Northwest WI Forest Health

Forest tent caterpillar: surveys, prediction, and history

By Paul Cigan, forest health specialist, Hayward.; 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”

Defoliation by larch casebearers

By Linda Williams, forest health specialist, Woodruff, (, 715-356-5211 x232

The two cigar-shaped, tan objects sticking to the newly expanding needles of this tamarack tree are larch casebearer caterpillars, feeding on the foliage.

The two cigar-shaped, tan objects sticking to the newly expanding needles of this tamarack tree are larch casebearer caterpillars, feeding on the foliage. Photo: Linda Williams

As tamarack needles begin to appear, so do some tiny caterpillars that feed on them. Larch casebearers defoliate tamarack trees early in the season, first causing the trees to look pale green or yellowish, or even brown if defoliation is severe. This year I have been able to find larch casebearers wherever I look, but so far, I haven’t found any high populations of the insect. Continue reading “Defoliation by larch casebearers”

Region-wide needle tip browning on red pine

Typical appearance of needle tip browning on lower portion of red pine crowns

Red pine with needle tip browning on the lower crown. Photo: Paul Cigan

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

Although no tree mortality is associated with the condition, widespread needle tip browning on red pine has been observed for the second consecutive year across much of the upper Great Lakes region. The condition is heavier in some places than others, but once in a stand or location, tends to be evenly distributed. Needle tip browning is common on the lower half of mature red pine crowns. On two- to three-year-old needles, the outer half to three-quarters of the needles appear reddish brown to straw-colored while needle bases remain green. Black or dark brown necrotic bands and spots are often present on symptomatic needle tips. Lower crown thinning is also common on symptomatic pine. Newly impacted needles will gradually lighten in color from reddish brown to straw-colored as dead needle tips dry out through the growing season. Continue reading “Region-wide needle tip browning on red pine”

Forest health zones restructured

by Jodie Ellis, communications specialist, Forest Health team (Madison); 608-266-2172

The number of Forest Health (FH) specialist positions in the state was recently reduced by one, going from seven fulltime positions to six. To reflect this change, the forest health zonal map was restructured to spread coverage between five forest health specialists (the FH specialist position for the Central zone, while not eliminated, remains vacant). The new assignments went into effect on April 3, 2018.

To contact a forest health specialist, please refer to the revised map below:

  • Northwest zone: Paul Cigan (Hayward), 715-416-4920,
  • Northeast zone: Linda Williams (Woodruff), 715-356-5211 x232, Also covering Lincoln, Shawano, Menominee, Waupaca and Oconto counties in the Central zone
  • West Central zone: Todd Lanigan (Eau Claire), 715-839-1632, Also covering Taylor County in the Central zone.
  • Southeast zone: Bill McNee (Oshkosh), 920-360-0942,
  • South Central zone: Michael Hillstrom (Fitchburg, WI), 608-513-7690, Also covering Marathon, Wood, Portage, Adams, Waushara, Marquette and Green Lake counties in the Central zone.
  • Central zone: vacant
Restructured Forest Health zones

Restructured Forest Health zones

A fulltime FH specialist position, which had been vacant, was eliminated as part of the reduction of six positions from the Division of Forestry in the recent state budget. Because of the increased work load on the five remaining FH specialists, the FH program has permanently reduced or eliminated some of its services to customers to keep the staff’s work load at manageable levels.

Program services that have been reduced or eliminated include:

  • The DNR’s gypsy moth suppression program, which addressed population surges in areas of the state where gypsy moth is already established. This program was already in the process of being deactivated when the FH specialist position was cut. (NOTE: The Slow The Spread program, which is managed by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), remains active. It targets gypsy moth populations in the western part of the state where gypsy moth has not yet established.)
  • Site visits to confirm EAB at the township level (digital images will be used for identification instead)
  • Site visits and digital diagnostics of small acreage (less than 10 acres) for private landowners

Forest Health team members must also reduce the number of outreach presentations provided to the public.

Please contact Rebecca Gray, Forest Health team leader, with any questions at or by phone at 608-275-3273.

