Bark scale more of concern than freeze for crape myrtles

Published 8:00 am Sunday, February 28, 2021

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While many are concerned about last week’s winter storm causing damage to our crape myrtles, a well-known Mississippi horticulturist says not to worry.

“There’s nothing wrong with your crape myrtles. They will sprout out new growth just like they have been pruned,” said Felder Rushing. “There’s nothing to do not but wait until spring to see if any twigs or branches don’t leaf out like normal and just cut those off.”

However, an insect that is wiping out the lovely trees all over the country is a cause for concern.

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“The ice isn’t bad on crape myrtles. There’s a whole lot more to worry about with crape myrtles and the bark scale.”

Rushing said the bark scale is a tiny Asian insect that is killing crape myrtles in record numbers and nothing seems to protect the crape myrtle from its wrath.

“It’s a new insect from Asia that showed up first in Texas,” Rushing said. “They look like tiny little white dots, something like aphids, but the completely cover the twigs and then the whole tree,” he said.

Rushing said the insect has devastated the two largest crape myrtle demonstration gardens.

“It’s completely out of control,” he said. “They are all over Jackson. I’ve gotten dozens of emails and calls about what to do and there is only one thing to be done and that is to pour systemic insecticide around the crape myrtle in the early spring — I mean really drench the ground. And it must be done in late March, April or early May.

“There are several brands of this systemic insecticide and garden centers sell it by the pallets. The only problem is, it’s banned in Europe because of what it does to bees,” Rushing said. “Sorry to seem so negative, but it is a truly dispiriting turn of events…This isn’t going away.”