Northwest WI Forest Health

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.

Ice, snow and deep frost: winter creates problems for trees

By forest health specialists Linda Williams, Woodruff, Linda.Williams@wisconsin.gov, 920-360-0665; Mike Hillstrom, Fitchburg, Michael.Hillstrom@wisconsin.gov, 608-513-7690; Alex Feltmeyer, Plover, Alexandra.Feltmeyer@wisconsin.gov, 715-340-3810

Heavy ice and snow loads can cause significant problems for trees. Branch tips and whole branches may break under heavy loads, and in windy conditions entire tree tops can come crashing down.

Freezing rain on February 4, 2019 covered trees around the state with a ¼” thick layer of ice. The weather then turned bitterly cold, leaving the ice stuck to the branches, weighing them down and straining the trees. Following that event, a snow storm affecting most of the state led to more ice, snow and damage to branches. 

Tree branches covered in 1 inch of ice.

These extraordinary ice formations may look light and frosty, but they add a lot of weight to tree branches and can cause branch breakage.

Some trees are more susceptible to winter damage. Small trees can be particularly prone to injuries caused by heavy ice and snow. They can bend so far over from the weight that their tops are near or even touching the ground. In some cases, their stems may break at ground level causing the entire tree to fall over. Other vulnerable trees include those with ingrown bark at branch unions. This type of branch union is weak and more likely to split under heavy loads.

White pine saplings bent over from weight of ice on branches.

These young white pines were coated in ice, causing them to bend over. They may not rebound well after the ice and snow melt.

White pine sapling weighed down with snow, causing significant branch droop.

The heavy snow on the branches of this young white pine have caused the branches to droop and the top to bend over significantly. Heavy snow loads can cause branches to break.

While forest trees are just as prone to winter damage, yard trees present the most safety hazards and should be seen by an arborist as soon as damage becomes evident. Storm-damaged trees may have dangerous features such as hanging branches, branches under tension, spring poles and cracks in the main stem. Depending on the damage, some yard trees may also require pruning to correct their form and protect them from future injuries. Due to the dangers associated with storm-damaged trees, consider having a professional arborist or logger do your tree pruning or removal.

Tree roots can be damaged in cold weather too. In areas of southern Wisconsin, a lack of snow during some of this winter’s cold snaps has forced the frost deep into the ground. Some of you may recall the winter of 2002-2003 when we had very little snow and frost went 5’ deep in many parts of the state. Not only did it freeze septic systems and water lines that winter, but it also damaged tree root systems by killing some of the fine roots and root tips that grow deep below the surface and prefer not to freeze. Trees that lost a significant number of roots experienced crown dieback and stress that led to insects and diseases attacks, including two-lined chestnut borer on oak and Armillaria root rot on conifers. Deep freeze damage to tree roots is not often the single cause of tree stress or death but is more often one of several stress agents that leave trees more susceptible to insects and diseases. Fortunately, the deep frost can be pulled out of the ground, and some of the damages avoided, if there is enough snow cover for the remainder of the winter.

For more information on how snow and ice can impact trees, check out these resources from Wisconsin [PDF] and Minnesota. Contact a certified arborist or DNR forester if you want to discuss management options for storm-damaged trees.

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.

2018 Forest Health Annual Report now available

The Forest Health Annual Report summarizes notable impacts pests, diseases and weather on the health of Wisconsin’s forests. The report is a collaborative product written by DNR forest health specialists from around the state. It outlines the damage and spread of both native and invasive pests and diseases during that year and puts these into context of observations from previous years. Management programs and their results are also described. Highlights from the 2018 annual report include:

  • American beech with resistance to disease-causing scale insect entered into a breeding program for species conservation and reintroduction
  • Confirmation of jumping worms in northern counties
  • Biological control of emerald ash borer
  • Closure of the state gypsy moth suppression program
  • Innovation in survey of the invasive plant lesser celandine
  • Dieback and mortality in balsam fir caused by freezing weather in April followed by unseasonably hot temperatures in early May

The 2018 report and others dating back to 2003 are available on the forest health publications page. Historical reports dating back to 1951 are archived and available upon request. Contact Marguerite Rapp at marguerite.rapp@wisconsin.gov for more information on the archived reports.

