East Central WI Forest Health

New Wisconsin Wildcard available on beech bark disease

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

A new Wisconsin Wildcard is available on beech bark disease (BBD).  Wisconsin Wildcards are pocket-sized, collectible informational pieces available at Wisconsin state parks. The BBD Wildcard may be viewed at https://p.widencdn.net/clz4yw/Beech-bark-disease-wildcard and ordered by emailing a request to Forestry.Webmail@wisconsin.gov (ask for publication no. FR-218x).

Beech bark disease will eventually become a problem wherever beech is found.  The native range of American beech (Fagus grandifolia) extends into the eastern third of Wisconsin. BBD is the result of a relationship between exotic scale insects and a Neonectria fungus. The disease was first identified in Wisconsin in 2009. Currently, the only known area of the state which has experienced mortality from BBD is Door County. 

Front and back of the new beech bark disease Wisconsin Wildcard.

Front and back of the new beech bark disease Wisconsin Wildcard.

The scale insects feed by inserting their mouthparts through the bark on the trunk and branches and sucking the sap from the tree. The fungus, which “hitchhikes” on the scale insects’ bodies, enters the tree through those wounds.  The tiny scale insects secrete a white waxy protective covering; when scale populations explode and there are millions of scales on a tree, the tree can appear white from a distance, making it resemble a birch tree. As the fungus enters the tree at numerous points and dead spots under the bark (called cankers) form, the tree becomes weakened, leading to a risk of “beech snap.”  Beech snap can occur unexpectedly when the tree still has a full canopy of leaves remaining.  Beech snap can create huge problems for park and campground managers who are trying to keep guests safe; there is no way to predict when a tree is going to fail from BBD.    

Hundreds of tiny scale insects (covered in white fluff) are present on this small area of beech bark.   

Hundreds of tiny scale insects (covered in white fluff) are present on this small area of beech bark. Photo: Linda Williams

Eventually, the insects and disease take their toll and the beech trees decline and die.  Any age of beech tree can be infested, so in stands with significant beech mortality, regenerating trees will become infested as well as mature ones.  The good news is that three to five percent of American beech trees are resistant to BBD.  Michigan has identified and propagated such trees for a number of years, and have established a seed orchard of resistant trees.  BBD is not yet as established in Wisconsin, but already we’ve been able to identify a couple of resistant trees in the area where BBD has killed many trees. 

For more info on beech bark disease, visit Wisconsin DNR’s webpage on BBD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ash mortality in Central Wisconsin

Michael Hillstrom, forest health specialist, Fitchburg. michael.hillstrom@wisconsin.gov, 608-513-7690

Forest health has relayed the message over the last few years that stand level ash mortality from emerald ash borer (EAB) is occurring in southeast Wisconsin and along some parts of the Mississippi River. Those areas of mortality continue to progress each year, but stand level mortality is no longer limited to just these areas. 

All the ash in this stand near Roche-A-Cri State Park in Adams County are heavily flecked by woodpeckers feasting on EAB larvae. Extensive flecking indicates EAB has fully infested these trees and mortality is imminent. Photo by Mike Hillstrom.

February and March are good times to look for woodpecker damage to ash trees (known as “flecking”), and potentially find new EAB infestations or expansions of known infestations. Winter scouting has allowed us to detect ash mortality from EAB in unexpected places. I was in Adams County in mid-February looking for EAB biocontrol release sites.  I was shocked to find a stand where all the ash trees were heavily flecked and likely dead or close to it.  We had not previously confirmed EAB in that township or any of the townships directly surrounding it.

This incident further drove home the point for me that even isolated patches of ash are not safe from EAB. We are now past the point of thinking about taking action in ash stands in southern and central Wisconsin; we must now move forward with site assessments, with salvage/pre-salvage harvesting being a high priority for management.  In addition, non-ash regeneration growing should be started sooner rather than later. Of course, in urban settings, now is the time to prophylactically treat high-value ornamental ash trees.

