Redheaded pine sawfly reported in northern Wisconsin

By Linda Williams, forest health specialist, Woodruff,, 920-360-0665 

For the second year in a row, colonies of redheaded pine sawfly have been reported on understory red pine in northern Wisconsin, with the most reports coming from Vilas County. Redheaded pine sawfly was also noted in Portage County in central Wisconsin this year.

Redheaded pine sawfly larvae feed as a group, as shown in this photo where many sawflies are clustered on a single twig.

Redheaded pine sawfly larvae feed as a group.

Redheaded pine sawfly larvae look like caterpillars and feed gregariously, or in groups, on young red, jack and Scotch pines. There are two generations per year. The first generation of caterpillars in the spring feed on needles from the previous year, while the second generation feeds on the current year needles, which can put trees under significant stress. The first generation often goes unnoticed, but the second generation occurs in late summer, has larger numbers of larvae, and damage to new needles is more obvious so they are more likely to be noticed.

Feeding damage from the first generation sawflies occurs on the previous year's needles, as shown in this photo. The second generation sawflies feed on new needles, which makes defoliation much more visible.

Feeding damage from redheaded pine sawfly.

Control can be accomplished by clipping the branch where a colony is present and squishing the sawflies or by using a general insecticide. Always read and follow label instructions carefully when using insecticides. There are also a number of natural controls in the environment, including parasitoids, predators, and a virus, that can have big impacts on the larvae and eventually cause the sawfly populations to collapse.

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