​Will Help Homeowners Combat Devastating Pest

Crapemyrtle bark scale can reduce crapemyrtle blooms and cause mold to appear on bark and leaves. Review options for controlling this pest at west.tennessee.edu/ornamentals. Photo by F. Hale, courtesy of UTIA. Download image.​

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

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

The crapemyrtle bark scale is a non-native insect, first detected in the U.S. in 2004. It was discovered on crapemyrtles 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.

“We have come to depend on the crapemyrtle 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 crapemyrtle 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 crapemyrtles.

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.

The Madison County Master Gardeners is a program of the county’s UT Extension office.

The UT Gardens includes plant collections located in Knoxville, Jackson and Crossville. Designated as the official botanical garden for the State of Tennessee, the collections are part of the UT Institute of Agriculture. The Gardens’ mission is to foster appreciation, education and stewardship of plants through garden displays, educational programs and research trials. The Gardens are open during all seasons and free to the public.



Jason Reeves, curator, UT Gardens, Jackson, 731-425-4765,

Ginger Rowsey, UTIA Marketing and Communications, 731-425-4768,