The EAB silviculture guidelines will be revised in 2018; stay tuned.

 

Tamarack mortality appearing in Marathon and Portage counties

Article by: Michael Hillstrom, forest health specialist, Fitchburg. michael.hillstrom@wisconsin.gov, 608-513-7690 

Woodpeckers strip bark off tamarack trees infested with eastern larch beetle, causing them to appear red. Photo by Mike Hillstrom

Woodpeckers strip bark off tamarack trees infested with eastern larch beetle, causing them to appear red. Photo by Mike Hillstrom

 

Foresters reported several new areas of tamarack mortality this winter in Marathon and Portage counties. The culprit continues to be eastern larch beetle (ELB). Although historically there have been periodic outbreaks of this native bark beetle, we have seen damage in Wisconsin every year since 1999. ELB initially attack stressed tamarack but, once in a stand, they often sweep through it over a few years even without additional stressors. The droughts of 2012-2013, defoliation by larch casebearer in 2014 and 2017, and prolonged flooding of stands in 2017 were all likely contributors to ELB infestations in central and northern Wisconsin. Infested stands should be salvage harvested and regenerated when possible, given the difficulty of accessing many tamarack stands.

 

Is it SNEED or wet soils and nutrient deficiency?

New needles are green (circled in red), and older needles are yellow (circled in blue) on this spruce. Spruce needles that are yellow, with no visible fruiting bodies on the needles, may be suffering from nutrient deficiency due to the constant wet soils this year, or they may have a disease called SNEED (spruce needle drop). Photo by Linda Williams, WI DNR.

New needles are green (circled in red), and older needles are yellow (circled in blue) on this spruce. Spruce needles that are yellow with no visible fruiting bodies on the needles may be suffering from nutrient deficiency due to constant wet soils this year, or they may have a fungal disease called SNEED (spruce needle drop). Photo by Linda Williams, WI DNR.

In late summer and early fall I had a few calls about younger spruce with yellow needles.  These trees were typically 8-20 years old and were a very yellow color, with new foliage emerging a green color but quickly fading to yellow.  There are two things that came to mind this year.  The first thought is that we’ve had a very wet year.  All year long roots were often in saturated or very moist soil. Consequently. the yellowing could be a sign of nutrient deficiency, specifically nitrogen, due to the saturated soils.  The second possibility is a disease called SNEED (an abbreviation for ‘spruce needle drop’), which I typically see on heavier soils. 

SNEED in spruce is thought to be caused by the fungus Setomalonomma holmii.  Pathogenicity of the fungus has not been proven, but it is the primary fungus present on trees with a particular suite of symptoms.  Spruce with SNEED have current year needles that are a nice green color, but older needles will be yellow or yellow/green in color.  Black fruiting bodies will look like pepper sprinkled generously on the twigs of the affected branches.  Old needles, although not showing any fruiting bodies, will drop from the tree prematurely, and repeated years of this will cause the tree to thin, decline, and can lead to mortality.  I’ve seen this primarily in plantations of white spruce on heavy soils, but have also seen it in blue spruce plantations; it’s reported in Norway spruce as well.  I don’t know of any sure-fire chemical options to prevent infection or to help the trees recover.  Management typically involves removing the most affected trees in the plantation, minimizing stress, and minimizing standing water or waterlogged soils where possible. 

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

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”

Spider mites cause bronzing on oak leaves

Bronzing along the veins of this oak leaf is due to feeding mites.

Bronzing along the veins of this oak leaf is due to feeding mites.

In August and September, I observed bronzing due to mites feeding on some young swamp white oaks. The tops of the leaves were very bronzed along the main veins, while the undersides of the leaves remained unaffected. When looking at the leaves with my hand lens and under the microscope, I saw a very heavy infestation of mites. Mites suck plant juices from the cells of the leaf.

