Bug Battles

Bug Battles

It's a late afternoon on a warm spring day. You walk over to the kitchen window, grasp the tiny handles at the base and lift up.

With even a mere inch of screen exposed, you feel a cool, crisp breeze. You smell fresh grass clippings lingering in the air. And you hear the slightest sound of activity dancing through the yard - no words, just varied tones that highlight chirping birds, busy bees and nosy critters.

But in the midst of enjoying spring sounds through your window, you catch a glimpse of a large, green beetle buzz past your ear.

Mother Nature has planted a boxing arena in your backyard, indicated by the noisy nuisances causing commotion  from the distance of your yard, and now, from within the walls of your home. But it's too late to call time out: The bugs are here and ready to force some punches at your plants.

Year after year, your landscape must face the excessive pest populations that spring up when warmer temperatures arrive. But what are some warning signs you can check to determine whether your trees and shrubs are struggling?

Check out the pest descriptions, symptoms and treatments below to determine whether your plants have fostered a bug battleground this season.

Boring Bugs Break It Down. What's inside is what really matters. Wood-boring insects, which feast on large populations of trees in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, are often difficult to detect until they have infested a tree for some time. Although the exit holes they leave behind on trees' branches and trunks aren't always apparent at first glance, sawdust-like frass can sometimes be found by these holes. Ultimately, trees suffer from wilting foliage, weakening tree canopy and dying branches as a result of wood-boring insects exploring the depths of their trunks.

aphid
Aphids, shown above, excrete honeydew on plant matter, which wilts leaves and causes dieback of shoots and buds.

The Aphid Attraction. Plants are the perfect sap taps for thirsty aphids. Often the culprits for excreting honeydew on plant matter in the Midwest and Northeast, aphid damage wilts leaves and causes dieback of shoots and buds. To make matters worse, honeydew attracts unsightly sooty mold, as well as nuisance insects such as flies, yellow jackets and bees.

Tipping the Scale. Scale may be tiny insects, but they can't hide the damage they can leave behind, even in the mighty Mountain region. Although scale spend most of their lives immobile, limited exploration does not prevent them from removing sap from trees and shrubs and causing branch dieback - and in some cases, even tree death. Unfortunately, dozens of scale species can impact several different tree species.

cryptomeria scale
Cryptomeria scale | Photo: Lorraine Graney

Lean, Mean, Green-Eating Machines. When certain insects cross your trees, no leaf goes untouched. The leaf-chewing insects of the Pacific region, specifically, feed by biting, ripping or tearing the leaves off your trees. When insects chomp at your trees, their leaves may lose color, wilt or drop - all of which will reduce the trees' vigor in comparison to its healthy counterparts. Heavy leaf loss challenges trees to photosynthesize properly and weakens their abilities to successfully combat insects and diseases. Proper watering and mulching techniques will help prevent trees from suffering the wrath of leaf-chewing insects.          

sooty mold damage
Sooty mold damage

On the Fly. Perhaps you'll detect their presence by the glistening of their white wax wings in the sun. Whiteflies, or tiny insects with wings and bodies covered with white wax, develop rapidly in warm weather - one of the Sunshine State's most valued attributes. But residents shouldn't let the pleasant temperatures distract them from monitoring whiteflies' threats to their plants. Large populations can cause excessive leaf drop and even plant loss. Because whiteflies feed on leaf sap and leave behind honeydew, a medium for sooty mold growth, the presence of honeydew - and resulting ant populations - translate to a whitefly examination. A systemic insecticide soil injection can help battle increasing populations.

All Laced Up. This season, lace bugs are wanted in the West. Named for their lace-like wings, lace bugs suck juices from plant leaves, most often causing stippled and mottled yellow foliage. Sometimes these pests will leave behind whitish cast-off skins or black tar-like spots on the undersides of leaves. Eventually, damaged leaves turn yellowish-gray and fall off, twigs and branches may die back and flowering can be reduced.

Anthracnose oak
Oak leaves suffering from anthracnose damage

When Anthracnose Attacks. In the Southwestern sun, where pests tread a bit lighter than their cross-country cousins, anthracnose often lingers on dead tree matter. The fungus develops during the Lonestar State's warm, moist spring conditions, and it's capable of overwintering on dead twigs and destroying tree foliage. Irregular, brown spots covering a majority of the leaf area are most telling of the anthracnose presence. The spots can distort leaves and leave behind a papery texture, as well as dark pustules later in the growing season. To prevent anthracnose from settling on your trees, remove dead, diseased foliage and branches, then treat with fungicide when warranted.

