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Crape Myrtle Bark Scale Treatment

What is Crape Myrtle Bark Scale?

The emergence of the Crape Myrtle Bark Scale dates back to its identification in Texas in 2004, marking it as a relatively recent addition to the threats faced by Crape Myrtle trees. Despite its recent appearance, this pest has swiftly gained prominence, particularly in the Dallas-Fort Worth region, where it stands as one of the most prevalent adversaries for Crape Myrtles.

Easily distinguishable by its distinctive bumpy and felt-like texture, the adult females of this scale insect are coated in gray or white encrustations that exude a pink liquid when disturbed. These insects can blanket entire sections of the trunk and branches, resulting in a scaly appearance that’s hard to miss.

Feeding on the sap of Crape Myrtle trees, these pests, much like other sap-sucking insects, leave behind a sticky residue known as honeydew. If left unchecked, this can lead to a secondary issue: the development of sooty mold. Worried about your Crape Myrtle’s well-being? Heritage Lawn & Tree Care is here to help Birmingham and the surrounding communities. Contact us at (205) 995-3331 to safeguard your trees and ensure a thriving landscape.

How to Know You Have Them?

Detecting the presence of Crape Myrtle Bark Scale is relatively straightforward, although similar symptoms can be caused by other pests. To confirm whether your tree or shrub is infested with Bark Scale, keep an eye out for these indicators:

Unusual Leafing and Blooming: Typically, Crape Myrtles leaf out in spring and bloom from early to mid-summer. An infested tree might exhibit delayed leafing or blooming, with fewer blooms. These trees tend to leaf out later in spring compared to others.

Distinctive Appearance: Crape Myrtle Bark Scales appear as gray or white encrustations with a textured, bumpy, felt-like surface. When you press or puncture these white spots, they will release a pink or red substance. Female scales lay around 100 to 300 pink eggs, which hatch into tiny pink crawlers, the most mobile stage. These crawlers move from the white cover to seek a feeding spot, where they become immobile unless disturbed. Immature females have dark pink or purplish, hairy bodies. Mature males shed their bumpy cover, gaining mobility, and eventually fly to adult females.

Initial Sites of Infestation: Infestations generally begin around pruning sites or branch crotches. If left unaddressed, they can gradually spread to cover trunk sections, branches, and twigs. Their presence can be observed on most parts of the tree, excluding the foliage.

Honeydew and Sooty Mold: These pests excrete a sticky substance called honeydew in abundance. You might notice this sticky residue or the presence of Sooty Mold, a fungus resembling fireplace ashes, on leaves and branches. Sooty Mold develops on the honeydew, created by scales or other sap-feeding insects.

Being vigilant for these signs will help you identify and address a potential Crape Myrtle Bark Scale infestation promptly. Protect your trees. Reach out to the experts in Birmingham for professional lawn and tree care.

What Harm Do They Bring?

The crape myrtle bark scale (CMBS), a small but impactful pest, poses a significant threat to crape myrtle trees across the state. CMBS infestations, marked by black mold and white material on trunks and limbs, can lead to serious problems. These pests produce sticky honeydew that encourages the growth of fungi causing black mold. Entomologist Blake Layton from Mississippi State University Extension Service warns of the pests’ potential to spread and advises vigilance among homeowners and professionals. CMBS, though initially from China, has spread to several states. Early detection is crucial to prevent further infestations, and Layton recommends proper disposal of infested branches. Effective treatments with systemic insecticides like dinotefuran and imidacloprid are available to control CMBS, although results may take time to show.

What Damage Do They Cause?

Crape Myrtle Bark Scale (CMBS) poses a significant threat to the well-being and appearance of Crape Myrtle trees and their surrounding environments. Despite its small size, this pest inflicts various forms of damage that compromise the trees’ vitality, visual appeal, and our enjoyment of outdoor spaces. Recognizing the scope of CMBS-induced harm is crucial in devising effective strategies for prevention and control.

  • Impact on Tree Health: CMBS weakens Crape Myrtle trees by feeding on their sap, resulting in slowed growth, diminished flowering, and potential branch dieback.
  • Aesthetic Concerns: CMBS blemishes trees by enveloping them in white or gray encrustations, significantly reducing their overall attractiveness.
  • Honeydew and Mold: CMBS generates a sticky substance known as honeydew, which attracts black mold. This mold not only mars the tree’s appearance but also disrupts its ability to perform photosynthesis.
  • Spreading: CMBS can rapidly spread to neighboring trees and plants, exacerbating issues within gardens or parks.
  • Financial Implications: Managing CMBS can lead to substantial costs, including tree removal, replacement, and treatment expenses for homeowners and landscapers.
  • Environmental Impact: The use of pesticides to control CMBS may harm beneficial insects and wildlife, potentially disrupting ecosystems and causing unintended harm.
  • Reduced Enjoyment: Infested trees diminish the outdoor experience by detracting from the aesthetic value of parks and other outdoor spaces.

 

Taking swift action is essential to mitigate these risks and preserve the health and beauty of Crape Myrtle trees and their surroundings.

How to Prevent Crape Myrtle Bark Scale?

Preventing crape myrtle bark scale (CMBS) infestations involves various strategies to tackle the issue effectively. Heavy CMBS infestations can mar the appearance of crape myrtles, prompting homeowners and landscape managers to seek solutions. Four main approaches can help control CMBS: exclusion, plant selection, plant removal, and insecticide treatment. 

While biological control might become a viable option in the future, it’s currently limited to natural predators like lady beetles. Exclusion entails avoiding purchasing and planting infested crape myrtles. It’s essential to inspect plants closely before buying, as even minor infestations can go unnoticed. Nurseries, builders, and landscape contractors should collaborate to ensure CMBS-free plants are installed, and homeowners should inspect existing crape myrtles on their properties to prevent infestations.

Tailored Solutions by Heritage Lawn & Tree Care

Dealing with Crape Myrtle Bark Scale entails utilizing systemic insecticides, ideally applied in late winter to early spring for optimal effectiveness. Should you notice the issue, a preliminary step involves cleaning the trunk with warm, soapy water to remove the black sooty mold. Applying dormant oil treatment after leaf drop can target crawlers and adults, though not entirely eradicating them. For a comprehensive solution, consider employing a systemic insecticide between late March and early May. 

Navigating the complexities of Crape Myrtle Bark Scale treatment doesn’t have to be a challenge you face alone. At Heritage Lawn & Tree Care, we’re here to provide expert guidance and effective solutions tailored to your needs. Take the proactive step towards a healthier landscape by reaching out to us at (205) 995-3331. Let our dedicated team in Birmingham assist you in restoring the vitality of your trees and ensuring a pest-free environment.