Central WI Forest Health

Oak skeletonizer showed up late this season

Oak skeletonizer is a tiny caterpillar that feeds on oak by removing just the lower layers of the leaf, leaving the paper-thin upper epidermal layer.

Oak skeletonizer is a tiny caterpillar that feeds on oak by removing just the lower layers of the leaf, leaving the paper-thin upper epidermal layer.

This is the same leaf as above, just being held up to the sky so you can see how there is one very thin layer of leaf left where oak skeletonizer was feeding.

These two pictures are of the same leaf.  In this photo, the leaf is being held up to light to show how there is one very thin layer of leaf left where oak skeletonizer was feeding.

Oak skeletonizer (Bucculatrix ainsliella) is a native insect that defoliates oak in Wisconsin. Damage was observed in most counties in northeast and central Wisconsin. There are two generations per year. Damage from the first generation this year barely showed up at all, but defoliation by the second generation became quite noticeable in late August and September. Continue reading “Oak skeletonizer showed up late this season”

Jumping galls cause defoliation on white oaks

Brown areas on these white oak leaves were caused by a heavy infestation of jumping oak gall.

Brown areas on these white oak leaves were caused by a heavy infestation of jumping oak gall.

Jumping oak galls caused by tiny wasps form on the underside of white oak leaves.

Jumping oak galls caused by tiny wasps form on the underside of white oak leaves.

If you were in Waupaca County this summer, you probably noticed that large white oaks were looking pretty brown. They were being defoliated by a tiny gall wasp called jumping oak gall (Neuroterus saltatorius). The small galls, which develop around tiny larvae on the undersides of oak leaves, fall off the leaves in late summer. Continue reading “Jumping galls cause defoliation on white oaks”

Defoliation by rose chafers and Japanese beetles is showing up.

Rose chafers and Japanese beetles are starting to cause problems in some areas this summer. So far reports and damage are generally light for Japanese beetles, but in some areas rose chafer defoliation is noticeable. 

Rose chafers are beetles that can defoliate many plant species. They have fairly long legs, and are a dusty mustard color.

Rose chafers are beetles that can defoliate many plant species. They have fairly long legs, and are a dusty mustard color.

Rose chafer defoliation was reported from Florence, Marinette, Oconto, Vilas, and Waupaca counties this year. Rose chafers are more common in areas with sandy soil where they will lay their eggs. The eggs hatch into white grubs which live in the soil and feed on grass and weed roots. My books inform me that birds can die if they eat adult rose chafers because of a poison in the beetles that affects the heart of small, warm-blooded animals. For information on rose chafer control, check out UW Extension publication A3122.

The last significant defoliation that I noted from rose chafer was in 2012, and before that it was 2005. These beetles feed on a wide variety of plants and prefer blossoms, but they will skeletonize leaves as well. Control is difficult because the adults are good fliers and can easily fly in from neighboring areas to re-infest your freshly sprayed plants. 

Japanese beetle populations will emerge in southern Wisconsin first, typically by the first part of July. Some areas of the state have building populations while others, like the Madison area, may have populations that exploded in the past and are more stable now. These insects are occasionally mistaken for EAB because they have some metallic green coloring near their heads.  More commonly people will refer to the multicolored Asian ladybeetles as Japanese beetles, but the ladybugs are ladybugs and Japanese beetles are scarab beetles.

Japanese beetle adults feed on the flowers and leaves of over 300 plant species, including trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants. They can cause significant defoliation. The larval stage of Japanese beetle is a white grub that lives in the soil and feeds on plant roots.  University of Wisconsin Extension has a Japanese beetle webpage including information on the damage caused by the adults, the damage caused by the white grubs, and control measures that are useful on the adults and the larvae. 

Written by: Linda Williams, forest health specialist, Woodruff, (Linda.Williams@wisconsin.gov), 715-356-5211 x232.

Spruce budworm defoliation is present

Spruce budworm defoliation is not as noticeable this year, although it is still present as you can see here with many needles missing.

Spruce budworm defoliation is not as noticeable this year, although it is still present as you can see here with many needles missing.