Dispose of wreaths properly to avoid spreading invasive insect

image of elongate hemlock scale The small brown blotches on the underside of these needles are an invasive species found on some holiday decorations purchased from chain stores in 2018. Help prevent the spread of elongate hemlock scale by properly disposing of wreaths, swags and other potentially infested materials. (Photo credit: WI Dept. of Ag, Trade & Consumer Protection)

Please remember to properly dispose of wreaths, trees and other holiday decorations from chain stores that may be infested with an invasive insect.

If you purchased any holiday wreaths, swags, boughs and other arrangements from chain stores, please dispose of them by burning or bagging them and putting them in the trash as they may be infested with an aggressive invasive insect that can harm Wisconsin’s native forests, Christmas tree farms, and even ornamental conifers in your yard.

During this recent holiday season, Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) inspectors found an invasive insect pest from Asia called elongate hemlock scale (EHS) on holiday wreaths, swags and boughs, and in arrangements of evergreen boughs in hanging baskets, porch pots, mugs and sleighs.

These items came from suppliers in states where EHS is already established. This insect poses a risk to Christmas tree fields as well as native and ornamental coniferous trees in Wisconsin. To prevent the introduction of EHS to Wisconsin, DATCP officials are asking those who purchased the listed decorative items from chain stores in 2018 to properly dispose of them.

Trapping project found no non-native beetles

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

The Wisconsin DNR’s forest health team received funding to trap for non-native beetles in 2018. This project was funded by the US Forest Service through an Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) grant. The project is complete, and we happily share that we did not find any non-native beetles!

Forest health staff member Scott Schumacher is hanging a Lindgren funnel trap (12 funnels stacked to look like a tree trunk) from a tree branch to survey for non-native beetles.

Forest health staff member Scott Schumacher hangs a Lindgren funnel trap to survey for non-native beetles.

The Forest Service periodically provides funding to states to trap for non-native bark and ambrosia beetles. The goal of trapping is to detect, delimit and monitor newly introduced exotic beetles and to quickly assess and respond to newly detected infestations.

We placed traps at 12 high-risk sites in Jefferson, Waukesha, Milwaukee, Racine, Manitowoc, and Brown counties. Sites were selected in collaboration with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and were based on proximity to large commercial port entries on Lake Michigan or recycling facilities for pallets and other waste packaging. Three Lindgren funnel traps (12 funnels stacked to look like a tree trunk) and lures were assembled at each site and checked every two weeks between early May and early August. Specimens collected from the traps were sent to a Forest Service taxonomist for identification.

New northern oak wilt detections

By Paul Cigan, forest health specialist, Hayward. Paul.Cigan@wisconsin.gov; 715-416-4920 and Linda Williams forest health specialist, Woodruff. Linda.Williams@wisconsin.gov; 920-360-0665

Oak wilt (OW) was confirmed for the first time in Bayfield and Douglas counties and in 16 new northern townships in 2018. The new OW infections occurred on a range of properties, including county, tribal, private, U.S. Forest Service and Board of Commissioners of Public Lands. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) forest health staff are working proactively with affected property managers and landowners to address these infections and prioritize disease prevention and detection in the future.

 

Oak wilt distribution map. Confirmed counties are displayed in red. Confirmed townships are displayed in pink 6-mile square blocks.

The greatest risk of overland transmission in northern Wisconsin is from April 15 to July 15, when fungal spores readily infect open wounds. Most of these new cases occurred during this time frame due to stem and branch damage. The primary causes of damage were roadside brush clearing, pruning, lot clearing and storm-caused branch breakage. Fungal spores may have come from diseased oak firewood and unprocessed wood recently transported into these areas.

