Scale pest of cherry and plum found in Belgium

A damaging pest of Prunus trees has spread as far north as Belgium and could establish itself in southern Britain, a pest specialist has warned.

From the FERA factsheet - images: Chris Malumphy
From the FERA factsheet - images: Chris Malumphy

Chris Malumphy, senior entomologist at Fera Science (formerly the Food and Environment Research Agency) issued his warning on the globose scale or plum lecanium (Sphaerolecanium prunastri) on the Observatree public science website.

"It may be able to establish in parts of southern England and is a potential pest of plum, peach and cherry," he said. "The insects damage the host plants directly by extracting large volumes of plant sap and indirectly by the black sooty moulds that grow on the honeydew, reducing photosynthesis and gas exchange."

He explained the pest "is native to southern and central Europe and is one of many examples of insects that have been expanding their geographical range northwards in recent decades in response to climate change".

The plant parasites are related to aphids, whiteflies and psyllids, Malumphy explained. "Adult females don't look like insects at all as they lack wings and are immobile for much of their lives. This is because they are neotenic – they reach sexual maturity while in a larval state."

Adult female globose scales are about 2.5mm across, strongly convex to almost circular, while young adults are yellow with longitudinal rows of black spots that may coalesce, turning reddish-brown with maturity.

Any suspected outbreaks of globose scale should be reported via the Forestry Commission's Tree Alert service, he added.


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