Roots, Shoots, Fruits & Flowers: Non-venomous Snake, Crape Myrtle Bark Scale and Joe Burrow’s Wasp

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Louisiana milk snake. Photo: Alexandria (LA) Zoo.

Non-venomous Snake

Michelle called the AgCenter and described a “red and orange” snake in her daughter’s bedroom. She wanted to determine if it is venomous or not. AHA and Michelle talked about the difference between a venomous coral snake, and a harmless milk snake. Michelle decided to release this snake outdoors because she knows that harmless snakes will control rodents and appreciates the benefit of non-venomous snakes. AHA went on to try to identify this snake based on color description.

Several snakes fit the description above including the common water snake, corn snake or milk snake, and all these snakes are non-venomous and harmless. Again, these snakes control rodents and other pests in the landscape.

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Crape myrtles infested with crape myrtle bark scale (CMBS). Photo: Sara Fuhrer, LeCompte, LA.


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A cactus lady beetle, a predator of scale insects. Photo: LSU AgCenter.

Crape Myrtle Bark Scale

Sara from LeCompte sent an email on behalf of a neighbor, “My neighbor’s many, many mature crepe Myrtle’s are affected by aphids ([I] hope they don’t spread across neighborhood). Robbie Hutchins, Area Forestry Agent, suggested spraying with Dawn™. [Do you have] any other suggestions/tips?”

In general, Dawn™ or other soap mixed with water has a smothering affect. However, Sara, in a later email, wrote, “My neighbor’s trees did not seem to respond to the Dawn™, as far as we can tell. And I pointed out that those little white egg sacks are on all her many trees, not just the three she sees by her porch. And more disturbing (for me) is I’ve noticed that my next door neighbor has them on the crepe myrtles by his house, but they haven’t yet crossed his driveway to his trees bordering my side, but I’m bracing for the damage here, too. And I have no idea how you spray stuff all the way up into a tall tree 🙁”

AHA suspected that Sara has crape myrtle bark scale (CMBS), a pest first observed in Texas around 2004. In her weekly column from August of 2020, Get It Growing: Combatting Crape Myrtle Bark Scale, Dr. Heather Kirk-Ballard outlines some control measures:

  • A soapy water mixture composed of dishwashing liquid with 1½ teaspoons per quart of water or an insecticidal soap and a soft brush can be used to scrub the insects off of limbs and branches that you can reach and simply rinse them away. Or you can spray the solution, reapplying every five to seven days as needed, covering both sides of the foliage. Leave the solution for several minutes and then rinse the soap and bugs off. Do not apply on a hot, sunny days to prevent burning the plant. This treatment is not easily accomplished on very tall trees but is effective on smaller ones.
  • Horticultural oil sprays can be applied when temperatures are above 45 degrees and below 90 degrees. Always spray in the late evening to slow drying time and increase effectiveness.
  • Finally, you can use a chemical control with active ingredients such as acephate, bifenthrin or imidacloprid.

Finally, lady beetles will attack this scale. The cactus lady beetle, twice-stabbed lady beetle, and the bigeminate lady beetle are the most common natural enemies seen in infested trees in Louisiana. Go to Dr. Kirk-Ballard’s column to learn more about CMBS.

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A newly discovered wasp named for Joe Burrow, LSU's star QB in 2019. Photo: zookeys.pensoft.net.


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A tomato hornworm infested with cocoons of the braconid wasp. Photo: Galveston County (TX) Master Gardeners.

Joe Burrow’s Wasp

If you are a gardener and if you are an LSU football fan, then this story will be interesting. LSU AgCenter assistant professor Nathan Lord and colleagues have named a new species of wasp after Heisman winner Joe Burrow! The official wasp's name is Orientocardiochiles joeburrowi.

This wasp was found in Malaysia and “Named in honor of Joseph Lee Burrow, the world-class college football quarterback for the LSU Tigers and the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner” according to the Zoo Keys website. The biology of this wasp is unknown.

However, its Louisiana relative, the braconid wasp, attacks garden pests like the tomato hornworm. This wasp is tiny and harmless to people. The Georgia Extension website also reports, “There is a braconid wasp, Cotesia congregates, that specifically looks for tomato hornworms. This small wasp has clear wings and as an adult they are nectar feeders. To persuade the wasps to stay in your garden you will need to have flowers. The small braconid wasps are attracted to small flowers like yarrow and small asters.”

If you want to contact Roots, Shoots, Fruits and Flowers, please send your questions and pictures to Keith Hawkins, Area Horticulture Agent (AHA), 337-463-7006 or khawkins@agcenter.lsu.edu. Also, you can be on the “green thumbs” email list by emailing your request to the address above.

“Before you buy or use an insecticide product, first read the label, and strictly follow label recommendations. Mention of trade names or commercial products in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute endorsement by Louisiana State University AgCenter.”

“This work has been supported, in part, by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Renewable Resources Extension Act Award, Accession Number 1011417.”

10/5/2020 8:56:29 PM
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