Northeast WI Forest Health

Spruce needle rust not an issue this year

By Linda Williams, forest health specialist, Woodruff. Linda.Williams@wisconsin.gov; 920-360-0665

Orange fruiting bodies of spruce needle rust erupt from needles. From a distance, the tree appears orange due to colored pustules on the needles. Photo: Linda Williams

Orange fruiting bodies of spruce needle rust erupt from needles. From a distance, the tree appears orange due to colored pustules on the needles. Photo: Linda Williams

Occurrences of spruce needle rust in northeastern and north central Wisconsin is low this year for the first time since 2013. Spruce needle rust, caused by the fungus Chrysomyxa weirii, infects spruce needles. Fruiting structures erupt from needles in August in shades of pink, yellow, and orange, greatly affecting the appearance of the trees. In addition, infected needles drop off, causing trees to look sparse.

No treatments are available for already-infected needles. Preventative fungicide treatments for yard trees may be used the following spring and early summer, but treatments must be applied before symptoms appear. Repeated treatments will be necessary; the fungicide, which must fully coat needles to be effective, washes or wears off over time.

Brown branch tips on jack pine

By Linda Williams, forest health specialist, Woodruff. Linda.Williams@wisconsin.gov; 920-360-0665

After brushing away sawdust, exit/entrance holes, as tiny as the beetles themselves, become visible. A beetle is inside, peeking out. The marks at the bottom of the photo depict millimeters.

After brushing away sawdust, exit/entrance holes, as tiny as the beetles themselves, become visible. A beetle is inside, peeking out. The marks at the bottom of the photo depict millimeters.

Jack pine tip beetle (Conopthorus banksianae) is a tiny bark beetle that bores into the twig tips of pines. Damage from jack pine tip beetle was observed this summer on jack pine trees in Marinette, Vilas, and Lincoln counties and on white pine in Waupaca County. These beetles attack and kill the outer 4-6 inches of twigs, leaving hollow piths. The piths can be diagnostic in determining whether an insect or disease killed the branch tip. The damage, which may appear significant since the dead needles remain on the branch tip and there can be many dead branch tips on a single tree, is rarely severe enough to be detrimental to the tree; no control is recommended.

Jack pine tip beetles kill the outer few inches of twigs. The two yellow circles show where sawdust was pushed out of the twig by adult beetles. Photos: Linda Williams

Jack pine tip beetles kill the outer few inches of twigs. The two yellow circles show where sawdust was pushed out of the twig by adult beetles. Photos: Linda Williams

Oak leaves dropping (but not from oak wilt)

By Linda Williams, forest health specialist, Woodruff. Linda.Williams@wisconsin.gov; 920-360-0665

Heavily-spotted oak leaves began to drop in early August. Spots appeared on both the front and back of leaves. Photo: Linda Williams

Heavily-spotted oak leaves began to drop in early August. Spots appeared on both the front and back of leaves. Photo: Linda Williams

Last year, Forest Health News published an article about oaks prematurely dropping leaves although they were not infected by the fungal pathogen Ceratocystis fagacearum, the cause of oak wilt disease. Oak trees infected with oak wilt disease in springtime rapidly wilt and drop green leaves in July or August. However, oak wilt disease is not the only reason oak trees prematurely drop leaves. Continue reading “Oak leaves dropping (but not from oak wilt)”

Aspen blotch miner caterpillars

By Linda Williams, forest health specialist, Woodruff. Linda.Williams@wisconsin.gov; 920-360-0665

The tops of aspen leaves will appear off-colored when aspen blotch miner caterpillars feed within.

The tops of aspen leaves will appear off-colored when aspen blotch miner caterpillars feed within. Photo: Linda Williams

If you’ve noticed aspen trees seem a little pale lately, you are probably seeing damage from aspen blotch miner caterpillars. Typically, these leaf-mining insects only affect young aspen trees, but this year I’ve found uniform damage on bigger trees with large crowns. Symptoms include thinned crowns, off-color leaves with blisters on their undersides, and, later in the summer, curling and browning leaves. Tiny caterpillars spend their entire lives feeding within the leaf; they then pupate into the tunneled-out areas. Moths emerge in August and spend the winter in protected places.

I have reported this insect each year since 2012 in northeastern Wisconsin. This year, there were aspen leaf blotch miners in Marinette, Florence, Forest, Oneida, and Vilas counties, which is similar to where they were found last year. Although defoliation can be severe, aspen trees usually tolerate the situation well. Many affected aspen trees will send out new leaves after feeding by caterpillars ends. Although damage may appear severe, the effects on the trees’ overall health seems negligible.

