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Insects and Pests

The natural predator of any tree is insects. There are hundreds of thousands of different insects across the world that feed on or cause damage to every kind of tree imaginable. Other, larger animals can also cause damage to trees for various reasons. These are a few of the most common to the local area.




 ­Aphids   aphid2aphid1

Aphids, when in small numbers, do little damage to a tree, however, under favourable conditions the aphid population can grow very rapidly and cause serious damage to the tree during the growing season. Aphids attack trees by sucking the sap out of the leaves. The symptoms are very visible on the leaves in the form of multiple puckered marks, yellowing, and twisting of the leaves which gives the appearance of deformed leaves. As the severity of the aphid infestation increases, leaf drop and twig and branch die back can be seen. Often during an aphid infestation, leaves appear to be dripping sap from the underside. This is actually an excretion from the aphids and is called honeydew. It often drips onto other leaves, other plants and on to the ground. The honeydew then becomes an attractant to ants which feed on it. In most cases the ants are only symptoms of the honeydew and are not actually attacking or hurting a tree.­

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­Pine Beetles   beetles1 beetles2 FOR-1552

Pine beetles bore into a tree to eat the nutrient pathways of the inner bark and to lay their eggs in the network of tunnels created by their eating path. When the eggs hatch, the larvae also feed on the inner bark, causing the tree to wither and starve. Look for small holes in the tree’s bark where the beetle bored its way into the tree. In an attempt to push the beetle out, a healthy tree with good sap flow will form sap balls or sap tubes, called pitch tubes. Additionally, you may see an ultra­fine sawdust powder below bore holes.­

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­Leaf Chewers    chew2 chew1

Think of leaves as food factories for trees. Within them, light energy is utilized to manufacture sugars that the plant will use for development. Chewing insects, by devouring foliage, can cause a great deal of distress in a landscape situation. In essence, trees with inadequate foliage will starve.­

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­Leaf Miners   miner2 miner3 miner1

­ A leaf miner is the larva of an insect that lives in and eats the leaf tissue of plants.The vast majority of leaf­mining insects are moths, sawflies and flies, though beetles and wasps also exhibit this behavior. Like Woodboring beetles, leaf miners are protected from many predators and plant defenses by feeding within the tissues of the leaves themselves, selectively eating only the layers that have the least amount of cellulose. When attacking English oak, they also selectively feed on tissues containing lower levels of tannin, a deterrent chemical produced in great abundance by the tree. The precise pattern formed by the feeding tunnel is very often diagnostic for which kind of insect is responsible, sometimes even to genus level. The mine often contains frass, or droppings, and the pattern of frass deposition, mine shape and host plant identity are useful to determine the species of leaf miner. A few mining insects utilise other parts of a plant, such as the surface of a fruit.­

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­Mites    mite1 mite2

Spider mites are an extremely small pest, and generally appear as a brown, red, or purple specks on the underside of leaves. Mites infest leaves and cause the leaves to appear speckled with yellow spots or wilted and curled. A fine silken webbing can sometimes be seen on the underside of the leaves. Intense infestations during hot, dry weather can cause leaf drop. To confirm if the tree has a spider mite infestation, closely inspect the undersides of leaves for small insects, the size of ground pepper. You may need to use a small magnifying glass to see the spider mites adequately. Another way to examine for spider mites is to take a sheet of white paper and hold it under a group of leaves and give the leaves a few sharp taps, to shake some of the spider mites loose. On the white paper the spider mites can be seen easily.­

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­Ants/Spiders   ants webs

Ants are like termites in that they will not, and can not, eat or chew into living tissue or live wood. They merely clean out and move naturally rotting and decomposing wood to create a living environment. Most old, mature trees have cavities in them. The cavities should never be filled with cement or any other substance, and the ants that occupy them do not need to be destroyed unless you have another reason to destroy them (for example: if they start invading your house!). The brown tree spider constructs a lattice­like web that boasts one or more entrance tunnels. It often utilizes leaves, twigs, evergreen needles or grass blades to help support the web. The spider will often construct its web horizontally across the soil’s surface or on trees, shrubs or plants. The spider hides deep in the tunnel of the web and awaits its prey. Once the web has been successfully constructed, the brown tree spider rarely leaves its confines.­

