August 12, 2020
Crape myrtle facing attack from invasive insects
Black, sooty mold usually often serves as the first indication crape myrtle bark scale.
By Diana Graves
Extension Master Gardener
Crape myrtle are in all their glory now with blooms of white, lavender and red. This small ornamental tree or shrub with glossy, dark green leaves and smooth pealing bark, has attracted a new invasive insect pest.
Crape myrtle bark scale (CMBS) insect has been found in Fauquier. This is a small insect that sucks the sugary juices of the tree. First detected in north-central Texas in 2004, it is gradually heading north, infesting crape myrtle trees in Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, the Carolinas and Virginia. The movement of this insect has been expedited by the nursery trade.
The female insects cover themselves with a white felt-like encrustation seen on the twigs, stems and trunks. If the felt mass is pricked with a pin or squeezed, a pinkish liquid comes out. The insect and the eggs she lays are protected by the white cover since other insects, birds, water and human-applied substances can’t enter. The eggs hatch over the winter and feed on the spring sugars in the trunk and branches until they emerge in early June to mate and find a new patch of tree for food.
Most gardeners first notice CMBS when the lower leaves, trunk and stems of the tree turn black. This is black sooty mold, a fungus that feeds on the sweet honeydew droppings secreted by the insects. The black covering will reduce the amount of sunlight your tree gets, and it is unsightly. Neither of these conditions will kill your crape myrtle, but if extensive it will cause the tree to produce fewer and smaller flowers.
To control the CMBS, your first job is to wash off the black sooty mold and any white patches on limbs and trunk. Use water and a soft brush to allow the tree to get adequate sunshine. Lady beetles feed on scale insects, but they do not reproduce fast enough to keep the CMBS from spreading on the original tree or onto others in the neighborhood. Horticultural dormant oils applied in late winter may also slow the spread of these insects.
Check your crape myrtle trees and any new plants you consider buying for white felt sacs or sooty mold. If you find either condition, don’t take the plant home.
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Linda Ward · August 24, 2020 at 11:19 pm
Peonies came from China. I can not imagine a garden without peonies.
Rover 530 · August 22, 2020 at 6:54 pm
The crape myrtle originally came from China also and was imported into Charleston, SC, around 1790.
samantha24 · August 18, 2020 at 12:37 am
Insects have affected plant growth, need to find ways to destroy them. novel online
JDwarrenton · August 17, 2020 at 7:55 pm
I checked, and yes, this pest came from China. Just like chestnut blight, dutch elm disease, stink bugs, ash beetles, zebra mussels, and Covid-19.
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