Northern WI Forest Health

Squirrel Damage To Maple Trees Showing Up Earlier This Winter

By Linda Williams, DNR Forest Health Specialist, Woodruff;
Linda.Williams@wisconsin.gov or 920-360-0665

Photo of a maple tree with some bark removed by squirrel feeding.

Squirrels have stripped off the bark of this maple tree to get at the sweet cambium layer under the bark. / Photo Credit: Linda Williams, Wisconsin DNR

Typically in the spring, squirrels can cause damage to maple trees by removing bark from branches and the main stem after the trees have been frozen all winter and the weather starts to warm up. This fall, before the January cold spell, temperatures had warmed up by mid-November and remained warm throughout December.

As a result, starting in late November fresh squirrel damage was being noted on some scattered maples in north central Wisconsin. Damage progressed throughout December and some trees have more than half of the bark removed from branches and the main stem. The sight of scattered bits of bark around the base of these trees is another sign of squirrel activity.

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Woodpecker Damage On Ash Trees May Indicate Emerald Ash Borer

By Bill McNee; DNR Forest Health specialist, Oshkosh;
Bill.McNee@wisconsin.gov or 920-360-0942

Photo showing woodpecker damage on an ash tree trunk, an early sign the tree might be infested with emerald ash borer.

Woodpecker damage is an early sign an ash tree might be infested with emerald ash borer. / Photo Credit: Wisconsin DNR

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) encourages property owners to watch for woodpecker damage to their ash trees this winter. If damage is found, property owners should make plans to take action in the spring.

Woodpecker damage, often called “flecking,” happens when birds peck away some of a tree’s bark to access the larvae underneath. Flecking is a common early sign that an ash tree might be infested with emerald ash borer (EAB), an invasive insect. EAB is the most damaging threat to Wisconsin trees, killing more than 99% of the untreated ash trees it infests.

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Leafminer Creates Green Bay Packers Colors On Aspen Leaves

Photo of an aspen leaf that fell in the fall showing a “green island” due to leafminer feeding.

An aspen leaf that fell in the fall showing a “green island” due to leafminer feeding. / Photo Credit: Linda Williams, Wisconsin DNR

By Linda Williams, DNR Forest Health Specialist, Woodruff;
Linda.Williams@wisconsin.gov or 920-360-0665

Most aspen leaves that fell this fall were a beautiful yellow gold color, but every so often some could be found that were yellow with a green strip on them. Were the aspen trees supporting the Green Bay Packers? No. The green stripe was an indication of the presence of a tiny leafmining caterpillar.

Leafminers are tiny caterpillars that live and feed within a leaf. These tiny caterpillars may produce blotch mines or serpentine mines that create lines on the leaf.

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Forest Health Forecast For 2024

Paul Cigan, DNR Forest Health Specialist, Hayward;
Paul.Cigan@wisconsin.gov or 715-416-4920

An aerial photo of oak and aspen forests showing heavy defoliation from spongy moth.

Oak and aspen forests with heavy defoliation from spongy moth. Additional defoliation coupled with ongoing drought in the upcoming 2024 growing season is expected to put significant stress on affected forests. / Photo Credit: Paul Cigan, Wisconsin DNR

Maintaining a healthy and productive forest often requires — more than ever before — a working knowledge of how to anticipate, prevent and mitigate environmental stressors that threaten to undermine it. The list of stressors includes drought, impact of forest insects and diseases.

In a recent and timely article, Denise Thornton of My Wisconsin Woods taps the expansive knowledge of the DNR’s Forest Health team and a state climatologist to bring focus to the threats facing forests this year.

She also lists steps that can be taken to ensure health and proactivity are maintained in your forests.

Bronze Birch Borer Attacks Stressed Birch

By Linda Williams, DNR Forest Health Specialist, Woodruff;
Linda.Williams@wisconsin.gov or 920-360-0665

Photo of a white birch tree with its top half dying from bronze birch borer attack.

Bronze birch borer has attacked these trees, and parts of the tree above the attack site are thin and declining. / Photo Credit: Linda Williams, Wisconsin DNR

Bronze birch borer (Agrilus anxius) is a native beetle that attacks birch trees. As adults emerge from the bark, they create small, D-shaped exit holes, similar to emerald ash borer but smaller.