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­Bees vs Wasps   bees1 beewasp

Many of us are unaware of the difference between bees and wasps and consider both of them equally harmful. However, this is not the case. Although they may look similar in color, the physical and behavioral characteristics of bees and wasps are different. Bees and wasps have different body and leg structure. Bees have hairy body and legs, whereas wasps have smooth bodies and legs. The abdomen and thorax of a bee is round, whereas in case of a wasp, it is cylindrical. Bees have flat and wide legs and wasps have rounds and waxy legs. Bees are pollinators, which essentially means that they collect pollen and sip on nectar. They can be easily found in areas where there are flowers. Bees also drink water. They use water for cleaning their hive as well. The Queen bee eats Royal Jelly a special nectar­like substance that transforms them from a normal bee to a queen. Wasps are usually predators who eat other insects such as caterpillars and flies. However, sometimes wasps sip on nectar too. They get attracted to the smell of human food, especially sugary beverages and beer. Bees are a necessary part of an apple orchard being the method of pollination between trees. Conversely, wasps often infest apple trees, burrowing and destroying the apples and harming the tree.­

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­Worms and Other Larvae   worms3 worms2 worms1

­ There are so many different types of worms that love to hang out in trees that it’s tough to keep track. Just a few of the different types of worms in trees include bagworms, Catawba worms, apple tree worms, Christmas tree worms, army worms, and catalpa tree worms. There are so many different types of worms that love to hang out in trees that it’s tough to keep track. Just a few of the different types of worms in trees include bagworms, Catawba worms, apple tree worms, Christmas tree worms, army worms, and catalpa tree worms. The Catawba worm is the larva of the sphinx moth. This black and yellow caterpillar infests the catalpa tree and feeds off of the tree leaves. There are a number of worms that crave apples just as much as us humans. They come in all shapes and sizes and some cause more damage than others. But two of the most common types of apple tree worms are the “apple maggot” and “codling moths.”­

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­Deer, Porcupine and Other Critters    RabbitDamage PorcupineDamageBeaverDamage

Bark stripping by Fox squirrel

Bark stripping by Fox squirrel

Deer damage to trees is most often the result of males rubbing and scraping their antlers against the tree, causing significant damage. This is done to remove the velvet. Once this velvet is removed, deer may continue to polish their antlers by rubbing up and down the trunk. Deer also rub trees during mating season to attract females or to mark their territory, warning other males to stay away. This activity can result in broken branches and torn tree bark. Damaged trees, especially young ones, cannot transport nutrients or water, which is vital for the tree’s survival. In addition to rubbing trees, deer may also paw at the soil around them as well as urinate on the area. They will chew on branches too; however, pruning the lower branches may help protect trees from deer chewing.

Porcupine damage will typically be high up in the tree and will focus on the trunk bark and branches. Damage typically occurs during the night.

Beaver can strip the bark to a standing height of less than 6 feet. Look closely for large scrape marks created by their teeth. These marks will help distinguish the damage from voles. Also voles tend to debark thinner trees. Beavers can also cut down trees.

Rabbits will girdle the trunk of trees (usually smooth barked) as high as they can reach. Don’t forget that snow cover can raise their elevation and therefore extend the height of their gnawing during winter.

Squirrels can clip the ends of tree branches and cause an extensive amount of damage as shown by the large quantity of evergreen clippings that have fallen to the ground. Squirrels can also strip bark on the trunk or the branches. Damage will typically occur in late winter or early spring. A critical sign will be the presence of small (1/2­inch) remnants of bark found below the branches that have been stripped. These remnants comprise a key difference between branches damaged by porcupines and those damaged by tree squirrels.

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