Woodland owners

Insects and disease in storm-damaged trees

On July 19 & 20, two separate lines of severe thunderstorms swept across Wisconsin causing significant forest damage in numerous counties. Straight line winds in excess of 100 mph and 16 documented tornadoes caused extensive damage to trees including main stem breakage, branches and tops broken, tipping and root damage and complete uprooting of trees. After the storms passed, the first order of business was to check on people, clear and open roads and make sure damaged homes were secured. As those tasks were completed, thoughts then turned to the damaged forests.

Map of damage assessment across land ownership types. From 2019 storms in northern Wisconsin.

Coarse-scale damage assessment from recent storms in northern Wisconsin. Percent damage and number of acres affected were estimated during ground and aerial surveys.

Some insects and diseases can take advantage of storm-damaged trees and cause long-term damage to forest stands. Continue reading to learn more about these issues, how to deal with them and how to contact professionals who can help landowners make decisions about their land.

Aerial view of extensive damage to aspen stands. Landscape of trees leaning from high winds.

Aerial view of aspen trees leaning from high wind in storm event.

Pines are first priority

Storm-damaged pine stands should be a landowner’s top priority when deciding where to start. Salvaging pine is much more urgent than oak or other hardwood stands because damaged pines will quickly begin to stain, and insects and disease will rapidly infest the damaged trees.

Broken and leaning pine trees following storm event. Damaged trees are more vulnerable to bark beetle attack.

Bark beetles quickly attack leaning, broken or uprooted pines.

Native bark beetles such as red turpentine (Dendroctonus valens) and pine engraver (Ips pini) will rapidly attack damaged trees that are leaning, broken or uprooted as well as fresh logs in log decks. Bark beetles will continue to attack storm-damaged trees and can move on to attack healthy pine once their populations grow. For more info on bark beetles, check out the WI DNR bark beetle factsheet.

White-spotted sawyer (Monochamus scutellatus) is another native beetle that will move in when a pine tree is nearly dead (or freshly cut). If you’ve ever stood by a conifer log pile and heard scratchy chewing noises, you were listening to this native pine sawyer.

Armillaria is a fungus that attacks the roots of storm-damaged trees. Tree mortality from armillaria root disease won’t show up until 1-3 years after the storm.

The bottom line to minimize insect and disease issues is to harvest your pines as soon as possible after the storm. Check out this printer-friendly factsheet for more information about salvage harvests, pests and replanting in storm-damaged pine stands.

Heterobasidion root disease in pine and spruce

Heterobasidion root disease (HRD), previously known as annosum, is a serious fungal disease of conifers, particularly pine and spruce. Infected trees decline and eventually die. Infection occurs when a spore lands on a freshly cut stump and germinates. Once in a stand, the disease can move from an infected stump to nearby trees through root contact, eventually killing those neighboring trees.

If a pine or spruce stand is within 25 miles of a known HRD pocket and a harvest or salvage will be done, it is recommended to treat pine and spruce stumps with a preventative fungicide within 24 hours of the tree being cut. To find out if you’re within 25 miles of a known HRD pocket, check out the interactive HRD web map.

When salvaging storm-damaged trees, it may be difficult to quickly find a logger who is certified to apply pesticides or one who has the equipment to spray the stumps as they are being cut. It may also be impractical or impossible for logging equipment to cut and treat those trees that are down or broken. Although efforts should be made to arrange preventive stump treatment, under this type of emergency harvesting, treatment of stumps at the time of harvest may not be practical. Refer to the HRD guidelines and the modifications that reference salvage (Chapter 3, Modification 4, and Chapter 4, Modification 4). For more information about HRD, visit the DNR HRD webpage.

Hemlock borer

Hemlock borer (Melanophila fulvoguttata) is a flatheaded wood-boring beetle whose immature stage bores into stressed or recently killed hemlocks. Storm-damaged hemlocks provide a good breeding ground for hemlock borers, and their populations grow large enough that they attack living hemlocks. To avoid hemlock borer attack on living hemlocks, promptly salvage windblown hemlock following a storm event. If you must thin standing trees around living hemlocks, the intensity of thinning should be as light as possible.

