Silent killers: Midwest tree disease and pest trends
Spotty leaves, wilted foliage and tree fungus — no matter the issue, sometimes trees and shrubs get sick and once a pest or disease hits one tree, it tends to spread like wildfire.
“The most serious pests, whether that be diseases or insects, tend to be those that are not native to the United States — they’re imported in,” said Scott Jamieson, vice president of community partnerships and Midwest division leader of Bartlett Tree Experts. “The emerald ash borer and Asian long-horned beetle are two examples that have done a lot of damage across the country.”
Despite strict rules and regulations from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), harmful organisms can still make it through.
“The Asian long-horned beetle came into the U.S. on a packing crate from China,” Jamieson said. “We’re only going to see an escalation of these situations. There are all sorts of inspections and things like that, but the reality is — it only takes a few pests to get through and then they’re here.”
Jamieson said these unwanted pests and disease “imports” can wreak havoc among trees and vegetation and tend to be extremely hard to control.
“Once a pest gets into the U.S. they don’t usually have any natural predators or controls, so it takes decades for the ecosystem to catch up and keep it in check,” Jamieson said.
Bartlett Tree Experts, a third-generation family company, was founded in 1907 and the Bartlett Tree Research Laboratories were created to find innovative solutions to tree care problems and use those solutions to help clients’ trees. Their diagnostic lab in Charlotte, North Carolina, is certified by the USDA and used to help Bartlett arborists diagnose unusual plant problems. The lab is part of the National Plant Diagnostic Network, a database of plant problems around the U.S. used to highlight outbreaks and discoveries of new pests.
The current top 10 Midwest tree insect and disease lists are continuously updated to show the top threats in both categories on the Bartlett website.
Top 10 insect and arthropod pests in the Midwest:
- Emerald ash borer
- Leaf miners
- Bark beetles
- Japanese beetle
- Other leaf beetles including willow leaf beetle and elm leaf beetle
- Flat-headed borers including bronze birch borer and two-lined chestnut borer
- Spider mites
- Scale insects
Top 10 tree diseases in the Midwest:
- Oak wilt
- Phytophthora root rot
- Canker disease
- Rust diseases
- Leaf spot diseases including tubakia leaf spot
- Apple scab
- Diplodia tip blight
- Fire Blight
“Bartlett processes about 10,000 samples per year from arborists around the country,” Jamieson said. “Our lab has been the first to discover a number of new pests in the United States. The first step to controlling the problem is identifying it when it shows up in your region. There are control measures, but you first need to know they’re there.”
Jamieson said in these situations, your local arborist is your best resource. He recommends yearly checkups for large, mature trees on any residential or commercial property.
“Trees can be an asset and a liability to your property,” Jamieson explained. “If an arborist comes to inspect, they can tell you if there are pests present and a lot of other helpful information. Maybe a tree is hollow and poses a risk to children in the yard and surrounding structures. It’s just a good idea to have trees checked out by a professional.”
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