The Q&A Archives: Crape Myrtles leaves attacked by pest

Question: I have a pair of Crape Myrtles at either corner of my house. I live in Carrollton, Texas (a northern suburb of Dallas). Every Spring, as the new foliage shoots come out, they are attacked by a pest that leaves the leaves frayed and misshapen. Asthe new shoots get longer, they are cut by the pest and either hang literally by a thread from the bush or fall to the ground around the bush. I never see the pests and the use of Bt doesn't seem to do any good. After about 4-6 weeks into thegrowing season, the damage slows and finally stops. I'm trying to stay Organic. What can I do to prevent these problems? The pest doesn't seem to harm the plant in the long run, but it sure slows its growth and flowering.

Answer: Crape myrtles are commonly infested with the Crapemyrtle aphid, a tiny critter that attacks new shoots early on, causing crumbled and misshaped tip growth. Later, the trees can be attacked, still early in the season, by omniverous loopers, caterpillars that are not listed on packages of BT. They do, however, succumb to pyrethrins. The trick is being Johnny On-the-spot with the spray to get these fast, mostly night feeding, do the damage and run nasties.

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