Crape Myrtle Bark Scale is an invasive insect that we have seen spread quickly through central North Carolina over the last few years. This pest looks like a small white or grey bump on the bark of a tree or shrub. A heavy infestation weakens the health of a tree and, in some cases, can even kill it.
Even a light infestation can look unsightly. This pest produces a lot of waste, also known as honeydew. Sooty mold will grow on the honeydew, making the bark, foliage, and anything under the tree turn black.
The Crape Myrtle Bark Scale was first introduced in Texas in 2004, most likely by nursery stock. However, it has spread throughout the Southeast, including North Carolina. As the name suggests, it primarily impacts Crape Myrtles.
Unfortunately, getting rid of this pest is challenging and will require ongoing treatments for as long as the Crape Myrtle is alive. We recommend removing Crape Myrtles when they become infested and replacing them with a native species that is not susceptible to this pest. A few of our favorites include the native Fringe Tree and Smoke Tree (read more in 10 Native Trees to Plant in Central North Carolina).
While beautiful, Crape Myrtles are not native and do little to support our local ecosystem. The added risk is that a Scale infestation can also harm nearby plants. Removing Crape Myrtles and replacing them with native trees has the primary benefit of providing food and shelter to the many bees, birds, and butterflies that need help. It also potentially slows the spread of this invasive insect.
Some might suggest harsh chemical treatments, but these are harmful to pollinators and our ecosystem as a whole. We recommend that you avoid these options - the collateral damage to other life is simply not worth it, especially in light of the replacement option. We do have some non-toxic treatment options we can offer, but they are less effective than the toxic chemicals (or removal and replacement). Any treatment, whether toxic or non-toxic, would require ongoing treatments due to re-infestation. When measured across a longer time span, the cost of treatment is generally more expensive than the cost of replacement.
This harmful pest is not going anywhere anytime soon, so the best option is to remove it and replace it with a native tree, which has the added benefits of helping other non-human life and saving you money. But if you prefer to keep your Crape Myrtle and do not have an issue with the ongoing costs, we can offer you a non-toxic treatment approach. We look forward to speaking with you! Send us a message, and we’ll reply as soon as possible.