Protect oak trees from oak wilt by waiting until after July to prune

By Don Kissinger, DNR urban forester (Wausau),, 715-359-5793 and Paul Cigan, DNR forest health specialist (Hayward),, 715-416-4920

To protect oak trees and help prevent oak wilt, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources advises people to avoid pruning oaks on their property from April through July.

Spring and early summer pruning makes oak trees vulnerable to oak wilt, a fatal fungal disease that rapidly kills trees in the red oak group and weakens those in the white oak group. Any tree damage during this time creates an opening that exposes live tree tissue and provides an opportunity for the oak wilt fungus to infect the tree.

The red oak group includes northern pin oak, northern red oak, red oak and black oak; the white oak group includes bur oak, swamp white oak, white oak and English oak.

Pin oak (Quercus palustris)

Pin oak (Quercus palustris)
Photo: Gary Fewless, University of Wisconsin, Green Bay

“It takes only a few minutes for beetles that carry oak wilt spores to land on a fresh wound and infect your tree,” said Paul Cigan, DNR forest health specialist in Hayward.

Property owners with oak trees are encouraged to check with their municipality to find out if there are local oak wilt ordinances which may have different pruning restrictions.

The use of tree paint or a wound dressing is not normally recommended on pruning cuts or wounded surfaces on most trees. But for damaged oaks, the use of such products are suggested from April through July. An immediate light painting of wounds or cuts on oak trees during this time helps protect against the spread of oak wilt by beetles.

Don Kissinger, a DNR urban forester in Wausau, said there are also other important reasons to avoid pruning many kinds of deciduous trees in spring beyond concerns about oak wilt.

“Spring is the time when tree buds and leaves are growing, leaving the tree’s food reserves low,” Kissinger said. In general, the best time to prune trees is in winter.

Oak wilt and other diseases move easily on or in firewood logs year-round. To protect trees in general, don’t move firewood long distances, or only use firewood labeled as Wisconsin-certified.

As of January 31, 2018, oak wilt has been found in all Wisconsin counties except Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland, Iron, Forest, Taylor, Door, Kewaunee, Calumet, and Manitowoc counties. Several of these counties contain the highest abundance of healthy and productive oak forests in the state. Taking recommended precautions with living oak trees and keeping firewood local to prevent the spread of oak wilt will help keep them that way for years to come.

More information is available online at the WI DNR website, including a recently released video on oak wilt. Visit the DNR website,, and search for “oak wilt” or “firewood.” Additional information about proper pruning techniques is available from community foresters or by searching for “tree pruning.”

SPECIAL REQUEST from DNR’s Forest Health Team

Thank you to those kind subscribers who have already completed the Forest Health News Survey which was emailed in March. If you haven’t had a chance to take the survey, we ask that you do so now.

Our goal at Forest Health is to provide you with helpful information on pest, disease and invasive plant issues in the state in a timely manner. To help us improve our usefulness to you, please click here to take the survey.

The survey will take about 10 minutes to complete. Your individual responses will be kept confidential. All responses will be compiled and analyzed as a group; a summary of the survey results will be available to you this spring. If you own forested land in Wisconsin, you will need to refer to the zonal map which you will find at the beginning of the survey.

We would be grateful if you will complete the survey by April 15, 2018. If you have any questions or concerns about the survey or wish to provide additional comments about Forest Health News, please contact Jodie Ellis at or at 608-266-2172.

Thank you for taking the time to complete this survey. It is much appreciated.

New oak wilt video released by DNR Forest Health Team

By Paul Cigan, DNR forest health specialist (Hayward),, 715-416-4920

Check out the new oak wilt video on the WI DNR Oak Wilt webpage.

New oak wilt video!

The DNR Forest Health Program just released a new oak wilt video  to educate the public about this deadly fungal disease that kills oak trees. In addition to the 3.5 minute video, a 30 second video trailer is also available:, each video may also be accessed from the Wisconsin DNR’s oak wilt webpage.

The videos, which are hosted on YouTube, may be shared through any networks of professional and public contacts who may benefit from viewing this resource. Please post the video on your organizational websites as an additional information source. Promotion of the videos is underway, including print ads in newspapers in several northern counties, DNR Facebook page posts, and an informational flyer distributed in northern counties. If you are interested in distributing flyers, please contact me or Jodie Ellis at for copies. Contact your regional forest health specialist for more details about prevention, detection, and management of oak wilt.



