BRANDON, Miss. (WLBT) - A tree which is a southern favorite for its colorful summer blooms is under attack by an insect infestation.
Plant experts say the crape myrtle, popular in yards and landscapes across the metro, is slowly dying off unless drastic measures are taken.
“I began noticing these plants like this this past summer,” said Brandon Mayor Butch Lee pointing to blacken crepe myrtles in front of City Hall.
In the following months into winter, he has been watching the trees there and around the city become infested with bark scale.
The scale, a white fuzzy insect, attaches to the tree, feeding on the sap and producing what is called sooty mold, which is feces.
“Our first thing that we noticed was in Brandon Garden Club noticed it in the cemeteries,” said Lee. “So we treated our crape myrtles in the cemeteries. It took us I think about $3,200.”
The scales have also targeted trees throughout the metro. At the Medgar Wiley Evers main post office in Jackson more than 20 trees have been impacted.
Mississippi State Extension Area Horticulturist Donna Beliech said there are two options for treatment that can be found at garden centers.
“If you want to keep the crepe myrtles and keep it looking good you will have to either treat in the winter time with the dormant oil and then in the early spring with the systemic insecticide or you will have to put up with it,” said Beliech.
Adult female scales can produce 100 to 300 eggs.
Without treatment experts say infected crepe myrtles will decline, stop blooming and eventually die.
Scientists are working on breeding programs to create varieties resistant to the insects.