Bay Laurel Pests

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Bay is a beautiful tree, and it’s leaves are a favorite cooking herb.

Also known as Sweet Bay and Laurus nobilis, this tree will get huge outdoors- but only if you live in a very warm climate. With a 30′  tall tree (or taller) you could have enough bay leaves to make  approximately 4,789,098,845,091 pots of soup- give or take a pot or two ;)

Bay Laurel

If you don’t need that much Bay then grow yours in a pot!

At my house the potted Bay trees come indoors for the winter where it’s nice and warm. When summer rolls around I boot them outdoors. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Unfortunately growing bay is not always as easy as you’d think…

For one thing, it isn’t easy to start from seed. It also isn’t easy to start from cuttings, especially for the casual home gardener…or practically anyone else. Bay can also have pest problems and Scale is the usual culprit.

This little Bay was outdoors all last summer, and was brought in for the winter. I always check plants before they come it to overwinter, but it looks like some scale insects hitched a ride on this one.

Scale insects are easy to overlook and here is why-

Bay Scale On Stem

They can hide in plain site on the stems. They look like they belong there- just another lump or a bump, or maybe some scar tissue on the plant.

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Scale insect on Bay Laurel Stem

That little thing I am pointing at is the scale. The brown thing to the right of it is a bud.  Ignore that. There is another scale on the stem just above the one I am pointing at. See it?

Bay Laurel Scale Insects

Scale insects can hide under the leaves, and you won’t think to look there…unless you know how sneaky they are. See the little flat brown things on the underside of the leaves?

Those are your Scale. Don’t confuse it with the new buds.

Since there are different types of Scale, they do not always look like the ones in this photo.

Scale are grouped into three basic groups

These include mealybugs, soft, and armored scale. Often a host plant (which is always the infected one that you own) will attract just one type of scale. Thank goodness for that.

Scale insects have a crawling stage where they hitch a ride onto your plant and crawl around looking for a good place to settle down. When they find it they lock down tight on the plant and they suck the juice right out of your plants.

Just like aphids, scale also produces sticky shiny substance called honeydew. Honeydew is a great place for sooty molds to start growing. We really don’t like sooty molds.

Bay Tree Honeydew

See the honeydew here? This is not water. It’s actually a slightly sticky substance. It’s Scale poop. Eeuuuww.

So you have a sweet Bay tree with Scale and Honeydew issues… What should you do?

Find a good organic horticultural oil spray! You can find these at home and garden centers. Use it as directed. One that we like is a Neem oil based spray. It does the job and we have had very good results with it.

Read more:  Aphids on Herbs

The bad news:

Scale is notoriously hard to kill, especially the adults.

The good news:

The oil smothers both adults and crawlers!

You may have to treat twice, timing your sprays a week or so apart. Spray under the leaves and make sure to get the stem and buds, too.


Do NOT to put a freshly sprayed plant in direct sunlight! The oil will burn the plant and you’ll find yourself with a dead infested plant.

If possible, try to leave the plant for a day or so in a shaded, or semi shaded area while the oil does its job.


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