Scattered balsam fir trees in the Northwoods have suddenly turned brown and red this spring. / Photo Credit: Linda Williams, Wisconsin DNR
Scattered balsam fir trees in some areas of northern Wisconsin have suddenly turned rusty red to brown and are dying. These trees are not being impacted by spruce budworm and typically die with a full complement of needles.
The symptoms resemble what was observed in 2018 and 2020. So far, the number of trees being reported is smaller than what was seen in 2018 or 2020. Reports are still coming in, but they seem to be concentrated in northern areas of the state where we had extensive snowfall in late winter.
Basswood leaves show damage after feeding of introduced basswood thrips. / Photo Credit: Wisconsin DNR.
For the second consecutive year, damage from introduced basswood thrips (Thrips calcaratus) is significant in some northeastern Wisconsin counties. Introduced basswood thrips are tiny, invasive insects that feed inside tree buds in early spring. Leaves are then deformed when they expand and can look like frost or wind has damaged them.
A green maple leaf found on the ground with a broken petiole (leafstalk) due to damage by the maple petiole borer. / Photo Credit: Wisconsin DNR.
Some sugar maple trees in the northern half of Wisconsin experienced leaves dropping to the ground this spring.
These leaves were green and had no apparent areas of damage, but they covered the ground under some trees. A closer look showed these leaves had short petioles (leafstalks) that had been broken off when they fell, which indicates a tiny sawfly larva called maple petiole borer was to blame.
White pine in north central Wisconsin, as well as scattered areas elsewhere in the state, have many needles that are bright yellow. Brown spot needle blight (Lecanosticta acicula, previously known as Mycosphaerella dearnessii) is the primary suspect, although samples have been sent to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Forest Health laboratory to determine if other fungal species are present.
A ladybug larva feeds on lecanium scale domes on an oak twig. / Photo Credit: Wisconsin DNR.
Lecanium scale is infesting oak forests across Marinette, Oneida and Vilas counties. These scale insects insert their mouthparts into twigs and suck the tree sap. They release honeydew, which ants can collect, or coat leaves and anything located under infested trees (i.e., yard furniture or vehicles). Sooty mold can grow on that sticky material and turn things black, so homeowners may want to rinse off the honeydew from outdoor items regularly.
Pip galls are small, tongue-like protrusions emerging from under the caps of acorns. / Photo Credit: Linda Williams, Wisconsin DNR.
Gall wasp life cycles can be complex. Did you know that acorn pip galls, which I’ve written about several times, have another part of their life cycle that is entirely different? This stage is called the woolly catkin gall.
Both woolly catkin galls and acorn pip galls are caused by Callirhytis quercusoperator, a species of cynipid gall wasp. This gall wasp takes two years to complete development by going through the two parts of its life cycle. Both parts of the life cycle are completed on northern red oak in our area.
Examples of white “wool” coating on trees heavily infested with beech scale at Kohler-Andrae State Park (left) and in the Town of Beecher in Marinette County (right). / Photo Credit: Bill McNee (left) and Linda Williams (right), Wisconsin DNR.
Fourteen years after first detecting beech scale (Cryptococcus fagisuga, a non-native insect) in Door County, sites with high populations of beech scale have been found in additional counties. Beech scale is believed to have spread through the range of American beech in Wisconsin’s eastern counties, but until now has only been seen at low levels outside of Door County.
Eastern tent caterpillars and their webs start out small but grow quickly. Photo: Linda Williams, Wisconsin DNR.
Have you seen trees along roadsides with white webs in them? Eastern tent caterpillars (ETC) are hatching and beginning to feed on host trees, including cherry, apple and crabapple.
Landowners and homeowners may notice the white silken tents forming in branch forks. Although they form unsightly nests, ETC is a native insect, so management is not typically necessary. Even completely defoliated trees will produce new leaves within a few weeks.
With this spring’s dry weather in Wisconsin came predictions of the largest spongy moth population in years.
When spongy moth populations are high, we often see heavy mortality of the larger caterpillars due to two pathogens. Heavy caterpillar mortality will reduce the severity of the following year’s outbreak and often causes a population crash during the current year. If a heavy die-off of caterpillars is observed, please let your local DNR Forest Health Specialist know about it.