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.

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 macronutrient) 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.

What is Verticillium Wilt?

Verticillium wilt is a fungal disease that attacks many tree species. Common symptoms include wilting and browning leaves, falling leaves and quite commonly, a whole side of a tree or a single branch of a tree dying off. Checking the sapwood under the bark of the infected branches, brown streaks may be observed. These symptoms are caused by a soil-borne fungus Verticillium albo-atrum, which begins in the root system and travels through the vascular system of the tree. This causes blockage and prevents water and nutrients from reaching all of the branches. The tree responds to this infiltration by plugging the infected tissues and this increases the blockage of water and nutrients, thus causing leaf wilting and branch death. Symptoms commonly occur in the middle of summer when the climate is dry and hot.

There is no fungicide treatment for Verticillium wilt. Once a tree or shrub is infected with Verticillium wilt, it will eventually die. Resistant species should be planted in place of it after it is removed. Observe a tree if it begins to develops symptoms, as opposed to immediately removing it. Trimming out the dead branches as well as keeping the tree watered and fertilized may delay the infection. Once a tree is infected, however, there is no curing it. The fungus that causes Verticillium wilt can affect many tree species, however yews and conifers are not affected. What is more, the fungus can thrive in the soil for many years, therefore if a maple for instance dies of Verticillium wilt and if the maple is removed, another maple should not be planted in its place, for the fungus is still present in the soil. Common susceptible trees species are ash, boxwood, catalpa, cherry, elm, lilac, magnolia, 
maple, redbud, serviceberry and tulip trees. Common resistant trees are apple, beech, birch, ginkgo, hornbeam, linden, oak, pear, poplar, rhododendron, sweet gum and walnut. For a complete list of Verticillium wilt susceptible and resistant plants, please check online.

A tree can become more susceptible to Verticillium wilt if environmental conditions are poor, such as if the tree is experiencing drought, girdling roots, compaction, scorch or nutrient deficiency. Any stress on a tree can more readily allow infection to take root or can cause a tree to decline more quickly. Depending on the tree and conditions, a tree may die in a single growing season from Verticillium wilt or a tree may decline over the course of many years.

If you think Verticillium wilt is present in your landscape, please call (616) 301-1300 ext 118 to schedule an appointment with one of our certified arborists. To make sure a tree is suffering from Verticillium wilt, Integrity can take a plant sample and send it to the Michigan State University plant diagnostic lab in order to get it tested. The sample must come from the infected area of the tree, as the fungus is not usually throughout the whole tree. Several different branches about 1 inch diameter thick of live tissue should be taken to ensure accuracy. The test will cost $75 and will take 1-2 weeks for results to come back.

Plant Fungal Diseases

 

 

 

 

Integrity Tree Services treats for a variety of plant fungal diseases such as anthracnose, needle cast, apple scab, powdery mildew, cedar apple rust and tip blight. All of these treatments begin to take place in early spring, before it is warm enough to have airborne fungal spores. As Tree & Shrub Care proposal renewals are filtering in for the 2015 season, customers are making sure to sign up for fungicide treatments early to ensure proper timing of treatment. Timing is very important when dealing with fungal pests and most treatments occur in sets of three applications between 10 and 14 days apart.

If you think part of your landscape is subject to fungal diseases, give us a call and we will come out for a free estimate. We will diagnose the fungal issue, prescribe a treatment and execute it depending on the time of season. If a fungal problem is noticed late summer, it is best to wait until early spring the following year for the fungicides to be effective. Not all fungi are bad, but many can cause unsightly appearances and can deteriorate your landscape over time.

Some simple tips in deciphering if your landscape plants have fungal problems:

• Do leaves or stems have black/brown spots or patches?
• While looking up close, do the needles of the evergreens have tiny
black spots?
• Is there a white powdery or sooty appearance on the leaves and buds?
• Are the tips of the plant wilted and 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 will be happy to assist you. Many of these issues can stem from overwatering (such as a sprinkler hitting trees and shrubs every day), dark and thick plant interiors (such as a tree that has not been pruned or thinned-out 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 needle cast. These types of fungal diseases are necessary to treat with a fungicide. However, as a reminder, there is always fungus present in the natural landscape. It is possible for a tree or shrub to have a fungal disease but be hearty and healthy enough to withstand it. 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.

