Quit Getting Bit!

While you’ve been outside either working in your yard or playing with your kids, you have 
also encountered nature’s mosquitoes. Why is the infestation so bad? With the recent record 
rainfall and blast in warm temperatures, they have been able to multiply very quick. Integrity Tree Services treats for mosquitoes and would love to help you with this nuisance insect.

Our treatment is safe for kids and pets. After treatment, you are required to let the product dry for 1 hour and then you can return outside to enjoy your investment you have worked so hard for. Mosquitoes lay up to 250 eggs at a time in still water and they hatch within 7-15 days. During the off-season, mosquitoes can lay dormant for up to one year. If standing water is eliminated weekly, many mosquitoes will be kept from breeding in the first place. So if you are anti-mosquito and want to abate these pesky insects, start by getting rid of breeding grounds in your yard.

Common mosquito breeding grounds:

• Bird baths
• Old tires
• Open containers – cans, jars, bottles or anything that can hold as little as an ounce of water. 
 In fact, mosquitoes can breed in as little as a drop of water. Even recycle bins may have some 
 open containers that can collect water. Don’t forget trash cans and trash can lids too!
• Hollow trees
• Water gardens & ponds – decorative ponds without fish and other large areas of standing water
• Wading pools
• Drainage ditches
• Any area of standing water is a potential mosquito breeding ground!

Frost & Disease Damage

We were set up for the perfect storm for challenges in the landscape. In March, we had record high temperatures starting our growing season 4+ weeks ahead of schedule. With temperatures so high, plants and disease were both growing more rapid than previous years. This rapid advancement pushed our technicians into overtime to complete early season fungal/insect treatments. Just as everything started to look well, we had a hard frost in the first week in April. This isn’t out of the ordinary except that many of our plants were 4+ weeks ahead of schedule in their growth cycle. Tender new growth was already exposed and much of it was damaged. Typically no treatment is needed since they will shed the damaged leaves and sprout new ones.

Our summer drought conditions have finally broken but it has left its mark on some of the trees and shrubs in our area. Characteristic signs are leaves drying, starting from the outer edges. In extreme situations, you will see the entire leaf dry up and fall to the ground as if the season has changed early. These leaves are brown instead of turning color as they normally would. Many of these injured trees will recover however we are seeing some that are already completely dead.
Needlecast: There can be one of several fungal diseases lumped into this category. Most are treated with several spray applications to protect new growth from infection. It will take several growing seasons of protection before the plant fully recovers. This disease can overtake trees and will continue to spread if not treated.

Cytospora Canker: This disease takes over in the heat of summer since the tree is stressed. It will take over one limb at a time. Solution: (1) Remove dead or dying limbs and burn them. (2) Increase vigor of the tree. We have seen this disease stop since the tree’s stresses are reduced, but we have seen it completely take over and kill the tree. It is not treatable other than keeping the tree healthy.
Japanese Beetle Season: We are at the beginning of the Japanese Beetle season. Make sure you are signed up to protect your plants this year. We will only shut down the appetite of the beetles and will not harm other beneficial insects. Some feeding on the plants will always occur as the beetles have to ingest some material before they will get the treatment into their system. If you have been in a heavily infested area (near heavily irrigated lawns where all the larvae feed underground), you should let our Arborists know so that they may need to add a more aggressive treatment as beetles start to feed.

The Importance of Watering

It was remarkable how many times the Tree & Shrub Care Department was called this summer to check on trees that were not looking healthy. Nearly half of all cases, there was one common issue, lack of water.

Leaf margins turning brown, leaves wilting or turning brittle are all symptoms of stress from drought. These symptoms can easily be mistaken for tree diseases and insect damage. 
It is important to recognize the signs of stress induced by lack of water and to not misdiagnose the symptoms to be a fungal disease or insect damage. Sometimes treating an already stressed tree for a fungus or an insect, even treating a tree using a fertilizer, can do more harm than good. Once recognized that the issue is drought, if the damage is not too severe, most of the time it can be quite simple to remedy. It takes a schedule and time. Most customers dealing with drought have been encouraged to water with a hose at the base of the tree three times a week for at least an hour (depending on the size of the tree) until the first snow fall.

