I have some Chaya that is about 3 years old now and there are a large quantity of red weaver ants on them. I don’t think this is a problem but there are a large quantity of small black hard looking shells on portions that concern me. Does anyone know what these are and what their relationship is (if any) with the weaver ants? I’d like to start propagating this but want to error on the side of caution.20210812_082847|690x387
The small black hard looking shells are probably the pest known as Scale. If you can pry them off and look underneath you should see tiny appendages. I would check out more info on scale. I made sure I cleaned off my Chaya in North India, manually by hand of any Scale I could find. In Wikipedia I just found that they can often have a mutualistic relationship with ants which feed on the excess honeydew (sap) and protect them from predators. “Scale insects are herbivores piecing plant tissues with their mouthparts and remaining in one place, feeding on sap.”
Hey Tyler! I agree with Harry - they are scale insects. Scale insects are piercing-sucking insects that consume the sweet contents in the phloem of the plant. The crawler stage of scale insects (before they settle down into one place) are controlled with an oil spray. See here, one recipe for making this. The oil clogs their breathing, killing them - but only the crawler stages. This doesn’t work on adults that have already attached firmly in place to where they are feeding on the plant. Also make sure to apply it to the plant parts where the scale are (most likely underside of leaves or at nodes).
My personal practice is to remove plant material (usually new growth that is tender to them) that is heavily infested and feed it to animals or burn it to help control adults. On large trees this may not be possible, but with chaya - it should bounce back well after a good prune.
@Stacy_Swartz could you use chickens to get of them?
That’s an interesting idea. Chaya, for the most part, is too tall for chickens to reach the upper canopy where the scale is most likely to be (scale insects like to settle near new growth, where the phloem is sweetest). But if you cut and feed it, chaya is safe for chickens to consume alongside the scale.
Honestly, if the chaya is small enough for the chickens to pick off the scale, they will probably eat all of the chaya plant as well. But maybe someone else in the network has tried this with some success?