Controling crepe myrtle aphids

Update- May 2013- This post still seems like it is getting a lot of traffic! Full origional post below the image, but here is a quick update. They Bayer product noted below seems to be the winner. My first application kept me bug free for years. I had one bush have another outbreak last year, and one application fixed it again. In the comments below, EMiller left this helpful info- The active ingredient in the formula is Imidacloprid (the original formula also has another chemical but it’s not used anymore). Amazon sells different brands that contain Imidacloprid, here’s a link to the Bayer concentrate: clicky

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Secondary update- Late June 2012- I see the popularity of this post is still growing, and wanted to give an update. The Bayer solution noted below that requires you to pour a bucket of their mixture at the base of the plant worked, and kept me totally bug free for aprox 3.5 years!!! This spring, the little buggers were back, and I re-treated them about 2 months ago. I used a hose spray solution (of the same mix, they also sell it that way) to quickly kill them so I could de-sticky my deck/patio furniture for a party I was having the same weekend. At the same time I applied a bucket of the “Tree and Shrub Protect and Feed” and have been bug free since. Below are the pics of the product and label. I know they change the names/packaging over the years. All of the other solutions tested below, and most of the ones in the comments are very temporary. This is the only thing I have done that has kept them away for more than a month.

When I bought my house last year, I told myself that I would give myself one year to see if I could figure out a way to control the aphid/spider mite infestation that all 3 of my Crepe Myrtles had. For those not familiar with the issue, the aphids infest the bottom sides of the leaves. Once there they eat the sap and then proceed to crap the sap out on whatever might be below. This aphid crap is affectionately known as “honeydew” by some, but I like to call a spade a spade and refer to it as aphid crap. You feel it as tiny mist like drops falling from the tree above. If the infestation is bad, the mist can be heavy and annoying. It is also sticky and will get all over any furniture or deck that it is above. Heavy infestation can also cause mold and other problems for the plant. Since I have one large crepe myrtle that is in the middle of my deck that provides shade in the summer, I have been determined to see if I could control the problem so that I would not have to cut the tree down. That sounds harsh, but the shade the tree provides is useless if nobody wants to sit in the mist of aphid crap. It basically makes the deck unusable.

All this black crap that I had to power wash off of my deck was caused by the aphid honeydew.

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This year I tried to take a scientific approach. Since I had 2 in the front yard, and one Crepe Myrtle in the front yard that were infested, I though I would try 2 different products to see which one worked best.

Update: I see this post still gets a lot of traffic, so I thought I’d share this update. The year after I wrote the post below, I used a Bayer 12 month systemic insecticide. You mix it in a bucket of water and pour it at the base of the plants. It wiped out the problem completely and hasn’t ever required a reapplication. The bushes have been Aphid free for the past 2-3 years now!

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First up- Ortho Total Kill- Lawn and Garden Insect Killer. The list of bugs that it kills includes mites and aphids, and it also claims that it has long lasting effects, and keeps killing after application. I used this on the Crepe Myrtles in the front yard. Over a period of a few days, it did kill a lot of the aphids, but it didn’t do a real good job. After checking out ground zero a few days later, it looked like about %70 of the bugs were dead on the back of the leafs, but the rest were alive and well.

Next up- Ortho Systemic Insect Killer- This stuff rocks. Within 24 hours there was not a living aphid to be found. It totally killed all of the mites and aphids, and kept them gone for about one month before I started to notice a few bugs starting to come back. This one is the winner for sure. I think if I spray with this product about once a month, I can control the aphids, and live on a deck that is free of aphid crap.

49 Responses to “Controling crepe myrtle aphids”


  • You should be able to control aphids pretty easily without the toxic chemicals. A product called “Safer’s Soap” is very effective, and non – toxic. Basically it’s really just soap, and a regular soapy water solution will also work (some kinds of soap may harm some kinds of plants, so the Safer’s Soap is a good bet) Aphids are so fragile that it doesn’t take much to kill them, but under certain conditions they reproduce so fast that you simply have to re treat every few days to control them.