Image shows a group of oak trees. Northern red oak on far left is in wilting stage of disease (leaves on but wilting and dropping). Oak on far right has mechanical root collar injury. Dairyland Township, Douglas County.

OW disease center. Oak on far left was infected through belowground root contact with tree damaged in lot clearing (far right). Dairyland Township, Douglas County (photo taken by Paul Cigan).

If oak wilt is present in or within 6 miles of the county where you manage oak, your management activities may be affected by seasonal harvesting restrictions to reduce OW introduction and impact. Read DNR’s oak harvesting guidelines for more information and refer to the list below of new 6 square mile blocks by township and county to see if OW has been detected near your property.

Bayfield County
Barnes T45N R9W
Cable T43N R7W
Drummond T45N R8W
Douglas County
Dairyland T43N R15W
Gordon T44N R11W
Langlade County
Elcho T34N R11E
Langlade T33N R13E
Neva T32N R11E
Sawyer County
Couderay T39N R8W
Hayward T41N R8W
Hunter T40N R7W
Round Lake T41N R8W
Spider Lake T42N R7W
Vilas County
Boulder Junction T42N R6E
Lac du Flambeau T41N R5E, T40N R5E
St. Germain T40N R8E

Please report any suspected oak wilt infections to your local DNR forester or regional forest health specialist and learn more about oak wilt identification and biology on the DNR oak wilt webpage. To learn more about firewood rules and how you can help reduce transmission of pests and diseases, including oak wilt, visit the DNR firewood page.

10 oak leaves lain on downed log display bronze discoloration typical of oak wilt. Midrib and base of leaf are still green.

Bronzed leaves fallen from infected oak. Leaves were observed beneath infected northern red oak. Cable Township, Bayfield County (photo taken by Paul Cigan).

Heterobasidion root disease in Monroe County

By Todd Lanigan, forest health specialist, Eau Claire. Todd.Lanigan@wisconsin.gov; 715-210-0150

Heterobasidion root disease (HRD), formerly known as annosum root rot, was recently found in Monroe County for the first time in the town of Little Falls. With this detection, HRD is now known to occur in 28 Wisconsin counties.

HRD distribution map. Counties where HRD is present are shown in blue with most recently confirmed county shown in dark blue.

Fruiting bodies of the pathogen, Heterobasidion irregulare, were found on dead overstory red pine and both live and dead white pine saplings in the Big Creek Fishery Area. The 20-acre stand was a red pine plantation established in 1958 and last thinned in 2012. Wood samples were collected to isolate and identify the pathogen through microscopic identification at the Forest Health Lab in Fitchburg.

Image of multiple spores viewed under microscope. Conidiophores look like Q-tip heads.

Microscopic spores isolated from wood samples and confirmed as HRD in Forest Health Lab.

Based on this new find, a number of townships were added to the 25-mile buffer zones used in determining appropriate management activities according to the HRD Management Guide. There will be a one-year grace period for implementation of the guide in these townships.

The Forest Health Program has records of all confirmed HRD detections. If you suspect this disease is present in a stand, contact your regional forest health specialist.

For more information about HRD, visit the DNR Forest Health webpage.

Pesticide applicator training offered in 2019

By Kyoko Scanlon, forest pathologist, Fitchburg, Kyoko.Scanlon@Wisconsin.gov, 608-235-7532

Wisconsin Pesticide Applicator Training (PAT) Program with University of Wisconsin Extension is offering one training session for Forestry (Category 2.0) in 2019. The training is a one-day indoor session to review the materials in the training manual. A certification exam will be administered at the end of the day by Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

The PAT Forestry training day is scheduled for January 24, 2019 at the Marathon County Extension Office in Wausau. Preregistration is required and costs $30. For more information and to register, visit the Pesticide Applicator Training website.