Crape Myrtle Bark Scale

We talk about Crape Myrtle Bark Scale often, and the term “Crape Murder” is popular as well. When looking at photos, it is hard to tell exactly what you are seeing. Is it a plant, a growth, a bug? 

What is Crape Myrtle Bark Scale?

Crape Myrtle Bark Scale is actually a type of insect/pest that attaches itself to the trunk of a Crape Myrtle tree. Before you see the pest, you might first notice black areas forming on the trunk or branches of your tree.

It covers parts (or eventually all) of the Crape Myrtle tree with a black, sticky soot-like substance. The actual pest, the Bark Scale is a flat, light gray or white pest that feels like felt. If you press on the Bark Scale and it oozes a pink substance, it is active.

According to Clemson University, Crape Myrtle Bark Scale was first found in Texas in 2004. It has now (2022) spread across the South as far across as North Carolina. Most attribute the spread of CMBS to the movement of plant material across the region.

How does it do the damage?

You might first notice that sidewalks, driveways, shrubs and flowers, garbage cans, pools, toys under your trees are turning black. Everything under the infected tree will get a black, moldy, sooty stain. 

Crape Myrtle Bark Scale typically gathers in the branch crotches or at pruning areas, also under loose bark. As Crape Myrtle Bark Scale takes over, it begins to literally suck the life (sap) from your tree. The thick, black moldy soot will cover the tree and begin raining down onto everything underneath the tree.

Should I get rid of Crape Myrtle Bark Scale?

For some, the black sooty mold that covers your trees and everything underneath is more cause for concern than tree health. Deciding to treat Crape Myrtle Bark Scale may come down to you deciding to protect the investment you have made in your trees, your landscape, and your property.

It is commonly accepted that CMBS won’t kill your trees. In addition to being unattractive, the black mold prevents sunlight from reaching the tree. 

Bark Scale will most likely affect the number of flowers on your tree. The size of flower clusters and overall vigor in the plant health of your Crape Myrtle trees may also suffer. Crape Myrtle Bark Scale may even cause your trees to flower later than healthy trees. 

How is Crape Myrtle Bark Scale treated?

Treatment starts by systemically injecting treatment at the roots of the trees. This will slowly and methodically begin treating the entire tree and ridding it of the pest. 

In addition to the systemic treatment, we spray the entire tree with a growth regulator. This doesn’t improve the growth of the tree, it speeds up the process of getting rid of the Bark Scale. 

In the fall, Lawn and Pest Solutions applies dormant oil to the affected tree. This oil smothers and eliminates any remaining insects on the tree except those which are beneficial to the tree (like ladybugs). 

Each year afterwards, we do an annual systemic treatment as a preventative to keep the CMBS from returning. This treatment also has lawn fertilization  which will help your Crape Myrtle thrive in the future. Even if you don’t have Bark Scale now you might consider this preventative treatment. 

Crape Myrtles are some of the most beautiful flowering trees we have in the South. These majestic trees enhance our properties, parks, cities, and lawns. Contact us today to check on your investment! Lawn and Pest Solutions has a great system to treat your Crape Myrtles before this Crape Myrtle Bark Scale has a chance to infect your trees. Our licensed technicians are trained in recognizing and guiding you in the right direction for treatment and/or prevention. We treat Crape Myrtles in the Memphis, Tennessee area and all over North Mississippi.

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