    Seriously, at least try to do this without constantly spraying your outdoor living area with toxic petrochemicals.

  • I might give it a try. However, if a small amount of chemical will clear the problem for a month, and I would have to soap the tree every few days to control it that way… I will probably keep using the chemical.

  • If you want to combine effectiveness with low toxicity, try an oil product, either a botanically derived one like a neem oil spray or a paraffinic oil. They smother both adults and eggs, and thus have a longer period of effectiveness than soaps. You do need to get past the notion that it is alright to spray toxic chemicals about willy nilly just hoping it will solve a minor problem when you have no idea about how effective they will be in solving your problem or what effects beyond what you are hoping for they may have.

  • You can hardly call spraying poison on everything in sight “scientific”. Grow organic, your liver will thank you.

  • my husband has been enjoying that mist after his workouts!!! hahahhaha. I am laughing so hard. he is getting in the shower right now!

  • What can I say, I’m just not an organic kinda guy. As far as my liver goes…=it will never forgive me for the whole “beer” thing, so a little Ortho is the least of my worries.
    :)
    Z

  • I used the Ortho treatment at another home. This year in my new yard it didn’t seem to kill the aphids. I tried to get the backs of the leaves, but it is difficult to do without becoming covered in it yourself. Any tips?

  • I have used chemicals and don’t like them either. Would Ivoy Soap work on these little creatures? My dad used to use it in his garden, wonder if it was for killing insects? Also, I have a crepe myrtle that has never bloomed…never had a bud etc. It is 5 years old. Is there a reason for this? It is a spindaly looking plant about 7 ft. tall, not a tree looking plant. It is healthy and has good leaves. Just wondering if I should get rid of it, or if I can help it a little.

  • The best thing to control aphids is Bayer Tree and Shrub insect control. You can get it at WalMart for around $20 a bottle. Simply mix and pour around base of tree.

  • Does anyone know of something that you pour at the root of the crape myrtle. It is absorbed and then released through the leaves, killing all of the Aphids?

  • Funny, I was looking up info on “how to kill a crepe myrtle” and I ran across this blog entry. Ha. Anyway, since I assume you’ve already declared nuclear war against the aphids, it probably worked, but Safer’s Soap does actually work and it’s non-toxic.
    Me, I just cut two down. I like CMs but these were planted WAY too close to the house. Maybe a miniture variety would have worked, but there things wanted to be 30ft tall.

  • I cant believe anything poured on the ground would kill these little demons, I dont think I have much time to waste waiting on that, my CM’s are dying fast from these tiny terrors. I’m going to try the Ortho Systemic stuff asap.

  • http://ufinsect.ifas.ufl.edu/crape_myrtle.htm

    I was within a foot of spraying the Ortho when I ran across this website citing these crapping aphids as beneficial insects.

  • I read the article and don’t buy it. The aphids do damage to the plants by covering them (when infested) with sticky honeydew that then grows mold and hurts the plant. It also covers everything below it in a nasty sticky covering. If your plant is not in an area where people are, it may not matter to you. But for me, one of mine is on my deck, and it covers my patio furniture in a sticky coat of nastiness. It also soaks into the wood of the deck, and dirt sticks to it making it black and dirty (see pics above). Basically it hurts the plant and renders my outdoor living area unusable under the plant.

    I used Bear 3 in 1 this year, and so far so good. No aphids for about 3 weeks, and it killed the infestation quickly when applied.

  • Patio Furniture is one of mine in sticky of nastiness and also into the wood of deck to make it hurts the plant and renders of outdoor living area.Also looking for new creative and innovative.