If you suspect a pest is troubling your trees and shrubs, consult a professionally trained arborist to help put them back in the ring - of good health. Soon enough, you'll be swatting the air and blocking those buzzing bugs from pinning down your trees, like the champion bug fighter you aim to be.

  • The Tree Doctor September 13, 2016 >Hi there, Cheryl. Oh no. Sorry to hear your Esperanza plants have black, sooty mold. To stop this from happening, you need to identify the pest creating the black sooty mold and control it. Most often, aphids, soft scales, whiteflies and mealybugs excrete honeydew, which is what sooty mold grows on. Once you find out what insect is on your Esperanza plants, treat it. You can find more information on controlling specific pests here, Cheryl: http://www.davey.com/arborist-advice/ Here if you have any further questions.
  • Cheryl Maslowski September 12, 2016 >looks like black sooty mold on my beautiful Esperanzas, what do I use to stop this from happening? 480-440-6012
Add a comment:
Featured or Related Blog Posts
  • Root in Moisture

    Planting trees is just half the battle.

    The diseases, pests and power equipment that emerge outdoors in spring, accompanying frequent sunlight, longer days and warmer temperatures, can wreak havoc on your trees if you don't put forth the effort to protect them.

    To keep your trees healthy throughout the growing season and beyond, you must practice routine maintenance and proper tree care. One way to help trees retain moisture, reduce weeds and keep power equipment at a safe distance is through mulch. In the coming weeks, you'll see piles of fresh mulch lined along neighborhood driveways. Soon, the coarse, fragrant matter will settle among flower and tree beds, enhancing the quality of landscapes' appearances.

    Read More
  • Just a Trim, Please

    Put a pair of scissors in your hands, and whether you're cutting coupons or bangs, there's always the potential to oversnip. It's almost too easy to make a mistake as you clip, clip, clip away - removing a little more on this side and a bit more on that side.

    Just like with a bad haircut, there is nothing more noticeable than a poorly pruned plant - pieces sticking out in all directions, a butchered shrub, a tree that looks like the top has been sliced off. The good news is that just as the perfect haircut can frame the face and improve a person's appearance, the same can be said for a professional tree pruning job.

    Pruning is not only a science, but an art form. The science aspect of pruning involves understanding tree biology, recognizing plant flaws and skillfully eliminating or minimizing defects. The artistic aspect of pruning consists of removing dead wood while aesthetically shaping the tree.

    Read More
  • Heat Wave

    Heat wave.

    The term usually makes many people think of the tropics or the desert.

    But extreme heat has hit many areas hard so far this summer. Record highs have been broken in some cities, while others have seen their hottest temperatures since the 1980s.

    Read More
  • Forecast: Hot & Humid

    The air-conditioning is set on high. The fan is blowing in my face. And it feels so good, particularly since my dog and I were just panting within seconds of stepping out to a heavy wall of heat and humidity. His face tilts up to mine, happy for the nice, cool breeze. We face the facts together as I sip from a tall, cool glass of water and he laps up the same out of his bowl: Despite our yearning to enjoy the outdoors, it's hot. And it's hot in nearly every region of the country.

    There's simply no denying it: This summer's a scorcher. While it's difficult to find the motivation to open the door to the heat lingering in the air outside - let alone step out onto a dry, parched lawn - I brave the elements because I notice my trees need some TLC, too.

    It's difficult to imagine another day of 90-plus degree temperatures. So I can hardly imagine how my trees must feel as their roots cling to nothing but the dry soil, day after day.

    Read More
  • Try a Little Tenderness

    When someone moves into a new home, they tend to have a smoother, more successful transition when they plan ahead and carefully move through each step. This includes thoughtfully packing boxes beforehand in an organized fashion, clearly labeling the boxes so movers put them in their proper rooms and then unpacking them so everything that is removed is unwrapped and put into its place to avoid rework.

    If this works for your most delicate China place settings and Lenox crystal, you can see why it would make all the difference when moving something as large, yet just as delicate, as a tree.

    When it's a big, valuable tree that provides numerous benefits to your landscape and your family, a "move" is much more than just picking it up and placing it in its new location. To preserve the numerous benefits trees provide to a community and its residents, which The National Tree Benefits Calculator can help determine, one must plan carefully - before, during and after the big move - to ensure survival.

    Read More

Request a consultation

What do you need services for?
Sorry, we can’t seem to find the zip code you specified. Our residential tree care offices may not service your area. If you believe this is an error, please try again. Need help? Email us at info@davey.com.
  • Email newsletter
  • Woodchips
*Please fill out all required fields.