It is commonly overlooked to water a mature tree during a dry season. The truth is, some trees can take up many gallons of water each day, if it is available. Water evaporates through the leaves, a process known as transpiration. The evaporation of water through the leaves causes a suction in the tree roots that pulls water from the ground. If water is not available, depending on the tree location and soil type the tree may begin to display symptoms of drought.

Tree location is critical to notice when determining if your tree has succumb to drought. If a tree is in an enclosed space, right by a sidewalk and driveway, if it is surrounded by asphalt or if it was planted in a bed of rocks, all these will determine the amount of water a tree has 
access to. A sidewalk, road or driveway may not seem significant, when in fact can cause scorch to the trunk and leaves. The sun’s rays are strong, and like rays reflecting off water, they can reflect off the sidewalk or road. Tightly closed quarters, such as in a boulevard, in between the road, and the sidewalk, means limited room for roots to spread out. It also means limited soil space where water can be held. Trees and shrubs surrounded by stones can look serene, however these rocks get heated from the sun’s rays. This increase in temperature can bake the root system of a tree.
Replacing stones with mulch may not seem like the easiest solution, but it is the best remedy for your landscape plants to counteract stress from drought. A thin bed of mulch (1-3 inches) can hold soil moisture, keep the root system from overheating and provides nutrients for the tree as it slowly breaks down.

Soil type can commonly be overlooked when observing symptoms of tree stress from drought. Straight sand (commonly found near the lakeshore) does not have much ability to hold water. The sand particles are so large compared to clay or silt that water moves right through the large particles. If a tree is in sand and it is a dry year, this tree may need regular watering. If a tree is in straight clay, the clay can harden from lack of water. Clay particles
are so small (compared to sand), and clay will tightly hold on to water, which is beneficial when there is regular water in the soil. Without regular water, the clay can become solid. Once clay hardens, when it rains or if the tree is watered, the water will stand on the surface of the hardened clay or will just run-off. It takes time and much water for the water to soak into hardened clay and penetrate the surface. The ideal soil type for most landscape plants is a mixture of sand and clay or a silt. Silt can hold moisture and will stay porous if it loses moisture.

Michigan State University Extension reported in 2013, that the drought from 2012 was significantly noticed in maples. Maples experienced early fall coloration as well as chlorotic symptoms, such as yellowing leaves, from lack of nutrients. Summer of 2015 has also been quite dry. Because many of the trees experiencing stress from drought this summer have been maples, and because maples are sensitive to environmental changes, it may be safe to assume these trees may still be stressed from previous drought years.

In most cases, with regular watering trees and shrubs can replenish themselves to be healthy again. It is important to water (especially newly planted trees) in the summertime, especially when there is a shortage of water, if the location of the tree is not ideal or if the soil type is not optimum. A fertilizer can also be beneficial, however, waiting until the tree is healthy again and has plenty of water would be a good time to fertilize. Also, a tree stressed by drought potentially can predispose the tree to other ailments, so watering is all around the best option for your tree.

Wintertime can also prove to be harsh on landscape plants. Constant snow, ice and wind can dry out or burn many plant species, particularly if they experienced drought in the summertime. The Tree and Shrub Care department treats multiple properties in the wintertime with anti-desiccants. Anti-desiccants could aid trees and shrubs from drying out or burning over the wintertime. Watering drought-stressed landscape plants until the 
snow falls will be most beneficial, and an anti-desiccant could help the struggling tree or shrub stay healthy through the winter, especially if the winter is a brutal one. We use a product called Transfilm for our anti-desiccant treatments. This product creates a coating on the plants that reduces water loss.