  • This is a test. First explanation lost due to my ignorance not using a notepad to prepare my post. But it still was iritating, like saying something in anger; you can’t get it back. I went to too two trouble to thoroughly explain, but butt ugly stupid me didn’t see any line items enumerated, so assume this is reference to sum of IQ and EQ, of course squared (for the field above my post…)

    Mix equal parts of egg shell, cut up banana peels, and coffee grounds is a blender and pour around the trees base. Option: Spray with neem oil solution, since the mixture will take a couple of weeks to completely work.

    gl
    dcdon

  • Oh, I forgot, with all the math I was attempting and, I out of fingers, especially one.

    In winter use Volck Oil (Orthoandothers) saturate the trunk, especially cracks and crevus’ much as possible. This will kill “most” of the eggs. In spring some of the pesky critters (Yosimty Sam expletive) get blown back in, so keep a little neem oil solution around.

    It’s a good idea to prune smaller limbs and suckers. A Crepe with so many trunks is just a Crepe. A well fashioned Crepe Myrtle can be a source of beauty.

    gl
    dcdon

  • I hate aphids! I have 3 CM on the side of my house that are beautiful throught the windows until the little critters invade. I cut back my CM every year and I have used the soap method with no success, I am not wanting to BAITH them anymore, I want to KILL them and have them NEVER return. I will try the Ortho and the Volck Oil.

  • OOPS! For the spell checkers out there…”through” and “bathe”.

  • Thank you! I tried all those things and they always came back in a few days. I spent countless hours and many bucks. I was going to cut them down but decide to search the internet once more for a solution. The Bayer systemic stuff worked. Now I can keep the trees and enjoy them. Thank you Zack!

  • I’ve never heard of others having aphids in their crepe myrtles until this blog. Every single leaf on my beautiful flowering 15 foot tall crepe myrtle looks like the picture. I talked to a nurserywoman and her first question was… “Is the tree ‘protected’?” meaning near a deck, house, or other protection from the elements vs in the middle of the property where it gets plenty of sun and the elements buffeting it. Mine, and all of you responders seem to have “protected” CMs too. If my brother didn’t like it so much, I’d cut it down. Mine got this awful black powdery mildew and the whole tree, leaves and all were black. I got tired of hearing about it. I’ll try the Bayer too because I’m tired of spraying it every three days with water then weekly with ineffective pesticides.

  • I was so happy when I found this page and the information about Bayer 12 month systemic insecticide, until I went to find the insecticide. I have looked online and the only website that I can find that sells it is called hardtofind.com (or something like that and they are sold out)! I’ve also looked at Lowes and they don’t have it either. Anyone else have ideas where to find it?

  • @Lauren – I just found this website today and decided Bayer was what I needed to try. I went to Lowes and couldn’t find it. I asked the lady in the garden center and she said they didn’t carry that brand (the do). Anywho, long story short, they have it inside the store. Most Lowes are set up the same. I found it near the home pest control, weed control, etc. I was on the next isle from that stuff. Good luck!

    @ the rest of the tree hugging, earth saving, hippies – I have personally tried every natural thing to kill aphids. Everything from soapy water to buying 4500 ladybugs to release in my yard. Nothing has worked. We (the chemical using aphid killers) don’t judge you for being organic and whatnot. Please don’t judge us for using chemicals to keep our yards nice.

  • Are you kidding me???? I read every post and am surprised that each one of you never sought professional advice. Sometimes it’s okay to save money and then on the other hand just nip it in the bud folks!! You have wasted so much time and money that it would have paid for a professional. Common sense!!!

    I have 16 white crepe myrtles that are just over a decade old. They are beautiful and maintained yearly. When you have a yard of different trees, there is nothing more irritating to me than to see them not maintained. If you can’t do the job properly, don’t plant the trees and if you don’t know how to water, then find a source to learn.

    I live in the San Joaquin Valley in California. I hate it but I have no choice. My trees do not require that much water. I live in a subdivision and my neighbors have killed a few of my trees in the front yard because their sprinklers overlap into my yard, they don’t check for broken sprinkler heads, and they water too long.