Spruce budworm damage is present this year but in many areas it is less noticeable than in past years. I believe this is due to a couple of things:

  1. The many storms we had this spring with heavy rainfall and strong winds may have washed some of the caterpillars out of the trees. They definitely washed budworm damaged needles off the tree. Damaged needles typically remain on the tree and turn a rusty brown, so not having these needles on the tree makes it less obvious where defoliation is present this year.
  2. Due to the constant rainfall this year, the growth on balsam fir and spruce seems to be quite good in general, which leads to additional green needles on the tree this year. This makes the trees look more green and less defoliated, but spruce budworm is still there.

Written by: Linda Williams, forest health specialist, Woodruff, (Linda.Williams@wisconsin.gov), 715-356-5211 x232.

Oak wilt signs are showing up

Oak leaves from an oak wilt infected tree. The outer portions of the leaf will be brown or have a water-soaked appearance. Part of the leaf remains green even though the leaf has dropped off the tree.

Oak leaves from an oak wilt infected tree. The outer portions of the leaf will be brown or have a water-soaked appearance. Part of the leaf remains green even though the leaf has dropped off the tree.

Trees that were infected with the oak wilt fungus this spring, (whether from overland spread by beetles or underground spread by connected root systems) are beginning to drop their leaves. Leaves can drop anytime between July and September. This wilting and dropping of the leaves happens fairly quickly, and trees can go from looking nice and healthy to having lost most of their leaves within just a few weeks. This year I saw my first wilting oaks on June 28, although in areas further south the leaf drop may have begun earlier. Oak wilt is a non-curable, fungal disease specific to oaks. Once the fungus infects a tree it will begin to spread outward from the roots of the infected tree through grafted roots and into the roots of neighboring oaks, eventually killing the neighboring oaks. In this way pockets of dead oak will be created as each year more oaks die. For more information on oak wilt biology, prevention, and control check out the WI DNR’s oak wilt page

Firewood from trees that have died from oak wilt will remain infectious for 1 full year (12 months) after the tree has died. There are many areas of northern Wisconsin where oak wilt is not common. Please do not move firewood long distances because you could move oak wilt into a new area.

Many northern counties don’t have oak wilt or have only a few known infections. This map shows townships in the north where oak wilt has been identified. In the red counties oak wilt is considered to be scattered throughout the county, although it will not be found in every stand.

Many northern counties don’t have oak wilt or have only a few known infections. This map shows townships in the north where oak wilt has been identified. In the red counties oak wilt is considered to be scattered throughout the county, although it will not be found in every stand.

Written by: Linda Williams, forest health specialist, Woodruff, (Linda.Williams@wisconsin.gov), 715-356-5211 x232.

Tamarack defoliation by larch casebearer

A patch of brown tamarack trees defoliated by larch casebearer caterpillars photographed during aerial survey in early June.

Larch casebearer defoliation visible from an aerial survey on June 7, 2017. Photo by Josh Haberstroh.

Tamarack defoliation by larch casebearer is evident in northcentral and northeastern Wisconsin again in 2017. The most severe defoliation occurred in Lincoln and Langlade counties, while more moderate defoliation was noted in Waupaca, Shawano and Oneida counties. I saw extensive damage in northern Wisconsin by this insect in 2014 but damage was much more localized and less severe in 2015 and no damage was documented in 2016.

Larch casebearer, Coleophora laricella, overwinters as young caterpillars and is able to start feeding as soon as the weather warms up in the spring. The caterpillars mine out the needles of tamarack causing them to turn brown by late spring. Tamarack trees will typically produce new needles after moderate or severe damage. Caterpillars pupate on the tree in early summer and moths mate and lay eggs in summer. A second round of feeding, which causes additional stress to the trees, occurs by young larvae in summer before they overwinter. Repeated defoliation can weaken the tree, making it more susceptible to mortality from eastern larch beetle.

Written by: Mike Hillstrom, forest health specialist, Fitchburg, (Michael.Hillstrom@wisconsin.gov), 608-513-7690

Yellowheaded spruce sawfly

There are 2 young yellowheaded spruce sawfly in this photo. As they get older they develop an orangish head capsule.

There are 2 young yellowheaded spruce sawfly in this photo. As they get older they develop an orangish head capsule.