Bronze birch borer attacks stressed trees, and the source of the stress can be anything from drought, flooding, defoliation or old age.

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Oak Wilt Confirmed In Ashland County

Map showing Wisconsin counties in which oak wilt has been detected.

With the addition of Ashland County, oak wilt has now been detected in 66 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. / Map Credit: Wisconsin DNR.

By Paul Cigan, DNR Forest Health Specialist, Hayward
Paul.Cigan@wisconsin.gov or 715-416-4920

Oak wilt, a deadly disease of oaks, has been found for the first time in Ashland County.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) confirmed the find in wood samples from a red oak tree in the town of Gordon.

“There is always risk of oak wilt spread into new and relatively uninfested areas in northern Wisconsin, such as Ashland County, so it’s always best to practice oak wilt prevention wherever possible to significantly reduce that risk,” said Paul Cigan, a DNR forest health specialist based in Hayward.

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Avoid Ash Trees When Placing Deer Stands

Photo of hunter climbing into tree-mounted deer stand.

It is important to place and maintain tree stands carefully as you prepare for the upcoming deer hunting season. / Photo Credit: Wisconsin DNR

By Bill McNee, Forest Health Specialist, Wisconsin DNR;
Bill.McNee@wisconsin.gov; (920) 360-0942

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) cautions hunters to avoid placing deer stands in or near ash trees this deer hunting season.

Most ash trees in the southern half of Wisconsin, Door County and the Mississippi River counties are dead or dying from emerald ash borer infestation. Although emerald ash borer is not as widespread in other parts of the state, the invasive insect continues to be found at additional locations throughout the state and unreported infestations also are likely.

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Oak Mortality Increases In 2023

Photo of a bur oak tree more than 100 years old showing canopy dieback and epicormic branching due to twolined chestnut borer

A bur oak more than 100 years old exhibits canopy dieback and epicormic branching caused by twolined chestnut borer. / Photo Credit: Wisconsin DNR

By Michael Hillstrom, DNR Forest Health Specialist, Fitchburg
Michael.Hillstrom@wisconsin.gov

White, red and bur oaks have been experiencing increased mortality in Wisconsin and neighboring states over the last few years.

The causes of mortality are varied, but two-lined chestnut borer (TLCB) is the most common culprit. Wisconsin has switched from a period of historically wet years (2017-2020) to drought conditions that have become more severe each year (2021-2023). Add in frost damage, storm damage, increased growing season length and aging forests and the environmental recipe exists for stressed oaks that are more susceptible to attack by insects and diseases.

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Another Ash Pest Found In Northern Wisconsin

Close-up photo of an adult cottony ash psyllid.

A close-up photo of an adult cottony ash psyllid feeding on an ash leaf. / Photo Credit: Steve Garske, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission

By Linda Williams, DNR Forest Health Specialist, Woodruff
Linda.Williams@wisconsin.gov or 920-360-0665

As if black ash trees don’t have enough problems with emerald ash borer (EAB), another ash pest recently was found at several locations in northern Wisconsin.

In June, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) staff noticed black ash with leaf curling and puckering, early leaf drop and dieback at one of their Climate Change Program’s long-term phenology study sites.

After working with DNR Forest Health staff to narrow down the possibilities, insect samples were collected and sent to P.J. Liesch, director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Insect Diagnostic Laboratory, for official identification. He identified them as cottony ash psyllid.

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Pink-Striped Oakworm Population Remains Low

Photo of a pink-striked oakworm caterpillar on a hand.

This large caterpillar, a pink-striped oakworm, has great camouflage and blends in with oak twigs very well. / Photo Credit: Linda Williams, Wisconsin DNR

By Linda Williams, DNR Forest Health Specialist, Woodruff;
Linda.Williams@wisconsin.gov or 920-360-0665

Pink-striped oakworm is a native fall defoliator. Fall defoliators affect the health of trees less than defoliators that occur in the spring.

Although literature states that high populations of this caterpillar can create significant defoliation, no defoliation was noted in the area this caterpillar was observed in Oneida County.

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