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Is Crape Myrtle Scale Attacking Your Trees?

Scale attacks crape myrtles, but we know how to protect them!

There are many reasons to love crape myrtles: They provide us with a bounty of blooms all summer long, have beautiful peeling bark and are very easy to grow.  But we’re not the only ones that love these Texas-tough plants. Did you know that there are some not-so-friendly pests that also love crape myrtles? If you’ve ever found clusters of what look like cottony growth on your crape myrtles, then you’ve had a visit from these crape myrtles loving critters…

Crape myrtle scale is a relatively new pest thought to have originated in Asia, where crape myrtles are also native. Adult female scale are white or gray “fuzzy” insects that feed off the sap of the bark. They appear as cottony tufts along the tree’s bark; but, upon closer inspection, you’ll notice movement. When crushed the insects will ooze a bright pink liquid that looks like blood.

Scale on a crape myrtle appears as a fuzzy, white substance.

Scale insects are able to overwinter under the bark of your trees then emerge in spring to multiply. Your crape myrtles can then quickly fall victim to a destructive infestation. In January and early February, organic dormant oil can be applied to eradicate overwintering pests. It is applied in the cooler months so there is less of a chance of the oil damaging the plants new spring foliage.

To make problems worse…

A secondary problem caused by the scale is a fungal disease called sooty mold. As the scale exudes a sugary sticky substance onto the tree’s bark, it creates the perfect conditions for mold to grow. It’s especially problematic if the crape myrtle is grown in shady conditions. If you see the bark of your crape myrtle covered with this black sooty mold, it’s a signal you probably have scale or another pest problem. While the mold itself is not terribly harmful, it can become a health problem if it covers the foliage of your trees in spring. Note that aphids can also cause black sooty mold.Natural Predators!

Keeping an organic landscape can encourage natural predators to take care of pest infestations for you. Crape myrtle scale has just such a natural predator in the twice-stabbed lady beetle (quite an intimidating name, right?). If you have crape myrtle scale, then you may also see the larvae and pupae of this beetle move in to devour the scale. While the young of the twice-stabbed lady beetle can look ominous, remember that they are beneficial insects. Don’t kill them if you see them!

When you refrain from applying harsh chemicals to your landscape, beneficial insects such as ladybugs can thrive and \ naturally eradicate pest issues for you. Feeding your soil organically will create a more hospitable environment for beneficial insects and bacteria. A healthy soil in turn increases the vigor and health of your plants that are more able to naturally resists pests an diseases.

For more info on how our organic Soil Building treatments can keep your landscape gorgeous, healthy, and “barefoot approved”, contact us here.

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