Non-native crape myrtle pest moving toward Middle Tennessee


Non-native crape myrtle pest moving toward Middle Tennessee

UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE INSTITUTE OF AGRICULTURE

Concerned gardeners are educating Tennesseans about an invasive pest that could decimate a landscape favorite.

Members of the Madison County Master Gardeners, along with horticulturists with the University of Tennessee Gardens and UT Extension, have created the Crape myrtle Bark Scale Task Force. This group says they hope to spread the word about the damaging crape myrtle bark scale before this insect spreads to more Tennessee trees.

The crape myrtle bark scale is a non-native insect, first detected in the U.S. in 2004. It was discovered on crape myrtles in the Memphis area several years ago and has now moved eastward. The scale appears as white, felt-like encrustations on the bark, often near pruning wounds or at branch junctions. As the infestation increases, a black sooty mold appears on the bark and leaves.

Crape Myrtle
A healthy crape myrtle. // UT EXTENSION

“We have come to depend on the crape myrtle as a beautiful, low-maintenance addition to our landscapes, and because of this you can find them in almost every Southern neighborhood,” says Jason Reeves, curator of the UT Gardens, Jackson, located at the West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center. “That’s why we formed this task force. We need to educate homeowners on how to identify and stop the spread of this pest.”

Reeves says there are options for controlling crape myrtle bark scale, including applying a systemic insecticide, applying dormant oil to the bark, or washing the trunk with soap and water. If homeowners do not want to invest the extra time and money in controlling bark scale, Reeves recommends total removal of infected plants to prevent the spread to other crape myrtles.

The task force has compiled a series of videos on bark scale identification and control. They can be viewed at west.tennessee.edu/ornamentals. Information will also be available on the Facebook pages for the UT Gardens, Jackson, and Madison County Master Gardeners.

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