How to Identify Your Oak Trees

Daylight savings, melted snow, brown grass turning green, tree buds swelling—these are all wonderful signs that spring is (hopefully) here. As the temperature in Michigan slowly begins to increase, the time approaches to discourage pruning oak (Quercus) trees. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recommends avoiding oak pruning between April 15th and July 15th. Although wounding in oaks may be accidental such as severe storms breaking branches or animals scratching or pecking into the bark, oak wilt is most preventable if pruning ceases in spring and summertime.

Michigan climate does indeed vary greatly. Therefore, why between the dates April 15th through July 15th should oak trees remain undisturbed? It is not solely the wounding that makes the tree susceptible to oak wilt, it is the beetles that feed on the oak sap and transmit oak wilt fungal spores from an infected tree to a healthy tree. Mid-April is generally when the beetles become active and they remain active until mid-to-late summer, around July 15th. Although these dates are arbitrary, it does remind us that during this time of year oak trees are most susceptible to become infected with the oak wilt fungus. We recommend if you are going to use these dates, prune or trim your oaks either much earlier than mid-April or much later than mid-July to ensure beetles are not still active. If you’re ever skeptical about whether it is a proper time of year to trim your oaks, give us a call. We are more than willing to you determine whether the time of year is right. After all, once an oak (depending on the type of oak) is infected with oak wilt, unless treated immediately, it is likely to die within a few months to a few weeks.

Not all oak trees are extremely susceptible to oak wilt. While red oaks are extremely susceptible to oak wilt, white oak trees are much more resistant. If you’re thinking of planting oak trees on your property, depending on your soil type and landscape environment, we strongly recommend planting white oak trees since you will have a
better chance of having oak trees with long lives. For some reason unknown to scientists, the oak wilt disease progresses much more slowly in white oaks than it does in red oaks. Simple clues in identifying what type of oak tree you have are red oaks have pointed lobes and white oaks have rounded lobes. If you need assistance in identifying your oak tree, please send pictures of the oak leaf, bud, twig, bark and whole tree to KimB@integritytree.com along with your name and phone number.

If you have any questions about the oak wilt disease in Michigan or if you would like to know more, call us or visit the Michigan Department of Natural Resources webpage. Oak trees have more of a chance by prevention of infection and a part of prevention is sharing knowledge about oak wilt.

There’s A Fungus Among Us

With the spring finally here, we’re constantly thinking fungus. A wet spring brings about new growth coming on the trees, so we have to think about treating these trees for fungus. The trees that have struggled the last few years are evergreens, mainly spruce trees. Many of the trees we are seeing decline are the older, more mature trees. New research is showing that there is another type of fungal issue to watch for other than needle cast.

Phomopsis is a canker causing fungal pathogen known to cause branch death. We now know that a group of Phomopsis strains of unknown species are at the center of the current landscape spruce problems that we are now calling “Phomopsis spruce decline”. Normally, Phomopsis, a fungal pathogen, is only found on young trees in nurseries and on tree farms, including Christmas tree farms. For some unknown reason, this pathogenic fungus has moved out of the nurseries and tree farms and is now causing mature tree defoliation, branch death, and, in some rare cases, tree death. Phomopsis appears to cause these symptoms by establishing cankers (bark infections) on older branches, usually on the lower half of the tree. The cankers can be found somewhere on the large branches near the dying small branches extending from the branch. We have also found trees with severe defoliation throughout the trees but without too much branch death (terminal buds are still alive). This would look very similar to a true needle cast disease. Keep in mind that on spruce there are other cankers caused by other pathogenic fungi, such as Cytospora and Diplodia, but the predominant canker-causing pathogen currently appears to be Phomopsis. It may appear as a needle cast problem, but it is a canker disease and finding the canker without skinning all of the thin bark from the branch 
is difficult.

There is not much outward appearance to the canker infection. That is, there is little in the way of a sunken canker that can be observed without removing the bark. What we believe is occurring is a fungal infection that expands around the branch, girdling the current year’s sap-conducting vessels or phloem. As the fungus grows deeper into the resinous branch, the branch begins losing connections with the main stem and the needles begin to drop from the older portions of the branch outward. It is similar to cutting a branch off a tree and putting it in a vase of water. It will stay fresh for a while but, sooner or later, the nutrients and water resources are lost and the branch begins to fail and finally dies. This is why we are seeing so many spruce trees dropping needles which is followed by branch death. The progression of the symptoms will depend on how much of the branch is girdled by the canker caused by the Phomopsis infection and how long the infection has been in present on the tree.

