Crape Myrtle Scale
I have a beautiful crape myrtle that I've just realized is infested with scale. There are small beetles all over the tree now which, after an internet search, I believe are ladybugs. They are black with an orange dot on their backs. Should I begin a chemical treatment of the tree? Are the ladybugs beneficial in getting rid of the scale? Will chemical treatment kill the ladybugs? And finally, will this kill my tree? I'm lost on what to do to save this awesome tree. Can you help?? Thank you. Tracy Carron
Denton County Texas
Sorry to hear you are having problems with your crape myrtle. There is a scale insect pest that has been getting on our crape myrtles now. Here is more information on the insect and the treatment: http://citybugs.tamu.edu/2010/05/10/scale/
I don't know if the beetle you are describing is a ladybug, but ladybugs do eat scale. The larvae form of the ladybug which looks like a tiny alligator actually eats a lot more than the adult beetle form.
I would recommend using the soap method described in the link above to control the scale, if you can. It will kill a few ladybugs but won't wipe them out completely like other chemical controls would.
So far, I haven't known this scale to actually kill a tree, but it will put it under stress and compromise the health. Reduce the stress for your crape myrtle by mulching around it and watering it infrequently and deeply. Contact my office if you have further questions! Master.firstname.lastname@example.org.