Oaks and other hardwood stands

Distribution of oak wilt in Wisconsin showing sparse distribution in most northern counties.

Counties shown in red have oak wilt throughout the county, although it may not be in every stand. Oak wilt is not common in northern Wisconsin.

Don’t rush – deterioration of oak is not an immediate concern. A thoughtful approach to salvaging your oak stands will be more beneficial in the long term. Oaks with broken roots or major branch/stem breakage may be attacked by the native two-lined chestnut borer (Agrilus bilineatus). Larvae of this beetle bore under the bark of oaks and can girdle and kill branches or entire trees. Branch mortality or whole tree mortality due to this insect will show up 1-3 years after a major stress event like these storms.

 The good news is that the July 19 and 20 storms occurred after the high-risk period for new oak wilt infections. Oaks are highly susceptible to infection by the oak wilt fungus (Bretziella fagacearum) during spring and early summer (April 15 – July 15 in the north and April 1 – July 15 in southern Wisconsin). Oaks in the red oak group will be killed completely while just a branch may die on white and bur oaks.

If salvage of stands with oak will occur next spring during the high risk period, please see the oak wilt guidelines for information on harvesting to minimize introduction of oak wilt There is a guideline modification for salvage harvesting that you could consider, so check out the guidelines to decide what is best for your property. Read more about oak wilt on the DNR oak wilt webpage.

What to salvage

Uprooted trees, and those with completely broken tops, will die and should be salvaged. Standing trees with some broken branches are judgment calls. A general rule is to salvage the tree if more than 50% of the crown or top is broken, but there may be situations when these damaged trees could be left to help your forest recover. A professional forester can help you with these determinations. Trees that are leaning may have broken roots or broken stem fibers and should be considered for salvage. Check locally for wood disposal sites or refer to the DNR page on cleaning up storm debris.

Firewood

Storm-damaged trees can be utilized for firewood, but you should be careful not to move firewood long distances and risk introducing invasive species like emerald ash borer, gypsy moth and oak wilt to new areas. Instead, let the firewood age in place and burn it locally. For more information, visit the DNR firewood page. Always use proper protective equipment when operating a chainsaw.

Continued monitoring

Trees do not recover from stresses very quickly. Dieback, and even mortality associated with the storm, could continue for 2-3 years. Hail damage associated with the storms may not be apparent until next spring. You should continue to monitor your storm-damage stands for several years, especially if additional stresses occur in the year or years after the storm damage (such as a drought, defoliation, etc.). If you notice trees dying in the year following the storm or even two years after the storm, you should discuss this with your forester.

Replanting when do you start over?

If you have a pine stand that was salvaged and you plan to replant to pine on that site, wait!  Pales weevil (Hylobius pales) is a native insect that will infest freshly cut pine stumps. That alone is not a concern, but as new adults emerge from stumps, they must do a “maturation feeding” on conifer twigs, which can girdle them. If the only “twigs” available are the seedlings that you just planted then they will feed on those, possibly killing the seedling and causing extensive failure of your new planting. Wait for the second springtime following your salvage/harvest before you replant. Example: you salvaged your stand in August 2019, you should not replant until the spring of 2021. Another example: you salvage your stand in May 2020, you should not replant conifers on that site until spring of 2022.

Talk with a professional

If you’re still unsure of how to proceed with making decisions about the storm damage on your land, you should contact a professional forester or forest health specialist for insect and disease questions. You can also find lots of resources and information on recovery from the storm at the Wisconsin DNR storm damage page. Major storms like this can devastate a landscape and deal a crushing blow to the family forest. Discussing your options with a forester and creating a game plan that will benefit you and your land will start you on the road to forest recovery.

Aerial view of extensive storm damage surrounding a home in Wisconsin.

Storm damage was extensive in numerous counties. For scale, note the house near the center of this photo.

