Bugs on Crepe Myrtle: 13 Possible Suspects (ID & Treatment)

Many gardeners are drawn to crepe myrtles for their beautiful flowers and continual appeal, but these plants are still susceptible to unwanted pests.

In this guide, we’ll explore 13 possible bugs that you might encounter on your crepe myrtle, their potential damage, and how to treat them.

Key Takeaways

  • Crepe myrtles can be affected by a variety of pests, including aphids, crepe myrtle bark scale, Japanese beetles, whiteflies, flea beetles, spider mites, ants, bark lice, mealybugs, leafhoppers, thrips, lacebugs, and caterpillars.
  • Each pest has specific signs of infestation and can cause different types of damage to the tree.
  • Treatment methods vary depending on the pest but often include a combination of physical removal, insecticides, and the introduction of natural predators.
  • Regular monitoring and maintaining the overall health of your tree are crucial for preventing and managing pest infestations.

Would you like a better understanding of the various issues faced by crepe myrtle trees? Read my article, Crepe Myrtle Diseases and Pests, for an extensive guide.

1. Aphids

Aphids are small, sap-sucking insects that can cause significant damage to crepe myrtle trees.

They feed by piercing plant tissues and sucking out the sap, leading to curled or yellowed leaves, stunted growth, and a sticky substance on the leaves or ground beneath the tree, known as honeydew.

What To Look For

Aphids are typically less than 1/8 inch long and can be green, yellow, brown, red, white, or black, depending on the species.

They have pear-shaped bodies with long antennae and two tube-like structures, called cornicles, protruding from their rear end.

Aphids are usually found in clusters on the underside of new leaves or stems.

How To Treat

Aphid infestations can be controlled by spraying the tree with a strong jet of water to dislodge the pests, introducing natural predators like ladybugs, or using insecticides like this one.

Homemade sprays made from dish soap and water can also be effective.

2. Crepe Myrtle Bark Scale

Crepe myrtle bark scale is a pest that can cause significant damage to crepe myrtles.

These recently introduced pests feed on the sap of the tree and excrete honeydew, leading to the growth of sooty mold and giving the bark a black, sooty appearance.

What To Look For

Crepe myrtle bark scale is white to gray in color and has a felt-like texture. They are usually found on the branches and trunks of crepe myrtles. A heavy infestation can make the bark appear whitewashed.

How To Treat

Crepe myrtle bark scale can be controlled by pruning heavily infested branches and applying a systemic insecticide. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using any insecticides.

3. Japanese Beetles

Japanese beetles skeletonizing the leaves of a tree.

Japanese beetles are a significant pest for many plants, including crepe myrtles. They feed on the leaves and flowers, often leaving behind a skeletonized pattern.

What To Look For

Japanese beetles are easily identifiable by their metallic blue-green bodies with copper-colored wings. They are about 1/2 inch long and are often found feeding in groups during the day.

How To Treat

Hand-picking or knocking the beetles into a bucket of soapy water can be an effective method for small infestations. For larger infestations, insecticides or traps can be used.

4. Whiteflies

A group of whiteflies on the underside of a leaf.

Whiteflies are tiny, winged insects that feed on the underside of leaves, causing yellowing, wilting, and reduced growth. They also excrete honeydew, leading to sooty mold.

What To Look For

Whiteflies are small, white, winged insects that are typically found on the underside of leaves. When disturbed, they will often fly up in a small cloud.

How To Treat

Whiteflies can be difficult to control, but insecticidal soaps or oils can be effective.

Biological control methods, such as introducing natural predators like ladybugs and lacewings, can also help manage whitefly populations.

5. Flea Beetles

Two black flea beetles and excrement on a green leaf.

Flea beetles are small, jumping insects that feed on the leaves of many plants, including crepe myrtles. They can cause significant defoliation and reduced vigor in plants.

What To Look For

Flea beetles are small, shiny beetles that are often dark in color. They get their name from their ability to jump when disturbed.

Damage from flea beetles appears as small holes or pits in the leaves, often described as “shot hole” damage.

How To Treat

Flea beetles can be controlled with insecticides. Introducing natural predators, such as parasitic nematodes, can also help control flea beetle populations.

6. Spider Mites

Red spider mites and webbing on the tip of a leaf.

Spider mites are tiny pests that feed on the sap of plants, causing yellowing or browning of leaves, and in severe cases, leaf drop and plant death.