Pruning

The primary objective of pruning young trees is to develop a framework of sturdy, well-spaced branches on a strong trunk. Good branch structure, proper form, and tree strength all develop with training pruning.

Pruning done early in a tree’s life removes weak branches and corrects form when branches are relatively small. This reduces the size of pruning wounds, which results in faster closure and less opportunity for decay.

Properly pruned and trained trees will live significantly longer, are healthier, and require less corrective pruning later. They will also be less susceptible to storm damage due to improved structure, and are therefore safer.

Pruning is especially critical in the first 15-20 years of a tree’s life. The pruning cycle should begin 2-3 years after planting and should be done at regular intervals. The pruning process removes portions of the tree to correct or maintain tree structure and form. Every cut has the potential to change the growth of the tree. Good pruning technique removes structurally weak branches while maintaining the natural form of the tree and the branch collar.

The goals of early structural pruning are trunk development and branch positioning.

Efforts are concentrated on removing crossing, rubbing, broken, diseased and weak-angled branches in the upper portion of the tree. We strive to eliminate double leaders and basal sprouts, selecting and developing one main leader on most species. “3-D” pruning is done to remove dead, damaged, and diseased portions.

The best form for most young trees is a single dominant leader growing upward. This leader is not pruned back nor are secondary branches allowed to outgrow the leader. Double leads, known as co-dominant stems, can lead to structural weakness, so it is best to remove these while the tree is young.

Temporary branches are not part of a mature tree’s crown, but do contribute to trunk development and protect the trunk from sun and mechanical injury. Temporary branches are in the lower third of the crown. They will eventually be removed when they become an inch or larger. They should not obstruct or compete with selected permanent branches.

Permanent branch selection is determined by the tree’s function and location in the landscape. Proper selection and establishment of these branches is a critical part of pruning. Branches selected as permanent branches must be well spaced along the trunk. Branches with a much narrower angle of attachment than is typical of the species are removed. All branches should be less than half the trunk diameter.

Remember, pruning is an ongoing process to be done regularly throughout a tree’s life. Proper training pruning will get your tree off to the best start. Pruning is both an art and a science. Let the certified arborists at Integrity Tree Services make your trees be the best they can be.

We know the growth habit of a tree before beginning the pruning process. Over-thinning and over-pruning are avoided. The leaves of each branch must manufacture enough food to keep that branch alive, as well as contribute to growth of the trunk and roots. We strive to remove no more than 25% of the foliage–10-20% maximum is usually the goal.

Schedule an appointment today with one of our certified arborists!

Water: The Elixir of Life

 

 

 

 

Water is the greatest component of most living things. We know how revitalizing a drink of water can be when thirsty. Water has been found to be the most limiting factor for plant growth. The results of lack of water may not show up immediately on large trees, but will become evident in the next few years.

Tree systems shut down under dry conditions. Water uptake and photosynthesis are 
reduced. Fine roots desiccate and die. A dangerous spiral of decline starts.

Adequate water can stop this spiral. Most trees require the equivalent of an inch of water per week. If nature does not provide enough water, you will need to supply supplemental 
water. Proper watering will be crucial for your tree’s health in 2014 and the future.

Water deep enough to soak the soil to a 6” depth and repeat only when the top 3” 
become dry. This promotes a deeper, healthier root system. Irrigation systems are set up 
primarily for turf grass (which can recover more readily from drought than trees, and is cheaper to replace). These irrigation systems produce a very shallow watering several times a week. Do not depend on your irrigation system to properly water trees.

Always check soil moisture before watering. Trees’ roots can be drowned with too much water. Water where it will do the most good, at the roots. Start watering a few feet from the trunk to well beyond the drip line of the tree. Avoid wetting the foliage. Mulch with organic materials such as bark wood chips to conserve moisture and moderate fluctuations.

Proper watering will help maintain your valuable trees and avoid stressing them. If you need guidance, the certified arborists at Integrity Tree Services are available to assist and guide you with tree care.