Ants, aphids and sooty mold on white pine

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

Ants, aphids, and sooty mold can cause stunting and death of young white pines, but fortunately there are some steps you can take to protect your trees from these pests.

Ants guard aphids from predators as they feed. In exchange, the ants collect the sweet honeydew excreted by the aphids.

Ants (upper right) guard aphids from predators as they feed. In exchange, the ants collect the sweet honeydew excreted by the aphids.

Continue reading “Ants, aphids and sooty mold on white pine”

Needle and leaf diseases are back!

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

It’s nearly summer and the usual cast of disease characters are on the scene following wet spring conditions. Rhizosphaera needlecast and other needle diseases impacting spruce continue to be a major concern for landowners and homeowners. Diseases in hardwoods are also popping up. For more information on needle and leaf diseases affecting trees in Wisconsin and resources to learn more, click below to read full article. 

A row of spruce trees with dead branches and missing needles caused by Rhizosphaera needlecast.

Spruce trees impacted by Rhizosphaera needlecast.

Continue reading “Needle and leaf diseases are back!”

EAB found in third Douglas County township

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

Emerald ash borer (EAB) has been confirmed in Highland Township in Douglas County, making it the third township with a known EAB infestation in this county. Utility line professionals reported white ash with heavy woodpecker damage, or “flecking,” that was later confirmed to be an EAB infestation. The extent of damage to the tree suggests that the infestation is approximately 4 years old. Surrounding black ash do not display signs or symptoms of EAB. Nevertheless, based on EAB’s natural rate of spread, there is likely to be a low-density population for about 15 miles around the infested tree in all directions. The nearest previous EAB detection, made in the Town of Amnicon in 2017, is located 23 miles away. Firewood transport is the most likely source of this latest outlying introduction.

Known EAB detections as of April 25, 2019.

Known EAB detections as of April 25, 2019.

Forest managers working with ash should become familiar with the revised EAB Silviculture Guidelines, and landowners and managers in northern counties are encouraged to report EAB suspect trees to their regional forest health specialist.

EAB-infested white ash with heavy woodpecker flecking and dead epicormic sprouts.

EAB-infested white ash with heavy woodpecker flecking and dead epicormic sprouts.

Dense EAB larval galleries on the wood surface of infested white ash.

Dense EAB larval galleries on the wood surface of infested white ash.

Applications for Forest Legacy Program due June 14

Landowners interested in participating in the Forest Legacy Program are invited to submit a completed application by June 14, 2019.

The Forest Legacy Program is a federal program that provides grants funds to states for the protection of environmentally important forest land from conversion to non-forest uses. Wisconsin’s implementation strategy focuses on keeping forests as forests by protecting large (> 1,000 acres) unfragmented blocks of forest land that provide the highest conservation value and public benefit through the purchase of conservation easements. Conservation easements convey a ‘purchased’ set of negotiated property rights, while allowing landowners to continue to own and manage their land, including the right to sell.

To request an application and more information about the Forest Legacy Program, contact Ron Gropp at ron.gropp@wisconsin.gov or 715-281-6253.  Only lands within one of Wisconsin’s Forest Legacy Areas are eligible.

Don’t change EAB plans due to cold weather

By Bill McNee, forest health specialist, Oshkosh, bill.mcnee@wisconsin.gov, 920-360-0942

The recent frigid temperatures in late January and early February are likely to kill many overwintering emerald ash borer (EAB) larvae, but the tree-killing pest isn’t going away. The insulating properties of tree bark keep the larvae warmer than the outdoor air temperature, and wind chills do not affect the larvae because they are sheltered. The pest is also adapted to subzero temperatures based on its native range in eastern Asia where cold winters are common.

Prepupal larva seen during post-polar vortex sampling to assess larval mortality.

Overwintering prepupal larva, from February 2019 in Brookfield, WI.

