Issue: Janua1y 5, 2002

Pinyon needle scale


My pinyon pine tree has little black specks on the needles. A friend told me that these specks were called pinyon needle scale, an insect that sucks the sap from the leaves. Is this true? What can I do about it now?


Pinyon needle scale is an insect that infests the needles of pinyon and does indeed feed upon the sap within the needles. Infested needles will turn yellow in the spring and fall from the tree. New needles will be produced by the tree, but these will then be infested by the next generation of needle scale. The end result is that the tree only has the needles produced in the spring to produce food for it (and the scale). This is debilitating to the tree and over time is harmful to the tree. A single year's infestation is not cause for panic. There is nothing to do at this time of year. In the spring, the scale insects will exit the waxy coverings (black specks) and migrate to the base of the tree to lay their eggs. The egg masses look like dirty white yarn at the base of the tree, on the underside of branches, and on debris at the base of the tree. If you use a broom or strong jet of water to remove these egg masses, you can greatly reduce the number of new scale infesting the needles next year. If you wish, you may also use an insecticide labeled for control of scale insects on conifers. The time to apply such an insecticide is after the eggs have hatched and the young, unprotected scale insects are migrating from the base of the tree to the needles. Once they reach the needles they will create the waxy covering under which they live. When they have accomplished this, insecticides will be less effective. You will find that physically removing the egg masses before the eggs hatch is the most effective means of control because timing is less important (just remove them before the eggs hatch).

Storing seed until spring


I have received vegetable and flower seed I ordered through the mail. It is too early to plant them now? What is the best way to store the seed until spring?


For the short time you will be waiting, you can just store them at room temperature away from bright light which may heat the package. High temperature should be avoided, so don't store them near a heat register, near a south or west window, or even above the oven or refrigerator. If you think you will have seeds left over after planting and will want to save them for next year, you may want to store them under refrigeration. You may begin the refrigeration after planting, or you can refrigerate the seed now. Read the packet for storage information. If it doesn't warn you not to refrigerate, you can place the seed packets into a jar with some desiccant (available in hobby stores). The desiccant keeps the humidity low during storage and prevents molding and preserves seed viability. Most common vegetable and flower seeds will not be injured by storage in the refrigerator.

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Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!