 

Rose chafer and Japanese beetle populations high in parts of state

By Linda Williams, forest health specialist, Woodruff, (Linda.Williams@wisconsin.gov), 920-360-0665 and Todd Lanigan, forest health specialist, Eau Claire (Todd.Lanigan@wisconsin.gov), 715-210-0150

Rose chafer adults defoliate many different plants, shrubs, and trees. Photo: Linda Williams

So far this summer, only a few reports of significant defoliation and damage by rose chafers (Macrodactylus subspinosus) and Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) have been submitted to the state’s DNR forest health specialists. Both of these leaf-skeletonizing beetles feed on foliage of many species of trees, shrubs and other plants. Although activity by Japanese beetles appears light this year, defoliation by rose chafers was reported in Marinette, Shawano, Waupaca, and Trempealeau counties.

Continue reading “Rose chafer and Japanese beetle populations high in parts of state”

Defoliation by spruce budworm low to moderate in NE Wisconsin

By Linda Williams, forest health specialist, Woodruff, Linda.Williams@wisconsin.gov, 920-360-0665 and Paul Cigan, forest health specialist, Hayward, Paul.Cigan@wisconsin.gov, 715-416-4920.

Severely defoliated balsam fir in Vilas County.

Severely defoliated balsam fir in Vilas County.

In many areas this summer, damage from spruce budworm (Choristoneura spp.), a native insect, is less noticeable than in past years. Although heavy defoliation is evident north of St. Germain in Vilas County and at a site in Shawano County, only light to moderate defoliation has been seen in other areas. Light defoliation was observed in Bayfield, Florence, Forest, Marinette, Oneida, Shawano, and Vilas counties. Defoliation was less predominant last year as well, probably because of unusually heavy rainfall in spring 2017 which led to an increase in tree growth. This year’s spring was also unusually wet, resulting in increased tree growth.

Spruce budworm outbreaks typically last about 10 years; the current outbreak began in 2012. The last two years of exceptionally robust tree growth may help some of the damaged trees to at least partially recover. Since 2012, some areas of northeastern Wisconsin experienced three or four years of heavy defoliation; affected trees are either dead or declining despite good growing conditions.

White pine bast scale and fungus

By Linda Williams, forest health specialist, Woodruff. Linda.Williams@wisconsin.gov; 920-360-0665

Branches in the mid- and lower-crown of this white pine are being killed by white pine bast scale and a fungal disease.

Branches in the mid- and lower-crown of this white pine are being killed by white pine bast scale and a fungal disease. Photo: Linda Williams

White pine bast scale and canker fungus has been identified in two sites in Oneida County. This insect/fungus complex is a new issue in the state; those who work with white pine should be alert for signs and symptoms.

White pine bast scale, a native scale, is tiny, black, oval-shaped, and lacks both eyes and legs. It uses a long stylet to siphon sap from outer layers of phloem (bast) of twigs and branches. White pine bast scales live under lichens on white pine branches. Although lichens don’t directly harm trees, they provide shelter for scale insects.

Continue reading “White pine bast scale and fungus”

Sparse-leafed elms and maples

Heavy seed production by a red maple. The Ohio State University.

Heavy seed production by a red maple. The Ohio State University.

By Todd Lanigan, forest health specialist, Eau Claire. todd.lanigan@wisconsin.gov, 715-210-0150 and Paul Cigan, forest health specialist, Hayword. Paul.Cigan@wisconsin.gov, 715-416-4920

There have been reports that some elm and maple trees in the state have fewer leaves than normal this spring. The likely reason is that several elms and maples produced an unusually large amount of seed this year, which trees do periodically. During a heavy seed production years, the tree will produce fewer leaves, which may make it appear sparse. Continue reading “Sparse-leafed elms and maples”

Defoliation by June beetles

By Mike Hillstrom, forest health specialist, Fitchburg. Michael.Hillstrom@wisconsin.gov; (608) 513-7690

June beetles defoliating an oak sapling at night.

June beetles defoliating an oak sapling at night.

June beetles (also called May beetles) are defoliating oak, aspen and birch trees in several parts of Wisconsin this spring. These beetles are unusual in that they feed on foliage at night – look for defoliation during daytime hours although no insects are present. Although the highest densities of June beetles have been found in Crawford and Grant counties in southwest Wisconsin, forest health staff has also received reports of the insect from northeast and west central Wisconsin. Continue reading “Defoliation by June beetles”

Forest tent caterpillar: surveys, prediction, and history

By Paul Cigan, forest health specialist, Hayward. Paul.Cigan@wisconsin.gov; 715-416-4920

Areas in northern Wisconsin with forest tent caterpillar defoliation during the peak year of most recent regionwide outbreak, from 1999 – 2002

Forest tent caterpillar larvae feeding on ash foliage. Photo: Paul Cigan

Late-winter surveys in northern Wisconsin for egg masses of forest tent caterpillars (FTC) suggest that numbers will remain low through 2018, continuing a 15-year trend, one of the longest documented intervals between FTC outbreaks in the state. Continue reading “Forest tent caterpillar: surveys, prediction, and history”