What To Look For

Spider mites are very small and often require a magnifying glass to see. They are typically found on the underside of leaves and may leave behind a fine, silken webbing. Infested leaves may appear speckled or bronzed.

How To Treat

Spider mites can be controlled with miticides or by introducing natural predators, such as ladybugs and predatory mites. Regularly spraying the plant with water can also help reduce mite populations.

7. Ants

Ants farming aphids on a plant stem.

While ants themselves don’t typically damage crepe myrtles, they often farm aphids for their honeydew and protect them from predators, leading to increased aphid populations and the development of sooty mold.

What To Look For

Ants on a crepe myrtle are often a sign of an aphid infestation. They are usually found traveling up and down the trunk of the tree.

How To Treat

Controlling ants involves treating the aphid infestation they are farming. This can be done using the methods described in the aphid section. Ant baits can also be used to control ant populations.

8. Bark Lice

A group of bark lice or tree cattle bugs on branch of crepe myrtle.

Bark lice are harmless insects that feed on algae, fungi, and other materials on the bark of trees. They do not damage the tree but can sometimes be mistaken for harmful pests.

What To Look For

Bark lice are small, soft-bodied insects that are often found in large groups on the bark of trees. They may form a silken webbing over the bark.

How To Treat

Bark lice do not require treatment as they are beneficial insects that help clean the tree.

9. Mealybugs

Several mealybugs infesting a plant stem.

Mealybugs are small, soft-bodied insects that feed on plant sap, causing yellowing and curling of leaves, reduced growth, and in severe cases, plant death.

What To Look For

Mealybugs are small insects covered in a white, waxy substance. They are usually found in clusters on the underside of leaves or in the crevices of bark.

How To Treat

Mealybugs can be controlled by spraying the tree with a strong jet of water to dislodge the pests, using insecticidal soaps or oils, or introducing natural predators like ladybugs.

10. Leafhoppers

A single leafhopper on a shaded leaf.

Leafhoppers are small, wedge-shaped insects that feed on plant sap, causing yellowing or browning of leaves, stunted growth, and in some cases, plant death.

What To Look For

Leafhoppers are small, often brightly colored, insects that jump or fly away when disturbed. Damage from leafhoppers appears as white or yellow spots on the leaves, often described as “hopperburn.”

How To Treat

Leafhoppers can be controlled with insecticides or by introducing natural predators, such as ladybugs and lacewings.

11. Thrips

Four thrips on a damaged leaf.

Thrips are tiny insects that feed on the sap of plants, causing discoloration, distortion, and reduced growth. They can also transmit plant diseases.

What To Look For

Thrips are very small and slender and are usually found on the underside of leaves. Damage from thrips appears as stippling, silvery discoloration, or distorted growth on the leaves.

How To Treat

Thrips can be controlled with insecticides or by introducing natural predators, such as ladybugs and lacewings. Regularly spraying the plant with water can also help reduce thrip populations.

12. Lacebugs

A close look at a lacebug on a green leaf.

Lacebugs are small insects that feed on the underside of leaves, causing yellowing or browning, reduced growth, and in severe cases, leaf drop.

What To Look For

Lacebugs are small, with a lace-like pattern on their wings. They are usually found on the underside of leaves. Damage from lacebugs appears as yellow or brown spots on the tops of leaves.

How To Treat

Lacebugs can be controlled with insecticides or by introducing natural predators, such as ladybugs and lacewings.

Regularly inspecting your plants and treating them at the first sign of an infestation can help prevent severe damage.

13. Caterpillars

A group of fuzzy caterpillars eating the leaves of a tree.

Caterpillars, the larval stage of butterflies and moths, can cause significant defoliation of crepe myrtles.

What To Look For

Caterpillars come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, but all have a long, segmented body and a distinct head.

They are often found on the leaves of plants, and damage appears as chewed leaves or complete defoliation.

How To Treat

Caterpillars can be controlled by hand-picking, using insecticides, or introducing natural predators, such as birds and certain types of wasps.

Final Thoughts

While crepe myrtles can be susceptible to a variety of pests, with regular monitoring and appropriate treatment, you can keep your tree healthy and vibrant.

With some knowledge and a little effort, you can ensure that your crepe myrtle continues to be a stunning addition to your landscape.

Pests and diseases are attracted to Crepe Myrtle trees. Here are some other things to look out for: