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The (Sweet) Sound of Summer

June 24, 2013

Summertime is here. And after the elongated cool season we experienced in the first half of the year, how sweet does that sound?

When I think of summer, I imagine driving down the old, country roads of my hometown on a sunny afternoon, windows wide open to not only welcome in the fresh breeze from outside but also to share the tunes emitting from my stereo with the open air surrounding me. I can nearly taste summer's supply of fresh produce and cool treats; not to mention the sound of a sizzling grill during a relaxing family cookout.

But the ability to spend ample time in my landscape during summer months sounds most appealing to me. I hear the trickle of water droplets falling and resting on green leaves, soft petals and moist earth when I spray the hose. A crisp breeze whistles within the tree canopies above me. I sense the buzzing of bees as they mingle about my landscape, pollinating the precious plants I've tended to for weeks.

It's a bit more difficult to enjoy my landscape, however, when a few certain other buzzers decide to take a summer vacation on my property.

magnolia scale
Magnolia scale damage | Photo: William Fountain, University of Kentucky, Bugwood.org

Unfortunately, some bugs prefer to spend their summertime feasting on, boring in and tearing up your trees. Here are a few insects to keep an eye out (and an ear open) for this summer:

Magnolia scale | In the Midwest and Northeast, shiny, smooth and oval-shaped magnolia scale pests attack several species of magnolia, including saucer, star, lily and cucumbertree. Heavy infestations not only encrust branches to the point of death, but they also have the potential to kill entire trees.

Summer aphids | Large populations of summer aphids can significantly reduce the aesthetic quality of foliage by feeding on leaves. Trees and shrubs in the Mid-Atlantic region are particularly susceptible to infestations, which can cause leaves to turn yellow or curl. Keep an eye out for honeydew, a sugary solution aphids excrete as they feed that turns black after becoming colonized by sooty mold fungus.

chinch bug
Chinch bug | Photo: David Shetlar, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org

Chinch bugs | When hot, dry conditions increase in summer, chinch bug activity also increases and greater damage ensues. Nymphs feed on St. Augustinegrass near the soil surface, which yellows the turf that ultimately turns brown. The Sunshine State should particularly pay close attention to this pest, which commonly infests areas from the Gulf region all the way into North Carolina.

Borers | In the Lone Star State specifically, borers often use drought to their advantage. Because drought-stricken trees are more susceptible to pest attacks, borers more easily feed underneath the bark, which interferes with the water supply flow to branches and needles. 

dogwood borer
Dogwood borer damage | Photo: James Solomon, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Dogwood borers | Some borers target dogwoods specifically, and they're not discreet about leaving their mark behind. Dogwood borers burrow within tree bark, creating ugly scars, bark cracks and wounds. Dogwoods in the Eastern U.S. are vulnerable, but dogwood borers attack oak, chestnut, hickory, elm, willow and pecan trees as well.

Spider Mites | To the naked eye, spider mites look like tiny, moving dots, but it's difficult to miss the way they can alter the appearance of trees. Most species leave a silk webbing on heavily infested foliage, which appears bronze in color or lightly stippled when mites feed on the underside of leaves. Pacific spider mites and two-spotted spider mites are common in the West.

Ips beetle | Pine and spruce trees standing within Colorado and the surrounding mountain region should brace their bark for ips beetles this summer. Newly transplanted pines or plants under stress are often victims of ips beetle infestations, but prolonged drought-stricken areas, in particular, may increase populations.

Whether you're spending your summer vacation along the coast, down south, in the mountains or within the comfort of your own backyard, don't let pests bug you - or your plants.

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