If you think your landscape plants may be experiencing stress from drought, call (616) 301-1300 ext 118 to schedule an appointment with one of our certified arborists. They will give you the steps you need to take to get your tree or shrub on the right path as well as the education you will use in years to come with caring for your landscape plants. They can also determine whether or not an anti-desiccant will be beneficial.

Plant Fungal Diseases


The time to treat plant fungal diseases is approaching!  Most treatments will begin in the early spring just as the leaf buds are opening.  Timing is important for good results.

Here are some helpful questions in determining if your landscape plants have fungal problems.

  • Do the leaves or stems have black or brown spots or patches?
  • Do the evergreen needles have tiny black spots on them?
  • Is there a white powdery or sooty appearance on leaves and/or buds?
  • Are the tips of the twigs wilting and/or dying?
  • Are there gelatinous gobs oozing from the stems and leaves/needles?
  • Is the interior of the plant dying?

If you witness any of these symptoms or suspect fungal problems, let us know and we would be happy to assist you.  Many of these issues can stem from over watering (such as a sprinkler hitting trees and shrubs every day), overgrown and thick plant interiors (such as a shrub that has not been pruned lately), or if a plant is under stress or is in poor health to begin with.

There are some fungal problems that will persist and deteriorate a tree year after-year such as needlecast.  There are also fungal diseases that persist, such as apple scab, that will not kill the tree.  We can assist in determining if a fungal problem exists and if remedies need to occur in order to sustain the life of your landscape plants.

Please call (616) 301-1300 extension 118 to schedule a free estimate with one of our certified arborists.

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) is an invasive, aphid-like insect which feeds on the hemlocks’ stored starches and is identifi ed by the white, cottony wax the adelgid produces. HWA was discovered in the eastern states in the early 1950s and has been spreading ever since. Recently, HWA has been identifi ed in Muskegon and Ottawa counties.

WA feeds along the twigs of hemlocks by inserting its mouthpart into the tree tissue and feeding on starch reserves. Over time, the tree will lose vigor and may eventually die. HWA is spread by migrating birds, mammals, humans, and infected nursery stock.

Once established on a hemlock, the HWA reproduces asexually and can quickly cause a mature hemlock to decline.

Once the HWA is identifi ed, Integrity Tree Services can help control it by several means. Trunk sprays and soil drenches of insecticide have been shown to lower HWA populations. We treated hemlocks on several properties last year and we are looking forward to seeing the results.

Be on the lookout for the invasive HWA. Located under the branches of the eastern hemlock, the insects will appear as white, cottony masses along the twigs at the base of the needles. Do not attempt to move the insect or try to take care of it yourself because this can spread the pest

Mice & Voles

If a tree or shrub suddenly turns up dead or is rapidly declining, there may be many possible causes. The mystery will not be solved until the tree or shrub is under close observation. One possible culprit, a situation, which is becoming more noticeable, is a small mammal chewing on the tree and disrupting nutrient flow.

Mice, voles and other small mammals can end up chewing on trees and shrubs when food is scarce. The small mammals feed on the vascular tissue of the tree, the vein system, which transports water and nutrients. If this is disrupted, it can cause the canopy to die back. Often, chewing damage occurs where the trunk meets the ground, or the root flare. If the root flare is hidden by various ground covers, this can serve as protection for small mammals. Mice and voles can also hide out in low growing shrubs and eat away at stems and twigs. Our arborists were called out on several sites this year to check out trees and shrubs in decline. On several occasions, the trees were surrounded by myrtle, ivy, or pachysandra. The ground cover was pulled away exposing a ring of feeding damage around the trunk.

Avoid this by not allowing ground covers to encircle a tree. Keep it pulled back from the trunk at least a foot. Critters are less likely to feed on the live tissue if they do not have cover. Also, monitor your landscape throughout the winter, which is when food for small mammals is scarce. We offer winter monitoring visits where our technicians come out in December or February to check the landscape. If you’re interested in learning more about this or if you would like a free quote for winter monitoring visits, please call our office at (616) 301-1300 extension 118 to schedule an appointment with one of our certified arborists.