    Okay the solution to the aphids is a Merit injection on each tree sometime in April or early spring. It cost me $133 for 16 trees. I’ve never had an aphid–I mean never.

    Take all your soaps and other crap and toss it. Save your time and effort and relax. This is one time you call in a professional.

    I have the nicest yard in the subdivision. People still stop and look. I also have a beautiful Brazilian Pepper Tree in the front and six staggered redwoods in the backyard, three Potato Bush trees, and two Japanese Maples. My trees are maintained yearly.

  • I live right outside of Houston and I have 9 CM and only one of them get the CRAP every year. I have tried many different thing because I do not want to cut down the tree. This year my neighbors complained about the CRAP in their yard since the tree is up against a common fence. If I remove the tree, we will lose a lot of privacy between yards. I would like to try the Bayer product and found it at Home Depot. My only question is when to apply it? The tree is in full bloom right now (with CRAP all over it). Do I do it now or wait until we cut it back in FEB. Which would be better to ensure I don’t have issues next summer?
    Thanks

  • Ran into this on “crepe myrtyles covered in aphids” search. I have tried the organic stuff.. you have to be patient and diligent…. being patient and diligent sucks, i think i’ll try the Bayer stuff. FYI I’m an ICU nurse and no one ever comes in with aphid killer liver failure! Thanks for the post and the help!

  • Julanne, you bumptious A**. Brazilian Pepper Trees are invasive. They are illegal in Florida because they use an inordinate amount of our water. Plus they are ugly IMO.

    If you plant the correct sized Crepe Myrtle for the landscape, they do not need “professional” maintenance. Let me guess…you allow your tree guys to commit crepe murder every year and prune them down to stubs in the Spring. Plus, white is not a color.

  • I thought I would put my two cents worth in here.
    I live in South Florida where it gets to 95 with 80% humidity for two months out of the year (aphid heaven). With that said if you treat your Crapes with Bayer flowering tree and shrub systemic in March you will not have aphids that year.

    I have 500 of these things in my back yard that rarely get sprayed and when they do its for the Sri Lankan Weevil. These things are incredible eaters and do way more damage in my yard than aphids. Watch out Tampa they are coming north in a hurry.

    Mike
    Port Charlotte, FLA

  • Very informative. Going to try Bayer treatment. Had a good laugh reading all the posts! Thanks!

  • Bravo to Smudge!! Julanne, I am so sorry that you have a Brazilian Pepper Tree. Please kill it before San Joaquin Valley in California looks like South Florida. I had a friend from Ga. visit me in Cocoa Fl. and she wanted to take a Brazilian Pepper tree home. I told he please dont or she would be excommicated from the state of Ga. but that the tress are probably not cold hardy to survive anyway.

  • spellling error. Excommunicated. Also if I remember correctly, The pepper tree was introduced to Florida to dry up wetlands so that they could be built on and now we are spending millions of dollars to rid the everglades of them before Northern retirees condos can be built there.

  • When do you pour the Bayer Systemic around the base of the tree?

  • I made a mixture of dr bronners tea tree castile soap and essential oils of Eucalyptus, lemongrass, and anise, mixed it in a gallon of warm water and throughly sprayed the tree. I am seeing an improvement.

  • This all sounds familiar… Been doing battle with black winged & little green aphids for the past 3 weeks. Pressure washing them off, soaping them, seven, anti-fungal products have all produced zero results! At this point my crepe myrtles are starting to turn black & I’m running out of time.
    Thank you Zach — I’m heading out today to get some Bayer Systemic… The only thing no one has mentioned about this honey dew is the fact that it attracts thousands of bees! And, not the good ones either. We had a major problem 3 years ago with wasps, hornets, & yellow jackets attacking us because of this sooty mold & sticky aphid crap. Our largest Crepe Myrtle is near our pool and it created quite a safety problem the last time we had the aphid infestation due to the yellow jacket swarms. I am in a race against time this year to get rid of the aphids!