On the morning of January 31, many parts of Wisconsin had low air temperatures between -30 and -35 degrees F. In places where it was this cold, scientific studies predict that most EAB larvae will be killed. Where low temperatures were between -20 and -30, larval mortality is likely to be lighter. Overwintering larvae were examined about 1 week after the cold snap in Brookfield (Waukesha County), where the low was -26, and few of the larvae were observed to have physical signs of freezing damage. Many of the larvae began moving within three days of being brought indoors. However, physical damage to the larvae may not yet be apparent, and normal-looking larvae may ultimately die from the cold temperatures.

Populations of the pest are likely to rebound, since each female beetle that emerges this summer will lay as many as 200 eggs. It is not currently known if larval mortality will significantly delay ash tree decline and mortality, although this may occur in areas that experienced the lowest temperatures. A cold spell in early 2014, that was not quite as cold, had no noticeable impacts on EAB spread or ash decline/mortality in areas known to be heavily infested.

The introduced biological controls of EAB, commonly known as “EAB wasps,” are at least as cold-tolerant as EAB. It is expected that these wasps will persist in and around release sites and continue parasitizing EAB eggs and larvae.

Forestry experts do not recommend changing EAB management plans solely due to the cold weather.

  • Continue to look for EAB in ash trees. Woodpecker damage is a good sign that an ash tree is infested with EAB or other pests.
  • Insecticide treatment of high-value ash trees near known infestations should be continued this spring.
  • Don’t delay tree removals or timber harvests that are already scheduled. Giving non-ash tree species more time to grow means that the future impacts of EAB will be reduced.
  • Continue planting non-ash tree species.
  • To help slow the spread of EAB, review firewood rules in Wisconsin. Buy firewood in the local area where you plan to burn it or buy Wisconsin-certified firewood that has been treated to eliminate pests. Certified firewood is often available at DNR-managed properties or you can buy from an independent certified firewood dealer.

Additional information about emerald ash borer, insecticide treatments and forest management can be found online at www.emeraldashborer.wi.gov.

Revised emerald ash borer guidelines now available

By Bill McNee, forest health specialist, Oshkosh, Bill.McNee@wisconsin.gov, 920-360-0942.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has released updated guidelines to aid woodland owners and managers in managing ash stands in light of the invasive emerald ash borer (EAB). The guidelines that became effective on January 1, 2019 reflect new research, increased pest detections and the anticipated transition to a statewide EAB quarantine (which occurred in March 2018).

Forestry professional and landowner standing in hardwood stand assessing conditions.

Landowners should work with professional foresters to make management decisions related to EAB on their land.

The silvicultural guidelines are intended to help make informed stand-level decisions regarding management of stands that are not yet infested by EAB and stands that are already impacted by the tree-killing beetle. They should be used along with other materials, including best management practices and other guidance documents, to develop appropriate management plans. 

The revised guidelines include recommendations to:

  • Implement management plans as soon as practical, across all of Wisconsin, to reduce a stand’s ash component to no more than 20%. More management options are likely to be available by taking immediate action
  • Review existing management plans to determine if they need revision due to changes in EAB distribution, stand condition, market prices, etc.
  • Diversify woodlands with site-appropriate tree species
  • Utilize merchantable ash before trees are infested or killed. It may be appropriate to retain some live ash on site for ecological benefits, species diversity, wildlife habitat, temporary cover or seed production

The guidelines also place a greater emphasis on assessing stand and site conditions before making management decisions. The document offers stand management alternatives for both upland and lowland stands, while recognizing that conversion of lowland ash stands to other forest types will be impractical in many cases.

If you would like more information about emerald ash borer or these guidelines, visit the DNR EAB webpage or talk to your regional forest health specialist.

Revised Heterobasidion root disease guidelines now available

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has released updated guidelines to reduce the risk of introduction and spread of Heterobasidion root disease (HRD) in Wisconsin through preventive stump treatments. The revised guidelines became effective on January 1, 2019, and a professionally designed version will be available soon. Woodland owners are strongly encouraged to work with a professional forester to make management decisions about HRD and preventive stump treatments.

Pocket of HRD-caused thinning and mortality in red pine plantation, Grant County.

Pocket of HRD-caused thinning and mortality in red pine plantation, Grant County.