New! Statewide quarantine for emerald ash borer

by Jodie Ellis, Forest Health Team, communications specialist,, 608-266-2172

 An emerald ash borer adult.

An emerald ash borer adult.
Photo: Leah Bauer, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station,

A statewide quarantine of the invasive insect emerald ash borer (EAB) will go into effect on March 30, 2018. Previously, individual counties were quarantined when EAB was confirmed within each’s borders. Since EAB has been found in 48 of 72 Wisconsin counties, officials have determined that statewide regulation of the devastating ash tree pest is warranted.

Movement of ash wood, untreated ash products and hardwood firewood of any type to areas outside of Wisconsin will continue to be regulated by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Plant Protection and Quarantine. (APHIS PPQ).

Within the state, Wisconsin businesses and members of the public will be able to freely move ash wood, ash products, and hardwood firewood to or from any Wisconsin county. Firewood restrictions will remain in effect on state and federal lands.

Items affected by the statewide EAB quarantine include ash wood with bark attached, larger ash wood chips, and hardwood firewood of any kind. County-by-county quarantines for gypsy moth, another invasive forest pest, remain in effect.

The move to a statewide quarantine does not mean that the state has given up on managing EAB; it is simply a shift in strategy as EAB continues its slow spread through the state. The Wisconsin DNR will continue releasing tiny, stingless wasps -natural enemies of EAB – at appropriate sites, which it has done since 2011. The DNR also continues participation in silvicultural trials in which different ash management strategies are being tested.

Most importantly, campers, tourists, and other members of the public are strongly encouraged to continue taking care when moving firewood within the state. “The actions taken by the Wisconsin public during the last few years have significantly slowed the spread of emerald ash borer and other invasive forest pests in the state,” said Wisconsin DNR EAB program manager Andrea Diss-Torrance. “We can continue to protect the numerous areas within our state that are not yet infested – including those in our own backyards – from tree-killing pests and diseases by following precautions.” Public members should continue to obtain firewood near campgrounds or cabins where they intend to burn it, or buy firewood that bears the DATCP-certified mark, meaning it has been properly seasoned or heat-treated to kill pests.

Emerald ash borer is native to China and probably entered the United States on packing material, showing up first in Michigan in 2002. It was first found in eastern Wisconsin in 2008.

For further information on EAB in Wisconsin, visit, using key words “emerald ash borer”.

New Wisconsin Wildcard available on beech bark disease

Written by: Linda Williams, forest health specialist, Woodruff., 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 and ordered by emailing a request to (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.









Gypsy moth numbers rising in northern WI


Fig 1. Average gypsy moth trap counts in northern Wisconsin counties. Map credit: Adapted, Slow The Spread Foundation, Inc.

Fig 1. Average gypsy moth trap counts in northern Wisconsin counties. Map adapted from the Slow The Spread Foundation, Inc.

Annual surveys conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) indicate gypsy moth populations have increased in several northern Wisconsin counties and by 20% statewide. High moth counts were detected in pheromone traps in Ashland, Bayfield, Burnett (Dewey Township), Iron, Oneida, and Vilas counties, with the highest overall count in Bayfield County (14,354 moths total).  Areas with an average catch per trap of 100 moths or more will likely experience damaging levels of defoliation by gypsy moth caterpillars in the following year or years (Fig. 1).

Defoliation can be reliably predicted at the stand level by counting gypsy moth egg masses from August through March before egg hatch; these estimates help determine if preventive measures, such as physical controls, insecticide treatments, or delaying thinning activities are needed until populations collapse. 

In recreational and residential high-use areas, physical controls such as sticky bands and burlap barriers may be used to help reduce nuisance and aesthetic impacts from gypsy moths.  Aerial treatments are used when gypsy moth populations are high. In managed forests, use of silvicultural techniques may be economically feasible to reduce productivity problems caused by the pest.

Learn more about prevention and management options for your property by consulting with your local DNR forester or regional forest health specialist.

More information about population sampling and management options is available online at

Written by: Paul Cigan, forest health specialist, Hayward.; 715-416-4920