South Central 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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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.

Green Light On For Oak Tree Work

Photo of fallen leaves from a red oak that show discoloration, an indication that the tree is infected with oak wilt.

Discolored fallen leaves from a red oak tree indicate that the tree is infected with oak wilt. / Photo Credit: Wisconsin DNR

By Art Kabelowsky, DNR Forest Health Outreach and Communications, Fitchburg Service Center;
Arthur.Kabelowsky@wisconsin.gov or 608-335-0167

With the weather taking its time to turn wintry, it’s a good time to remind landowners and work crews that now through the end of March is an ideal time to perform pruning, trimming and brush removal on and near oak trees.

This is a low-risk period for the trees to be infected with oak wilt, a fungal disease spread by beetles. When a red oak is infected with oak wilt, it will die that year. The disease also stresses white oaks, often proving fatal.

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Maple Petiole Borer Causes Leaves To Drop

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

Photo of maple leaf found on the ground with broken petiole (leafstalk).

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.

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Watch For Brown Spot Needle Blight

Photo showing white pine with yellowing needles.

White pine with yellowing needles; new growth is not affected. / Photo Credit: Wisconsin DNR.

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

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.

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Severe Spruce Budworm Defoliation Hits In Northwest

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

Photo taken through magnifying lens of spruce budworm caterpillars.

Spruce budworm overwinters as tiny caterpillars (yellow arrow) that migrate to the buds before they start to swell in the spring. A magnifying lens is needed to see them at this stage. / Photo Credit: Linda Williams, Wisconsin DNR.

For the 11th consecutive year in Wisconsin, spruce budworm has caused significant defoliation on spruce, balsam fir and tamarack in some areas of the state.

This year, areas with widespread severe defoliation include Oneida and Vilas counties, with Forest, Iron, and Langlade counties also showing significant defoliation.

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Eastern Tent Caterpillar Webs Common

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

Photo of web of eastern tent caterpillars.

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.

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Diseases Take Aim At Spongy Moth

Photo of tree showing caterpillars killed by virus and fungus

Caterpillars killed by nucleopolyhedrosis virus (NPV) hang in an inverted “V” orientation; caterpillars killed by the fungus Entomophaga maimaiga hang vertically. Photo: Wisconsin DNR.

By Bill McNee, DNR Forest Health Specialist, Oshkosh
bill.mcnee@wisconsin.gov or 920-360-0942

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.

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Spongy Moth Focus Of Video, Webcast

Art Kabelowsky, DNR Forest Health outreach and communications specialist
Arthur.Kabelowsky@wisconsin.gov or 608-335-0167

Add “YouTube Influencer” to the long list of career accomplishments of Andrea Diss-Torrance, Ph.D.

With the spongy moth caterpillar population on the rise in many areas of Wisconsin this season, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources stepped into action last month.

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