  • Ok here is the real deal! I purchased live ladybugs, they are a natural enemy of aphids and their eggs. I place a sack of ladybugs at the base of each crepe myrtle and let them fest. I had a problem for years with 4 crepe myrtle and for years I used just the chemicals mentioned above with little results. Since I used the ladybugs no aphids and have had at least 48 inches in growth this year and lots of beautiful blossoms. I spray twice a month with that Bayer aphids killer spray and no worries.

    After reading this article I will try the 12 month protection but will never give up on the ladybugs!!!

  • Gordon,
    My Mom refers to that as the “great lady bug emancipation “. She tried it when I was a kid a few times, and the little buggers are so pretty…and you see them for about 10 mins.. they all fly away never to be seen again and your aphids remain.

    When she heard I was having this problem years ago, she made me promise not to do that unless I realized it was basically paying $10 to release some lady bugs into the wild…and not to solve an aphid problem.

  • This is to that IDIOT Julanne…
    You must have missed the pics? Merit right on side of the Bayer bottle? BOTH made by Bayer(yes the nazis ;-) and both having the SAME active ingredient Imidacloprid? So pro vs DIY not sure I would think an identical pro solution is the better choice, but the logic sure matches your TUDE!
    So keep in mind if you have a problem with Bayer/Merit simply find an alternative containing Imidacloprid which should even be cheaper!

  • Thanks Zach! After 4+ years of trying to solve the problem, I am finally seen a huge improvement.

    I used the Ortho-Max “Tree & Srub insect control” (“one application protects up to 12 months”) (Active ingredient: Imidacloprid 1.47%) which comes with a yellow “gentle shower applicator”. I would NOT recommend using it to spray with the hose/shower applicator, I did it and did NOT see any improvement at all, so I decided to use the same product but do it according to the BUCKET instructions of the Bayer product, and adjusting it proportional to the 1.47% concentration of the Ortho (which is double of the 0.74% of the Bayer) resulting in:
    Inches of trunk(s) circunference x .750 = number of ounces of Ortho product in a gallon of water.

    Well, to be honest, I was so desperate to solve this issue that I “topped it” with some extra ounces of product… You do your math.

    As per the instructions, apply it as close to the trunk(s) as possible.

    I did not water the crepe myrtle for 2 days previous to the
    bucket application to be sure that the tree was thirsty enough to start absorbing it quickly. One day after the application I watered it as usual.

    I had to rinse the leaves several days to get rid of the previous aphids and have not seen any new bugs in the last 2 months and I keep my fingers crossed !

  • This is my first year with the assphids issue and I now have a serious yellowjacket issue. Anyways, my CM’s are about 15 feet tall right nest to my back patio and my yard covered with the yellow sticky CM leafs and the trees have lost about 30% of their leafs. Should I try the Ortho Systemic Insect Killer method first get the initial kill, then do the bayer bucket method a day later for long term? I have a 15 month old who loves to run around the yard. Will it be safe after the applications dry? These products usually say “safe for animals and children after dry”. I haven’t seen these particular bottles yet. Thanks

  • I too have stumbled across this blog entry due to my poor aphid-covered crepe myrtle. I’ve been laid up the past couple weeks because of surgery so when I went out back and saw my precious CM had lost half its leaves and was covered in sticky disgusting bugs I ran to Google.

    Thanks for the post, I also want to know the same thing as Randy above.

  • Thank you so much Zach! I live in Austin, Tx, and I’ve had CMs for decades and have never had an issue with the aphids and “honeydew” stickiness all over everything! The trees were losing leaves, were sticky and then I saw all of the buggers on the leaves. Holy crap! In desparation I Googled and came up with the leaf washing, the soaping, the hand picking… I think I got more of the treatment than my trees!!! With no apparent result! Then I found your blog. Hallelujah!!! Time for the big guns mister! Got the Bayer Tree and Shrub Protection at Home Depot. Just applied it with the bucket method today, so easy. I’ll let you all know how it turns out. I have really enjoyed reading all of the posts. Thanks everyone!

