our plants. Scale insects have a mouthpiece that is inserted into the plant, which allows it to suck out the sugary plant sap that the citrus tree has produced. Scale insects then discharge all the excess fluid. Bees, wasps and other nectar eaters are quick to capitalize on the leftovers. In fact, ants are often "farm" sap sucking insects, moving them from one spot on the plant to another much like a farmer might move cattle from one pasture to the next.

The scale isn't doing your citrus any good, of course, and I understand your concern about spraying the scale without killing our pollinators. Fortunately, pollinators are quick to move away when you spray. I would recommend the use of a lightweight horticultural oil to minimize the impact on the beneficial insects.

It may take a few applications of the oil, about a week to 10 days apart to get the scale insects under control. If you apply the oil late in the day or early in the morning, the bees aren't likely to be out.

I live in New York but picked up a copy of the Times-Union when I was there a couple of weeks ago. I have several citrus trees in my apartment and they do fairly well with exposure to my south-facing window. But they tend to lose leaves a lot. One of them totally defoliated, but new leaves are growing out. How can I keep them healthy?

Keeping citrus trees in pots is a challenging growing situation anywhere and keeping them healthy indoors is even more challenging. …

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