Continue reading “Spider mites cause bronzing on oak leaves”

Tiny spikey aphids on maple leaves

These spikey aphids, marked with blotches of brown and tan, are maple aphids.

These spikey aphids, marked with blotches of brown and tan, are maple aphids.

As I wandered through the woods one day in September, I noticed some spots on a sugar maple leaf. When I flipped it over, I discovered tiny black dots on the underside. They looked like tiny flea beetles to the naked eye (they were very tiny), but I didn’t know of any flea beetles on maple. After putting them under the microscope, I discovered that my tiny bugs weren’t beetles at all, they were maple aphids! They are tiny, dark, and spiky! Cute little suckers! They weren’t doing any significant damage to the leaves that I could tell, although all the leaves in that area had at least a few aphids on the underside. I’ll watch this area next year to see if I can find them again.

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

 

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”

Acorn weevils

The round hole at the edge of the fallen acorn’s cap was created when an acorn weevil larvae chewed its way out to find a place on the ground to overwinter.

The round hole at the edge of the fallen acorn’s cap was created when an acorn weevil larva chewed its way out to find a place on the ground to overwinter.

In some areas of Oconto County, a large percentage of the acorns on northern red oaks dropped early. Most of those acorns were infested with acorn weevil, although at the time they dropped they looked whole. After sitting for a few days, acorn weevil larvae started to emerge in hopes of burrowing into the soil to find a place to spend the winter.

Adult acorn weevils have very long narrow snouts and feed on acorns that are still attached to the tree. They chew a small hole in the acorn, then lay an egg (or several eggs) in the hole. They then plug the hole with fecal pellets, camouflaging their work. The eggs hatch and larvae begin feeding within the acorns. In the fall, the acorn drops to the ground and the larvae chew their way out, after which they bore into the soil to spend the winter underground. There is a different species of acorn weevil that feeds on acorns that have already fallen.

Even though the acorns looked perfect when they dropped, the insects had already been at work on them. Floating acorns in water will allow you to sort out the ones that are damaged, even though you may not see damage on the outside.

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

 

What is causing hardwood species to appear off-color?

Numerous issues are causing various hardwood species to become off-color this summer.  Below I’ve listed a few issues that I’m seeing.  Most of these issues do not require any control or any mitigation if your trees are showing these symptoms.

Anthracnose causes irregular dead areas on ash leaflets.

 

Anthracnose – irregular dead brown blotches on oak leaves and ash leaflets, caused by the fungal leaf disease anthracnose, is making some oaks and ash appear to be browning.  Phone calls with concerns about dying trees have been coming in.  Symptoms are typically worse in the lower crowns, and the ash I’ve seen with this issue in Marinette, Oconto, and Vilas Counties have very thin looking crowns.

 

Browning areas on this aspen leaf are caused by aspen blotch miner.

Browning areas on this aspen leaf are caused by aspen blotch miner.

Aspen blotch miner – all ages of trembling aspen are being impacted by aspen blotch miner this year.  Aspen crowns appear thin, leaves appear off-color from a distance, “blisters” form on the underside of the leaf, and eventually the leaves curl and brown of the leaves.  This is the 4th year in a row that I’ve noticed defoliation by this insect.  This year, similar to past years, I’ve seen it in Oconto, Marinette, Florence, Forest, Oneida, and Vilas Counties.  Tiny larvae spend their entire life feeding within the leaf and pupate within the area that they mined out.  Moths emerge in August and spend the winter in a protected place.

The winding galleries of aspen leafminer make the tree appear grey from a distance.

The winding galleries of aspen leafminer make the tree appear grey from a distance.

 

 

Aspen leaf miner – for those leaves that aren’t heavily infested with aspen blotchminer, they are often infested with aspen leaf miner.  Aspen leafminer is another tiny larvae that spends its life feeding within the leaf, but they create picturesque winding trails that give the leaves a pale appearance.

