Please identify what is eating my crape myrtles?

Asked May 18, 2017, 1:11 PM EDT

Hi, I've attached a picture of webbing around bare branches on my crape myrtle. Something is destroying the buds before they can emerge into flowers. This happens every year. Numerous branches are bare at the ends. Can you please tell me how to get rid of this pest without hurting other insects? I'm guessing it is spider mites, but the tree is fairly large tall so I don't know if I can spray it. I did purchase some insecticidal soap recently which I sprayed on webbing on my abelias, but it did not seem to help. Thank you,

Howard County Maryland

1 Response

WE do not see any type of insect pest on your crape myrtles. If there was something, it is now gone. However, if an insect was eating the leaves on these branch tips, they would probably not be so tidy that they ate entire leaves and didn't touch others. You'd see leaves in all different stages of being eaten. The webbing looks more like spider webs Crape myrtles do not have any pests that would consume foliage as you are seeing.

We suspect that the dead tips are caused by winter injury or drought damage from last year. The former is more likely. Many crape myrtles are not very cold hardy here. Do you know what variety you have?

Prune off the dead branch ends. Otherwise, do not prune your crape myrtle. Especially never prune in late summer or fall. This encourages new weak growth that is susceptible to being killed in the winter. Overpruning of crape myrtles is common. It's called "crape murder."

Also, Abelia do not have an insect pest such as you describe. Spiders, however, will spin webs on any kind of shrub. Spiders are beneficial and eat many pest insects, so you'll probably want to encourage them.