Just noticed this on a fig tree and these are everywhere. It's not just on the leaves but on the stems as well.

Is this an ant colony on this fig tree, Or something else?

fig leave zoom in

Fig leave zoom out

This is my not-too-techy friend's tree. The tree is about 2.5m tall.

I'm curious for few reasons

  • I want to help my friend
  • I was given an offshoot of this tree - to plant in my garden - and I wanted to be well prepared if something like this will happen.

2 Answers 2


You've got a bad infestation of fig wax scale. The ants are there for the honeydew, and are ant-farming.

You want to get rid of the scale, they're basically living off of your plant, using up resources. If it's a small plant, you can use a pen or other pointy thing and pop as many off as you can, onto a small drop-cloth, to be destroyed. The rest can be treated. From kevinsky's answer here:

  • Make a mixture of 5 to 10 ml of dish soap of any brand and one liter of water. Mix but do not make it too frothy.

  • Get a soft toothbrush or soft scrub pad and dip it in the solution and rub off the scale rinsing on a regular basis.

  • Once you are done, wait a few minutes and wipe all the areas you have covered with a clean cloth to remove the soap.

  • Repeat at least twice at six to seven day intervals to catch the ones you missed.

  • Consider repeating this process as required as this scale is hard to control.

If you have no patience for this you could also try buying a systemic insecticide like Cygon 2E, read the instructions, put on impermeable gloves and appropriate safety gear, prepare a two liter solution according to the instructions and pour it into the soil. A solution that is more dilute than recommended should be tried for the first application to see how the plant responds. As most pesticides smell you probably want to do this outside and catch the water that flows through the pot for safe disposal.

You can use other chemicals as well. I've successfully used dinotefuran (2-methyl-1-nitro-3-[(tetrahydro-3-furanyl) methyl] guanidine), a systemic insecticide (this mean the plant takes it in, transports it throughout, and that poisons the scales through feeding).

You may also want to read UC IPM's scale management article.

  • I used a spray of Dawn soap, water, and rubbing alcohol on my scale infested Ficus. It was amazing. It killed near 99% of the scales and did no harm to my tree.
    – Evil Elf
    May 24, 2016 at 12:41
  • @EvilElf what was the mixing ratio of water to rubbing alcohol? May 25, 2016 at 16:48
  • I've seen ratios from a few tablespoons per quart to a cup per gallon. I used two tablespoons of Dawn in a gallon of water and mixed in one cup of alcohol and was fine.
    – Evil Elf
    May 25, 2016 at 17:19
  • @EvilElf is a few 3? Because 3 tablespoons is a quarter cup, so that much per quart is a cup a gallon
    – J. Musser
    Dec 5, 2016 at 4:02

By request. This was posted on a forum YEARS ago.

Over the course of my gardening years I’ve been given a recipe here and there to aid in my quest to rid my plants of pests naturally. While I try and be as organically responsible as I can, I find no harm in using some of my everyday cleaning supplies as tools to help me reach my goal. So when the aphids were sucking the life out of my newly planted container gardens, I ran to my files to see what I could scrounge up.

Ok, strong sprays of water at all affected plants and then take a spray bottle filled with a solution of homemade insecticidal soap:

Two Tablespoons of Dawn dishwashing detergent in one gallon of water will make a hefty supply for houseplants but you may need to mix up a few gallon milk jugs for those areas where you have a lot of ground to cover. This recipe can be broken down further to:

1 ½ teaspoons of Dawn liquid detergent per one quart of water.

This mixture should assist you with the removal of mites, whiteflies, aphids, thrips small scales and leafhoppers. This recipe has a very low toxicity to wildlife and humans but should not be applied on a sizzling hot day, windy, or humid. It can burn some plants with dull leaf surfaces so always test a non-visible area before you attack the whole plant or growing section.

Scale can be attacked with this recipe which when mixed with the alcohol will penetrate the adult scale insects’ shells which will kill them soon after contact. Scale is a problem with many houseplants. Take the plant outside for a quick spray or do it in the bathtub.

Mix one cup of your generic isopropyl alcohol, that you can find at most any store in the first aid section or the like, with one tablespoon of the above insecticidal soap recipe (1½ teaspoons of Dawn to one quart of water). Mix those two ingredients with one quart of water and apply on your plant’s leaves (top and bottom) every three days for two weeks.

The last recipe can be used to spray on those plants that you want to bring inside for the winter.

Put three tablespoons of isopropyl alcohol in a spray bottle (quart size, which you can find at most bulk warehouses or any mass merchandiser) and fill with lukewarm water. Add one teaspoon of Dawn dishwashing detergent. Spray the topside and underside of the leaves and let it sit for three minutes, rinse all the leaves thoroughly and let them dry outside.

At the end of the day, all homemade insecticidal recipes make me feel comfortable about what I’m spraying onto my plants and into the environment. I’m not out to kill the “good” bugs that protect my plants, only the ones that do them harm. There is one commercial brand that I have used without any ill effects and that is Safer’s. The important thing is to use as many natural methods as possible with the least effects even if they don’t work as quickly as a strong dose of a chemical insecticide. The verdict is still out on some safety issues and this way I can sleep better at night.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.