  • Hey Zach! I just watched tru green drive away after treating my trees for those PITA Aphids! I do all the yard work around our house..grass..edge..weedeat…etc..and it broke my heart when these little S.O.B’s were killing my hollys and my myrtles and turning my mulch BLACK. I instantly tried Neem Oil….went online and bought Talstar (which can only be shipped to few states) and even soap and anything else I could find…I NEVER TRIED THE BAYER :-( I thought it was a crappy product like their weedkiller…it never stopped weeds or grass from growin through edging bricks and sidewalk but Im glad they have a product that WORKS….Anyway…I called trugreen out of desperation and I STILL HAVE THE BUGS!!!!! I dont think thet are doing ANYTHING!!! Im about to run to Lowes, my home away from home, and buy me 3 freakin gallons of that stuff…Im beyond aggrivated and this is the FIRST year since 2004 we lived here in N.A., SC that Ive ever seen them. Thanks so much for your post…You may have saved an Army Wife some un-needed insanity and a Crape Myrtle from being killed. U Rock!

    Jaime K :-)

  • Just wanted to say thank you. I had a horrible aphid problem on my crape myrtles. I couldn’t get rid of them. I tried natural and chemical ways to elieminate them. Then I saw this posting and tried the Bayer. IT WORKED! My trees look great now.

    Thank you!

  • Thanks for all the comments. I have this sticky, water soluble stuff all over my car, and couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. A few weeks ago, noticed one of my CM trees was dropping leaves. Wondered why. Now I know. Also saw weird little orange bugs all over the trees, (I have 3 and all infested). I mailed a picture to the city arborist; they are lady bug larva. He also suggested suggested insecticidal soap, or a systemic pesticide. I’m too short and the trees too tall, I’m going to try the Bayer. Thanks, Zach!

  • Thanks so much! I am going to try the Bayer product. I’ve used the sprays and they just keep hoping from bush to tree.

  • For anyone who is still researching this in 2013 : ) The active ingredient in the formula is Imidacloprid (the original formula also has another chemical but it’s not used anymore). Amazon sells different brands that contain Imidacloprid, here’s a link to the Bayer concentrate: http://www.amazon.com/BAYER-Advanced-12-Month-Protect-Concentrate/dp/B0012YZVJS/ref=sr_1_3?s=lawn-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1361889938&sr=1-3&keywords=imidacloprid

    p.s. my crepe is taller than my 2 story house so please don’t tell me to hand pick or spray with soap! I’ve tried everything organic from buying bags of ladybugs to mixing my own formula. My crepe almost died last summer, it’s time to bring in the big guns.

  • The Bayer product worked great on our crepe myrtle. I am not opposed to a little chemical attack on aphids on a tree that does not produce ant consumables for humans. The only alternative was to cut the darn thing down. The Bayer product saved the tree which is much better than soap, oil and other things that can run off into the storm drain. At least the Bayer product is poured into the ground and is fairly isolated at the spot of the tree or shrub. I also used the Bayer Rose product that pours at the root to control aphids. Two doses two weeks apart has taken care of the aphids. The modern day chemicals are very mild and when used responsibly and minimally, help save the environment by saving the tree or plant.

  • Haven’t used the Bayer yet, but will try it, thanks to all the info. Another bad thing about aphids is that they attract ANTS really BAD! Been dealing with ANTS so bad that they have consumed my life! & all becuz of the aphids :( So thought I’d share that bit of info if someone is having ant problems too and couldn’t figure out why like me.
    Good luck everyone!

  • Imidacloprid the active ingredient in the Bayer product mentioned has been linked to the decline of bees. Many countries have outlawed the use of imidacloprid. If you are concerned about the decline of bee populations I would suggesting doing some research before applying pesticides to your Crape Myrtles.

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