Oak Wilt

Oak Wilt Scenarios:

  1. This past July, Integrity Tree Services received a phone call from a customer requesting one of our arborists to have a look at their red oak tree.  She informed us the mature red oak had been pruned in late May, and suddenly it was rapidly dropping leaves.  This is a sign of oak wilt.
  2. A customer called last September wanting his black oak tree examined. A storm had come through his neighborhood and broke a massive limb off the tree.  He was very knowledgeable on oak wilt and knew the situation was precarious.  We were able to save the tree.

Oak wilt (Ceratocystis fagacearum) is an infectious fungal disease, which causes rapid death in oak trees and in certain oak families, in a matter of weeks. Oak wilt can be transmitted by sap beetles (Nitidulidae) as well as oaks sharing roots underground, commonly called root grafts (Brown-Rytlewski, 2007). Oak wilt may occur when an oak is pruned in the spring or summer months.

During the warm months of the year, sap beetles are actively feeding on tree sap. The beetles find their meals by their strong sense of smell and are lured in, particularly to the smell of sap from a freshly cut oak (Johnson & Lyon, 1987). If an oak is pruned during the spring or summer months of the year, it is an open invitation for beetles potentially carrying fungal spores. Once a beetle finds a fresh wound, it can contaminate a healthy oak with the oak wilt fungus. The results are the vascular system clogging up causing leaves to turn tan, brown or bronze, and to fall rapidly from the tree.

The sap beetles lay their eggs in dead oaks and can often emerge contaminated with fungal spores (Johnson & Lyon 1987). The spore mat of the oak wilt fungus is commonly called a pressure pad. The pressure pad grows underneath the bark of an oak already infected with oak wilt from the previous year. This spore mat creates pressure on the bark and causes it to split. The beetles cannot resist the sweet smell of the fruiting body and will be drawn to it (Sinclair and others, 1987).

Not all methods of contracting the oak wilt disease are due to improper pruning. As described in scenario 2, branches break in strong winds or storms.

Not all oaks are extremely susceptible to oak wilt. Oaks in the red oak family (oaks with pointed lobes) are the most susceptible. Once infected with oak wilt, a mature, healthy red oak tree can die within the first month of contraction (Johnson & Lyon, 1987). Once a red oak contracts oak wilt, it is certain to die. Nothing can save a red oak tree after it is infected. Oaks in the white oak family (oaks with rounded lobes), however are much more resistant to the disease. The disease in white oaks is very slow to progress and white oaks can live with oak wilt for years (Johnson & Lyon, 1987).

It is very common to hear of heart breaking stories where a homeowner will try to save money by hiring a less-expensive, non-reputable tree company to prune their landscape trees. If an oak tree is to become infected due to improper pruning, all other oak trees on the property, as well as all oaks in the neighborhood, are at risk for contracting oak wilt.

We are approaching the autumn months, which is a good time to receive an estimate on getting your oaks pruned. After receiving an estimate, we will then schedule the tree work to occur in late fall or winter. If it is getting too late in the winter season and spring is near, we will wait until the following fall or winter before any tree work on oaks is done. We will not risk trimming your oaks too close to springtime.

Please email kimb@integritytree.com if you’re interested in receiving more information on oak wilt.

Gypsy Moths

An invasive species from Europe and Asia, the gypsy moth was introduced by a scientist living in Massachusetts in 1869, who was interested in breeding silkworms.  Not long after, some of the insects escaped and began to establish themselves (USDAFS 1989).  Millions of pure forests stands have been decimated by this little caterpillar.  Of course, as many homeowners may already know, they do not limit themselves to natural forest stands.  They are happy to enter our yards as well.

In the early spring, gypsy moth caterpillars hatch from their tan, oval-shaped egg sack.  Hundreds or up to a thousand tiny caterpillars crawl from each egg sack and make their way to greenery, often using silken threads so they may be dispersed by the wind.  As the caterpillars grow in size in the next several weeks, the amount of food they need to sustain themselves increases exponentially.  Seemingly overnight, whole areas of the canopy of a mature tree are defoliated.  That is when Integrity Tree Services receives phone calls.