Has anyone started to see defoliation from Yellowheaded Spruce Sawfly? This small sawfly seems to defoliate spruce without anyone noticing until it’s all done. We saw significant defoliation in 2015 (Door, Marinette, and Vilas counties) and 2016 (Outagamie, Shawano, and Waupaca counties) and if the population is going to remain high this year you should start seeing the defoliation soon. There is one generation per year and they typically feed on new expanding foliage from late May to early July. They will feed on all spruce (white, blue, Norway). The larvae blend in well with the needles so you’ll have to look closely as they can be difficult to spot.

If you have had defoliation in previous years from Yellowheaded Spruce sawfly you should monitor your spruce to determine if spraying will be necessary this year. Repeated severe defoliation can cause tree mortality.  More info can be found in this Forest Service publication.

Written by: Linda Williams, forest health specialist, Woodruff, (Linda.Williams@wisconsin.gov), 715-356-5211 x232.

Spruce budworm defoliation showing up

The two center balsam fir are severely defoliated by spruce budworm while the outer two trees are less severely defoliated.

The two center balsam fir are severely defoliated by spruce budworm while the outer two trees are less severely defoliated.

Spruce budworm defoliation is starting to show up in the northern counties as the clipped foliage stuck in the caterpillar webbing turns rusty red. Defoliation this year may be reduced in some areas if the caterpillars were damaged by the multiple storms we’ve had this spring. Let us know where you’re seeing defoliation. The caterpillars should be pupating soon and moths will emerge a couple weeks after pupation. Spruce and balsam fir are defoliated by this pest, which is a native insect with periodic outbreaks. 

Outbreaks occur every 30-50 years, and last for 10 years on average. Our previous outbreak ran from 1970-1980. Mature balsam fir and spruce are preferred hosts, although younger balsam or spruce can be defoliated as well. Repeated defoliation can cause top-kill and eventually whole tree mortality. Balsam fir stands, or stands with a heavy component of balsam fir, are often more severely impacted, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it won’t defoliate pure spruce stands.  Continue reading “Spruce budworm defoliation showing up”

Wind and hail damage caused by the April 9, 2017 storm

The National Weather Service local storm reports map shows hail was most commonly reported, with some tree damage, and one tornado (west of Wausau).

The National Weather Service local storm reports map shows hail was most commonly reported, with some tree damage, and one tornado (west of Wausau).

During the night of April 9-10, 2017 a strong line of storms moved through Wisconsin. Reports ranged from pea sized to tennis ball sized hail, with most stating quarter sized hail. Immediately following the hail, winds picked up and straight line winds took down trees in a number of areas around Oneida and Vilas Counties. The National Weather Service reports that there was a tornado touch down west of Wausau, and reports of tree damage showed up in the National Weather Service’s local storm reporting page.

Damage to trees from hail was most noticeable on the conifers which had needles knocked off, creating a green carpet below the trees. Fine twigs on white pines were damaged by the hail and some fine branch mortality may occur if the twigs were damaged badly enough. Damaged red pine may be more prone to getting diplodia where the twigs were wounded.

Hail wounds on fine branches of white pine appear as dents with cracks in the bark. Those cracks will dry further as spring progresses and the cracked areas will increase slightly in size.

April 9 hail wounds on white pine branches (yellow arrows) appear small but will dry, and the bark will crack further as spring progresses. Some branch dieback may occur.

Hail wounds on young aspen and the fine branches of mature aspen from the April 9-10 storm appear as scuffed bark (yellow arrows). These will callus over relatively quickly.

April 9 hail wounds on young aspen and the fine branches of mature aspen appear as scuffed bark (yellow arrows). These will callus over relatively quickly.

Small wounds on young aspen should callus over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by: Linda Williams, forest health specialist, Green Bay, (Linda.Williams@wisconsin.gov), 920-662-5172. 

Ice damage to yard and forest trees

Ice coating an urban tree from a late February 2017 storm in south central Wisconsin.

Ice coating an urban tree from a late February 2017 storm in south central Wisconsin.

Several ice storms have impacted yard and forest trees in southern Wisconsin in 2016/2017. The combination of trees coated in heavy ice and strong winds caused broken branches and bent or broken main stems. Working with storm damaged trees can be very dangerous, so landowners should carefully consider safety concerns and get help from  professional arborists or foresters when appropriate. Continue reading “Ice damage to yard and forest trees”