South Central WI Forest Health

The Tick App! ‘Your Tick Expert On-The-Go!’

By Bieneke Bron, Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Diseases, UW-Madison

Do you ever wonder why you are always finding ticks on yourself or around you, but your friends never do? Researchers at the University of Wisconsin – Madison have developed a mobile application that allows users to share their experiences with ticks to help prevent future tick bites.

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Native caterpillars not a major concern for trees

Mike Hillstrom, forest health specialist, Fitchburg,, 608-513-7690

Eastern tent caterpillars (ETC) are hatching and beginning to feed on host trees in Wisconsin, including cherry, apple and crabapple trees. Landowners and homeowners may notice the white silken tents forming in branch forks. Although the tents are unsightly, ETC is a native insect and rarely causes damage. Even completely defoliated trees will put out new leaves within a few weeks.

A cluster of eastern tent caterpillars on white silk tent.

Eastern tent caterpillars preparing for a day of feeding on a black cherry tree.

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Larch casebearer and eastern larch beetle: two problems for tamarack

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

Tamarack trees are sending out their needles this spring, and larch casebearer caterpillars are feeding on them. In northern Wisconsin, where the trees didn’t push needles out until the end of May, the caterpillars were impatiently waiting to begin feeding and in some counties the damage is now severe. 

A horizon of tamarack trees defoliated by larch casebearer appear straw-colored or tan from a distance.

Tamarack trees defoliated by larch casebearer will appear straw-colored or tan from a distance. Photo taken May 28 in Oneida County.

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All about earthworms: nightcrawler edition

By Bernie Williams, invasive plants and earthworms specialist, Madison,, 608-444-6948

As the weather warms up and more of us are out in our gardens digging around, it seems like a good time to learn a few things about those fascinating and beautiful worms you keep encountering.

Close-up of nightcrawler shows its reddish-pink body in detail.

Nightcrawlers have reddish-pink bodies and can be 6-8 inches long when mature.

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What’s that orange goo?!

By Mike Hillstrom, forest health specialist, Fitchburg,, 608-513-7690

What’s the orange goo on that tree?!

Should I fight or should I flee?

I bet forest health staff can ID!

Close-up of orange gelatinous gall growing on cedar caused by cedar apple rust.

The spore-producing, slimy, orange gall caused by cedar apple rust fungus.

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Pine tortoise scale can cause branch and tree mortality, sooty mold problems

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

Pine tortoise scales are sometimes found at very heavy densities on jack and scotch pine twigs. In Wisconsin they prefer young jack pine trees, inserting their straw-like mouthparts into twigs and sucking out the sap. When populations are high, pine tortoise scale can cause branch mortality and even whole tree decline.

Tiny pine tortoise scales clustered on a pine branch tip.

Pine tortoise scales are so plentiful on this twig that they are practically on top of one another.

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Educational HRD video now available

By Kyoko Scanlon, forest pathologist,, 608-235-7532

The Wisconsin DNR recently created a short video on Heterobasidion root disease (HRD) to compliment the updated guidelines that were released in 2019. The 5-minute educational video covers HRD biology, its significance as a tree disease, signs and symptoms, as well as preventative measures that landowners can take to reduce its introduction and spread. This is a great video for forestry professionals, landowners and the general public to learn more about HRD. