What is Crape Myrtle Bark Scale?

Crape Myrtle Bark Scale (CMBS) is an invasive insect species that affects crape myrtle trees, which are popular ornamental plants known for their vibrant flowers and attractive bark. CMBS is a small insect that feeds on the sap of crape myrtle trees, causing damage to the bark and leaves. It was first discovered in Texas in 2004 and has since spread to other states in the southeastern United States.

Identification and Life Cycle

CMBS can be identified by the white or grayish waxy covering that it produces on the bark of crape myrtle trees. This covering is often mistaken for a fungus or mold, but it is actually a protective layer that the insect creates to shield itself from predators and environmental conditions. The insects themselves are small and can be difficult to spot without close inspection.

The life cycle of CMBS consists of several stages: egg, crawler, nymph, and adult. The eggs are laid under the protective covering on the bark and hatch into crawlers, which are tiny, mobile insects. The crawlers move around the tree, feeding on the sap and eventually settling in one spot to molt into nymphs. The nymphs continue to feed and grow until they reach adulthood. The adults are winged and can fly to other trees, spreading the infestation.

Damage and Symptoms

CMBS infestations can cause significant damage to crape myrtle trees if left untreated. The insects feed on the sap, which weakens the tree and can lead to stunted growth, yellowing or browning of leaves, and branch dieback. The waxy covering produced by the insects can also attract other pests, such as ants and sooty mold, further exacerbating the damage.

One of the most noticeable symptoms of CMBS infestation is the presence of the white or grayish waxy covering on the bark. This covering can be found on the trunk, branches, and twigs of the tree. Other symptoms include the presence of black sooty mold on the leaves and branches, as well as the presence of ants crawling on the tree.

Management and Control

Managing and controlling CMBS infestations requires a multi-faceted approach that includes cultural, biological, and chemical methods. Here are some strategies that can be used:

Cultural methods: Pruning infected branches and twigs can help remove the insects and reduce the population. It is important to dispose of the pruned material properly to prevent the spread of the infestation. Additionally, maintaining tree health through proper watering, fertilization, and mulching can help improve the tree’s ability to withstand infestations.

Biological control: Introducing natural enemies of CMBS, such as predatory insects or parasitic wasps, can help reduce the population. These natural enemies feed on the CMBS and can help keep the infestation under control. However, it is important to ensure that the introduced species are compatible with the local ecosystem and do not cause harm to other beneficial insects.

Chemical control: In severe infestations, chemical control may be necessary. Insecticides can be used to kill the CMBS, but it is important to follow the instructions carefully and choose products that are labeled for use on crape myrtle trees. It is also important to consider the potential impact on beneficial insects and the environment when using chemical control methods.


Preventing CMBS infestations is key to maintaining the health and beauty of crape myrtle trees. Here are some preventive measures that can be taken:

Plant selection: Choose crape myrtle varieties that are known to be resistant to CMBS. Some varieties have been bred to be less susceptible to infestations and can be a good choice for planting.

Regular monitoring: Regularly inspect crape myrtle trees for signs of CMBS infestation, such as the presence of the waxy covering or sooty mold. Early detection can help prevent the infestation from spreading and causing significant damage.

Proper sanitation: Remove and dispose of any fallen leaves or debris around crape myrtle trees, as these can harbor CMBS and other pests. Keeping the area clean can help reduce the risk of infestation.

Quarantine measures: If CMBS is detected in an area, it is important to implement quarantine measures to prevent the spread of the infestation. This may involve restricting the movement of crape myrtle trees or plant material from infested areas.


In conclusion, Crape Myrtle Bark Scale is an invasive insect species that can cause significant damage to crape myrtle trees. Identifying the infestation early and implementing appropriate management and control measures are crucial for preserving the health and beauty of these ornamental plants. By following preventive measures and taking prompt action, it is possible to mitigate the impact of CMBS and protect crape myrtle trees from infestations.