Pest Alert – Sooty Mold, Harmless Fungus Indicates Insect Feeding

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You can see sooty mold growing on the bark of this  maple. Sooty mold grows on the sugary sap that is leaking from woodpecker holes in the tree. Notice the holes arranged in lines on the bark.Maples, beech trees, hollies, crape myrtles and many other plants can get covered in a black fungus. Although this ‘sooty mold’ can look bad, it is harmless to the tree. Sooty mold fungus grows on sugary liquids that leak from a tree, shrub or other plant. The sooty mold is harmless to the tree.

Wooly aphids or psyllids on beech tree

base of a tree trunk suckers growing at base of tree

Beech tree covered in sooty mold

Beech tree covered in sooty mold caused by beech blight aphids.

Above you can see a beech tree covered in sooty mold. In fact, so much fungus has accumulated that the fungus looks like sponges on the tree. This is caused by beech blight aphid insects. These insects suck the juice from the tree. The black stuff is mold growing on their sugary droppings. These insects are harmless to the tree. There is no need to treat these insects as they do not hurt the plant. Learn more here: https://ag.umass.edu/landscape/fact-sheets/beech-blight-aphid

crape myrtle bark sooty mold

This crape myrtle is infested with aphids. Sooty mold grows on their sugary droppings. To control the sooty mold you need to get rid of the insects on the plant.

sooty mold holly

This holly is infested with scale insects. Sooty mold grows on their sugary droppings. To control the sooty mold you need to get rid of the insects on the plant.

Written By

Steve Pettis, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionSteve Pettis, Jr.Extension Agent, Agriculture - Consumer and Commercial Horticulture Call Steve Email Steve N.C. Cooperative Extension, Henderson County Center
Updated on Sep 7, 2021
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