Heterobasidion root disease is one of the most destructive diseases affecting conifers in the Northern Hemisphere. In Wisconsin, HRD is most commonly found in pine and spruce plantations. Infection by the wood-decaying Heterobasidion irregulare fungus kills living tissues and leads to growth loss and tree mortality. Spores landing on a fresh cut pine or spruce stump will infect that stump and root system and spread via root contact to neighboring trees, killing them as it invades their root systems. This pattern of spread creates pockets of dead and dying trees that expand outward. Growth reduction of trees leads to economic losses for plantation owners, and mortality of trees, including seedlings and saplings, has long-term implications for future stand composition and management.

The HRD stump treatment guidelines are designed to help make decisions about the use of preventive stump treatments when harvesting a stand. These treatments limit disease introduction by preventing fungal spores from developing on the exposed surfaces of newly cut stumps.

Cutting bar on logging equipment spraying blue chemical used in HRD stump treatments.

Pesticides used in stump treatments can be applied using logging equipment (blue mist exiting through nozzles in saw bar) or backpack sprayer.

Stump treatments are typically recommended between April 1 and November 30 if a stand is within 25 miles of a known HRD infection site and the stand is more than 50% pine and/or spruce. However, there are other factors to consider when deciding whether to use the preventive stump treatments. Certain situations when you may not need to treat stumps, referred to as “Exceptions” and “Modifications” in the guidelines, consider variables such as economic feasibility, landowner risk tolerance, unexpected weather patterns and future desired stand composition. Highlights of the revised stump treatment guidelines include:

  • Timing of treatments and general distance recommendations did not change from older guidance
  • Addition of spruce as a species recommended for stump treatment
  • Additional Exceptions and Modifications where treatment may not be necessary
  • For private landowners with a higher risk tolerance, a 6-mile radius from known infection sites can be considered when evaluating whether to apply treatments
  • Even if a stand is considered at low risk for HRD infection, woodland owners should carefully consider the potential impacts to their stand if preventive treatments are not used and HRD becomes established

Along with the guidelines, a web-based HRD map viewer has been launched. This interactive map displays confirmed HRD locations and 25-mile and 6-mile radius buffers around HRD locations. The purpose of this map is to help users determine whether a stand is within either the 25 or 6-mile buffers where stump treatments are recommended. You can enter an address or GPS location, turn map layers on and off, and zoom in and out to an area of interest.

If you would like more information about HRD or these guidelines, visit the DNR HRD webpage or talk to your regional forest health specialist.

Emerald ash borer detected in Kewaunee County

Communities known to have emerald ash borer as of September 2018 are shown in green, with Kewaunee County highlighted in red. Modified from a map by the Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).

Communities known to have emerald ash borer as of September 2018 are shown in green, with Kewaunee County highlighted in red. Modified from a map by the Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).

By Bill McNee, forest health specialist, Oshkosh. Bill.McNee@wisconsin.gov; 920-360-0942

In August, two separate infestations of emerald ash borer (EAB) were found in rural areas of Kewaunee County. EAB has spread through Wisconsin over the last few years, so these detections were expected. The first infestation spans the towns of Carlton and Franklin in the southern part of the county. A county resident reported the second infestation, located in the Town of Casco, in late August. The pest is likely present in other parts of the county as well.

Oak in the Driftless Workshop

Saturday, September 29, 2018  •  UW-Baraboo/Sauk County

This landowner workshop will cover a wide range of topics centered on the idea that oaks, today and in the future, are a shared resource important to people and wildlife in the Driftless Area in southwestern Wisconsin.

Learn from field experts about the many topics around oak during the morning session and continue discussions at lunch (provided); see some of these practices in action during the afternoon session when you to visit one of several woodland properties actively managing oak.

Topics include
• Oak ecology
• Improving wildlife habitat
• Planting trees
• Controlling invasive species
• Properly harvesting trees
• Understanding what your trees are worth
• and much more!

Cost is just $25 (Individual), $40 (Couple)
Hurry! These early-bird rates end August 19th.
Register online now.