 

Balsam poplar browning – a couple of things are going on with the Balsam poplar in Brown and Oconto Counties, including a leaf disease and aspen blotch miner.  The trees are thinnest in the lower crowns, but the upper portions don’t look too hot either.

This birch leaf shows both the feeding of Japanese beetles (which don’t eat the veins of the leaf), and a brown blotch where birch leafminer was feeding.

This birch leaf shows both the feeding of Japanese beetles (which don’t eat the veins of the leaf), and a brown blotch where birch leafminer was feeding.

Birch dropping leaves – every year about this time birch will drop a portion of their leaves.  Many of those leaves don’t appear to have much damage on them.  But there is certainly leaf damage if you look closely at birch.  The primary issue that I’ve been seeing this year in Brown, Oconto, Oneida, Shawano and Vilas Counties is from birch leafminer.  Dead blotches on the leaves may make you think anthracnose, but holding the leaves up to the light you will discover you can see through them and see signs of insect activity inside the leaves.

Birch look brown – defoliation from Japanese beetle in Minocqua/Woodruff area is causing the birch to appear tan.  Defoliation is more significant in the lower canopy, but some trees are heavily defoliated top to bottom.  Japanese beetle is something that you may want to do some treatments for.  There are many options for treatments, whether excluding them with netting, or using insecticides against the adults, using traps for the adults, or using insecticides or fungal biocontrol against the larvae.           UW Extension has a great document with more info on Japanese beetle control.

A young black cherry turns red. While some are being defoliated by lacebugs (causing them to turn red), others like this one have very little defoliation.

A young black cherry turns red. While some are being defoliated by lacebugs (causing them to turn red), others like this one have very little defoliation.

Cherry lacewing and cherry turning red – I’m not quite sure what’s going on with all of the cherry.  Some of them are turning reddish in color because they are being defoliated by Cherry Lacebug (Oconto County), but others don’t seem to have any damage that I see (Marinette and Oconto Counties), so I’m not sure why they’re turning red.

Maple early fall color – check out Todd Lanigan’s article  which highlights the high water levels that are causing stress to lowland trees.  Many maples growing in these lowlands are already turning a rich shade of red due to water stress.

Brown blotches on these oak leaves are not anthracnose. The tiny oak leafminer lives within the leaf, feeding on the leaf material. The damaged area eventually turns brown.

Brown blotches on these oak leaves are not anthracnose. The tiny oak leafminer lives within the leaf, feeding on the leaf material. The damaged area eventually turns brown.

 

Oak leafminer – in Minocqua/Woodruff area I was noticing some oaks were looking a bit brown, which I assumed was probably anthracnose.  Always good to double check these things!  Once I stopped to check it out I discovered activity from oak leafminer was to blame, causing dead brown areas where the insects feed within the leaf.

 

Defoliation by oak skeletonizer will leave a layer of cells, which appear like parchment paper if you hold the leaf up to the light.

Defoliation by oak skeletonizer will leave a layer of cells, which appear like parchment paper if you hold the leaf up to the light.

 

 

 

Oak skeletonizer – scattered light levels of defoliation have been seen in nearly every county in Northeast and East Central Wisconsin.  Oak skeletonizer defoliates oak leaves by scraping off a single layer of the leaf, leaving a parchment-like layer on the leaf which turns pale tan.  Holding these leaves up to the light makes it clear that they’re defoliated.

A willow leaf is brown where willow flea weevil larvae have been feeding inside the leaves.

A willow leaf is brown where willow flea weevil larvae have been feeding inside the leaves.

 

Willow browning – although we started this spring with some willow scab that caused significant defoliation, the current issue is the leafmining action of the larvae of willow flea weevil.  This is the fourth consecutive year that Brown, Calumet, Marinette, Shawano, and Oconto Counties have experienced significant defoliation of willow from this insect.  I’ve also noted this in a few willow in Florence and Langlade Counties this year.

 

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