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Since 2013, in the city of Germantown, there has been a suspicious decrease in the health and appearance of one of the South’s ubiquitous flowering tree species, the crepe myrtle. If you live in the Mid-South, you most likely have a crepe myrtle in your yard or certainly in your neighborhood. For years, these trees have been “bullet proof” without any major natural insect enemies or diseases. We have seen the same issue spread into other parts of the Memphis-Metropolitan area as well as Fayette County and North Mississippi. Shrubs, grass, walkways, and vehicles underneath the canopies of these crepe myrtles may show a sticky substance and look to be turning black along with the tree itself. The pest causing this damage is called Crepe Myrtle Bark Scale (CMBS).
CMBS is more than likely a scale species found on crepe myrtles native to Asia. The original U.S discovery was made outside of Dallas, Texas in 2004. It has since spread to Louisiana, Oklahoma, Georgia, Arkansas, and was first identified in Germantown, Tennessee in 2013. During the 2014 season, infestations were identified in Collierville, Cordova, Fayette County, and as far west as the Highland-Poplar area in Memphis. Even though the juvenile crawlers are mobile, they do not venture very far from where they hatch. The most probable ways for the scale to cross such long distances is by birds and transplanted crepe myrtles. If purchasing a crepe myrtle, be sure to inspect your plant for any symptoms to ensure you are not inviting it into your landscape.
Damage occurs in two ways. The scale insect uses its straw-like mouth part to pull sap from the vascular tissue of the tree and a fungus called sooty mold grows on a secretion made by the scale referred to as “honeydew”. While the sooty mold does not attack the plant it is covering, it will create an artificial shade that blocks sunlight and obstructs the trees ability to produce food. The death of a tree has not been documented however, we have seen significant amounts of dieback in severe cases that have gone untreated.
Source of information: Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
If you see CMBS, its damage, or even simply have crepe myrtles, please call us. We will be happy to treat your plants to control CMBS and prevent further damage. Please remember that with any pest, eradication is unlikely. While on site, our Arborists and Plant Health Care specialists can evaluate your landscape and offer a full Plant Health Care plan. Please contact Chris Hudson, Director of Plant Health Care, or any of our other arborists. You can reach Chris at (901) 634-0875 or firstname.lastname@example.org. TN Pesticide charter # 4449
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