It feels like I've recently been hammered with calls about Sago Palms and "some white stuff" on them. People have also described it as a "snow-like dusting" or even "a white fungus like film." In most cases, the problem is an insect and it is called Cycad Scale.
To be clear, Cycad is the scientific name for what we commonly know as Sago Palms. This is the tiny, white insect that is covering their fronds and sucking the life from them. The technical name of this troublesome insect is Cycad Aulacaspis scale - a.k.a. Asian Cycad Scale.
These scale insects were inadvertently brought here from Thailand and were first found in Florida in the early 1990s. They have had a recent devastating impact in the Rio Grande Valley here in Texas.
To me, they are easily controlled with insecticidal sprays and even a homemade organically-based scale control. The problem is that the average homeowner lets the infestation get to a point of no return, before they seem to notice the problem and even try to do anything about it.
We didn't used to have a problem with Cycad Scale here in Texas, until about 2001. But I saw it personally on my Sagos just one year ago, and I treated with Malathion on the entire plant, and I haven't seen the problem since.
If you have serious infestation, those fronds that are heavily coated with the Cycad Scale should be pruned off. And those cuttings should be disposed of in double-sealed plastic bags to help prevent re-infestation. For the earliest onset of these pests, as noted, chemical controls like Malathion work wonderfully. Other products for control are Acephate or Carbaryl (Sevin).
Organically-speaking, there are two ways to get control. You can use a dormant oil spray in December and January, or you can use our home made version of scale control. Licensed applicators (pest control companies; landscaping services with the certification etc.) can also use products containing dimethoate, pyriproxyfen and dinotefuran.
The best way to prevent the kind of infestation that kills these Sagos is to take a look once a week or at least once every two weeks. That way, you can look for anything out of the ordinary and catch these pests in their earliest of stages.
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