Unfortunately many times with gypsy moth caterpillars, homeowners notice them only after the bulk of the damage is done. Colossal trees and forests can be put to waste in infested areas after thousands and thousands of caterpillars have their fill.  Beginning at just centimeters long, these caterpillars quickly grow to about 2 inches in a matter of weeks.  Once the caterpillars are identified, treating for them is not the tricky part, it is noticing the infestation before the majority of feeding damage occurs.
A female gypsy moth lays an egg sack in late summertime and dies soon after.  The egg sack remains over the winter and once the climate is right in the spring, the eggs hatch and the caterpillars emerge.  The caterpillars reach maturity after roughly 7 weeks in mid-summer, from there they pupate.  The pupation stage lasts for 1-2 weeks, and then a moth will emerge.  Once a moth, the brown male moths will fly around in search of flightless, white females (Johnson & Lyon, 1991).  It can be apparent where there has been an infestation of gypsy moth caterpillars during mid to late summer, for one will see dozens of brown gypsy moth males, fluttering all around.

Be sure to monitor your landscape in May of 2017, when the gypsy moth caterpillars grow large enough to be noticed.  Also keep an eye out for the egg sacks, which are usually laid in August.  If found and if within reach, destroying them with a stick is affective on a small scale. The gypsy moth caterpillars are easier to identify when they are larger, right before they pupate.  Look out for fuzzy caterpillars with blue and red spots. There are other caterpillars, which congregate in numbers, which could be mistaken for gypsy moth caterpillars, such as eastern tent caterpillars and fall webworms.

If you think you may have a gypsy moth caterpillar infestation starting, feel free to take a picture and email it to kimb@integritytree.com in order to receive confirmation of the infestation.  If you are unable to send a photo, feel free to call (616) 301-1300 extension 118 to schedule a free estimate with one of our certified arborists.

Most of the time, we can get our technicians to the scene same-day. Fortunately, there are some natural defenses present in the environment, which help control caterpillar populations. There is a soil-born fungus, which kills a large number of caterpillars, there is also a virus, and there are predators including, birds, parasitic wasps, flies and beetles (Johnson & Lyon 1991).

Be on the lookout for gypsy moth caterpillars next spring!  If you see them, call Integrity Tree Services right away!

Signs of Nutrient Deficiency

Now that new leaves and needles are out, you may be noticing something peculiar about them. It is common for trees and shrubs to experience nutrient deficiency, which is noticeable from the color or stunted size of the leaves or needles. Whether the tree or shrub is low on iron, manganese or any other type of micronutrient, more than likely you will be able to identify this by observing the leaves.

A micronutrient is required by plants in very small quantities, as opposed to macronutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorous, calcium or sulfur which are required by plants in large quantities. Plant tissues are made up of mostly macronutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous and the others, therefore they are required by the plants in larger quantities. Micronutrients are minerals in the soil that are also required for healthy, stable plants. Micronutrients such as iron, manganese, silicon, copper and zinc are commonly present in the soil where a landscape plant is experiencing signs of nutrient deficiency, it is simply that when a soil has a high pH (is more alkaline as opposed to acidic), these micronutrients are in a form that cannot be taken up by plant roots.

Testing the soil pH can help determine whether or not a specific soil type will be suitable to easily sustain a tree or shrub. If a landscape plant is already established and is showing signs of nutrient deficiency, there are several fertilization techniques (micronutrient and macro-nutrient) that Integrity Tree offers that can temporarily strengthen the health of your plants. Temporary, meaning that the treatment will most likely be needed again the following season, as the micronutrient is applied for the plant and does not change the overall soil pH.

