I got word Wednesday morning that the caretakers of the grounds at the Saline County Courthouse would be outside by the Veterans Memorial, washing trees. Yep, washing them. As I showed up to record video, there under the shady canopy of an adult crape myrtle tree, stood Dallas Wright and Jason Harrison. They had big brushes and five-gallon buckets of soapy water, gently scrubbing the bark on the trees, at the corner of Sevier and Main Streets.
Scroll down to see the video – Wright and Harrison explain how they ended up washing trees, and show the bug and effects of it.
Wright said the Master Gardeners alerted them that a certain bug was on the trees, leaving droppings that cause mold. The mold turns the tree trunk black and makes the leaves dark too. The remedy is to scrub the bark with Dawn dish liquid and then they will put dormer oil over it to repel further infestations. There are about 11 adult trees on the courthouse grounds that need this tedious treatment.
The University of Arkansas Extension published a paper on this specific type of infestation. It’s so specific that the bug is named after the tree. The Crape Myrtle Bark Scale (CMBS) that is found burrowing in the bark, is white or light gray. It was first noticed in the United States in 2004, in McKinney, Texas. It has since spread through Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, and was first discovered in Little Rock, Arkansas in January 2014. It’s very similar to an insect that infests azaleas, but this exact type is known to be found only in crape myrtles or pomegranate trees. Read more and see photos of the bug and the results of its infestation at https://www.uaex.edu/publications/pdf/fsa-7086.pdf.