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How to Control Crape Myrtle Bark Scalebark scale

A very popular plant for homeowners and property owners in the southern United States, particularly in Texas, is the crape myrtle tree and shrub. Crape myrtle is often sought after for it’s beauty on landscapes and the fact that for the most part it relatively stays free from diseases and problems. However, lately the crape myrtle plant has encountered some issues in the form of a scaled insect that currently is merely called crape myrtle bark scale or CMBS for short.

Crape myrtle bark scale is a relatively new problem, having shown up within the last 10 to 15 years, having imported from China somehow. Crape myrtle bark scale will appear like a white waxy crusty dot found on the tree trunk, branches or bark. When crushed with a finger, it will ooze out a pink substance. In addition to the presence of these bumps there is often also an emergence of unsightly black sooty-looking mold which develops resembling black dust on the leaves and bark of the crape myrtle plant.These are the defining characteristics which make up crape myrtle bark scale.

The presence of this issue while not a severe issue compared to other plant diseases, can be detrimental to the crape myrtle plants productivity. Some of the problems bark scale brings about are the limiting of blooms; you’ll see a little bit of reduction in the blooms. Also, honeydew production from the bark scale on the leaves which may begin dripping sap down off the leaves. This can be a problem if you park under the tree, as they can create a bit of a mess. On top of that ants will be drawn to the sap.

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How To Get Rid of Crape Myrtle Bark Scale: 3 Step Solution

Crape myrtle bark scale can be removed from your plant with the right products at your disposal and the correct treatment approach. Simply purchasing a product from your local garden center and spraying away at your tree or shrub will bring little to no effect. Solutions Pest & Lawn has some simple steps you can apply along with some patience and persistence for the best chances of success.


Step 1: Timing is essential when applying treatment to try to remove crape myrtle bark scale. The best times of the year to treat the insect is around the May/June/July period of the year. However, no matter the time of year, it is best to jump into figuring out a treatment option to address crape myrtle bark scale.


Step 2: Choose your option. There are a number of different options available to treat crape myrtle bark scale, what you choose will depend upon your budget and personal preference but all have shown to be an effective eliminator of the insect.


The first option is Safari 20SG Insecticide Dinotefuran,  this is a systemic insecticide which means the plant takes the product up into it and spreads through the whole plant. That way the insects that are piercing and sucking insects, such as aphids and scales, when they find the link it actually poisons them.


The second option which works similar is Dominion 2L which contains the active ingredient of imdacloprid.Dominion is also a very good systemic insecticide and it's a little bit more cost affordable and it's pretty effective in his own right so this is probably the one that we sell the most for crape myrtle bark scale


The third option we recommend is Pivot 10. This is an insect growth regulator which can kill any of the insect eggs. It doesn’t address all of the issues so it shouldn’t be used on it own but be used supplementary to one of the above options.


Step 3: Using a hose of similar sprayer, spray your crape myrtle plant down with water really heavily and let it dry to try to clean off the sooty mold created by the bark scale. After that, use one or more of the insecticide options in step 2 along with an insect growth regulator and spray. Keep in mind, it may take several weeks for the systemic product to make its way throughout the tree.


Crape myrtle can be a big problem in Texas, but it is not a harmful disease that kills the tree. It is mainly an aesthetic problem that makes the tree displeasing to the eye. Thankfully, it can be treated quite easily by following the steps laid out above.


Learn More About Crape Myrtle Bark Scale


Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia) trees are a beautiful tree which can make a terrific addition to many different landscapes and for the most part they are a tree species that doesn’t suffer much pest issues, however, in recent years an invading problem on the crape myrtle tree has begun to plague the tree is known as crape myrtle bark scale.


The biggest issues with crape myrtle bark scale is it’s rapid spread as it has begun to show up in many areas where crape myrtle has been planted around the United States, particularly in the South in Texas.


Crape myrtles are a commonly cultivated tree for landscapes and nursery crops especially down in the south. They have different types of colors and blooms and different blooming periods throughout the summer as well.


They have been cultivated in the US for over 175 years and a common landscape plant in the south and is actually a quite economically valuable plant with it being valued at over $46 million dollars in nursery crop sales per year.


It is a relatively low maintenance tree and are planted in medians of roads and highways with few key pests, that is, until crape myrtle bark scale arrived on the scene as a problem for the tree.


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Crape Myrtle Bark Scale Facts

Prior to 2004, little was known about crape myrtle bark scale in the US. It was first discovered that very same year in Richardson, TX by a landscaping company and it’s now found pretty much all across the US from Seattle all the way to the East Coast in virginia.


These insects are originally from Asia (reportedly found in areas in China, Japan and Korea) and are known to consume crape myrtles and pomegranates. Wherever crape myrtle bark scale are found on trees, they are known to causes extensive honeydew deposits and the growth of black sooty mold.


There are many different types of scale insects which are relatives of aphids and are in the same basic suborder. There are a number of important families of scales such as mealybugs, cochineal scales, pit scales, armored scales and others which are commonly dealt with on landscapes. Finally there are bark scales which is what the CMBS is a part of.


Crape myrtle bark scale are really small (about the size of a pen tip and are soft looking. A microscope is required to really see details of the insect. Some are white colored while others have a hint of red to their bodies as well as little white hairs. The adult males are winged and can fly while the females are sessile and cannot move on their own.


Because of their size, crape myrtle bark scale may not be noticed right away on a tree and the population would have to get particularly large to be able to notice large clusters of the scale on parts of tree branches. Particularly severe infestations you will see them practically cover large chunks of the tree. These areas will also carry a lot of black sooty mold.


Early on the crape myrtle bark scale was initially misidentified as azalea bark scale. However, crape myrtle has never before been reported as a host plant for azalea bark scale. This scale almost exclusively lives and thrives on crape myrtle so they became named simply crape myrtle bark scale.


There are theories that the scale may have come to the country via travel.


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Conducting an Inspection For Crape Myrtle Bark Scale


Crape myrtle bark scale is quite easy to detect on a tree if you have a heavy infestation.  Adult females look similar to felt and are colored either white or gray and they have encrustations which stick to crape myrtle parts ranging from small twigs to large trunks. When crushed, these scales exude pink liquid which apparently is their blood.


On new growth and in heavy infestations, the scales may be distributed more uniformly on a branch. You may be first alerted of the presence of the black sooty mold which has developed on the bark as a result of the crape myrtle bark scale presence. Examining those sooty parts of the tree closely may tip you off to seeing the white CMBS crawling about.


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Cultural Control Of Crape Myrtle Bark Scale

One option to get rid of crape myrtle bark scale, if you have a smaller infestation, is to wash the tree or the shrub to get as much scale off as possible. This job may not be preferred for most because it takes a lot of time and effort to grab a brush with soap and water and work around the tree.


Using a water hose to spray while using a heavy duty bristled brush can come in handy in removing the little scales but you may not actually be able to get rid of all of the crape myrtle bark scale but this does still help to slow down the spread of the scale.


You could use a pressure washer but use caution as it could damage the bark.


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Treating Crape Myrtle Bark Scale With Insecticide

There are a number of great products that can be used to treat crape myrtle bark scale but in our personal opinion Imidacloprid is the go-to product used to treat Crape Myrtle Bark Scale. The first thing you’re going to want to do is measure you crape myrtle tree to determine how much insecticide you will need to apply to it.


Generally, use two oz’s of the imidacloprid active ingredient product, and mix with water (please read the label directions for exact mixing instructions and to know how much water you should mix with the product to treat the tree.


Put the water first in a bucket and then pour the product and fill the bucket the rest of the way with water and make sure it is agitated enough so it is a uniform solution.


Once you have measured the tree and mix the product, you should prep the ground prior to application. Start by raking the mulch, pulling it back and away from the tree. This is because you want the insecticide to make contact with the soil and be absorbed by the roots and if you got a good layer of mulch, the mulch can bind up the product. So just pull it back away from the trunk and once you’ve applied the product and it has dried you can rake the mulch back into place where it originally was.


The way to apply the insecticide to the tree which we recommend is via soil drench. Take the mixed solution and pour the liquid around the base of the tree. Do it slowly so it doesn’t run off. Again, you want the product to reach the roots and be absorbed by the plants, taking it up into its system and taking care of the crape myrtle bark scale pests.


Additional Resources:


[PDF]Crape Myrtle Bark Scale:A New Exotic Pest - Insects in the City


Crape Myrtle Bark Scale Identification and Control - Mississippi State


How to Control Crapemyrtle Bark Scale! - The Good Earth Garden



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