A few common micronutrient deficiencies are iron chlorosis and manganese deficiency. The leaves will be yellowing and will be greener along the leaf veins. The leaves or needles could also be stunted, not being able to grow to their full potential because they do not have the proper nutrients. If you are thinking your landscape plants may be experiencing nutrient deficiencies, please call our office. We offer soil testing and can explain what fertilizer and fertilization technique would be best for your landscape.

Scale Insects

To the untrained eye, a tree or shrub may look unhealthy or unsightly for no apparent reason. Upon closer inspection however, the culprit may be present in plain sight.

Scales are tiny insects that feed on plant sap, and certain species of scale may injure plants. In large numbers, scales may cause significant damage to trees or shrubs if left untreated. Because of their miniscule size, these insects may go unnoticed until it may be too late to revive a landscape plant. Monitoring visits are important in this regard, as technicians will visit customer landscapes with the changing seasons in order to be on the lookout for cryptic threats such as these.

There are two main types of scales, armored scales and soft scales. Armored scales produce a waxy, hard coating overtop of their bodies acting like a shell, protecting the insect from the environment. Euonymus scale, pine needle scale and oystershell sales are a few examples of armored scale. Armored scales can have several generations a year and usually spend the winter as eggs, first instar nymphs (first growth stage), or as a mature female (depending on species and location). Eggs usually hatch late May or early June. Once scales hatch from their eggs they are called crawlers. Unlike the adult scales, the crawlers are mobile insects which travel to the leaves to feed during the summer and migrate to the twig before the leaves drop in the fall. Using a long mouthpart called a stylet, which is usually 6 to 8 times as long as the insect itself, the straw-like stylet is inserted into the plant tissue to feed on sap. Once the crawlers produce the waxy, armored coating, they lose their legs and become immobile. If a plant is heavily infested with scale, not enough sap is left for the plant to maintain proper vigor for growing and the plant will begin to decline.

Soft scales, appropriately named are soft compared to armored scale, they do not produce a shell-like coating, merely a waxy, penetrable coating. They are generally larger in size than armored scales. A few examples of soft scales are cottony maple scale, magnolia scale and lecanium scale. Soft scales usually have only one generation per year and generally spend the winter as second instar nymphs (second growth stage), and remain attached to twigs. They complete their development in the spring when the females lay eggs. Soft scale eggs hatch later in the year than armored scales, usually in late June or early July. When soft scales feed on plant sap, also with a stylet, they produce a sugary liquid called honeydew. The honeydew attracts ants and flies. If scales are in large in number, there can be so many wounds on the tree or shrub that sap can drip, creating sticky sidewalks and landscapes. A black fungus called sooty mold eventually
also sets in to feed on the honeydew.

Here at Integrity Tree Services, we have had many phone calls from Tree & Shrub Care customers regarding their trees or shrubs looking unhealthy. Occasionally, upon inspection the culprit for the plants’ decline is scale. The significance in the scale infestation depends on the species of scale, the size of the population, the species and value of the plant the scales are affecting as well as other environmental factors. Not all scales are harmful to landscape plants. Scales usually feed on plants that are already stressed, however, it is perfectly normal for a tree or shrub in the landscape to house some scale. Scales have many predators in the landscape such as parasitic wasps, ants, lacewings, ladybugs, beetles and mites; an abundance of predators may not warrant chemical action. Sometimes, if simply a branch is infested, just pruning the branch can be enough to prevent infestation.

If a landscape plant has significant value, is heavily infested with scale and if natural predators are not abundant in the landscape, chemical control can help fend off scales. If you’re suspicious that scales are a reason for the decline of you tree or shrub, please feel free to call us to set up a free estimate with one of our certified arborists. Call (616) 301-1300 extension 118 to schedule an appointment. We can help determine if scale is present, if it is harmful to your landscape and if chemical treatments could be beneficial to the health of your plant. As usual, the easiest method
to prevent infestation is prevention. Keeping your landscape plants healthy with proper irrigation and maintaining optimum, growing conditions can make your plants more resistant to insect infestation.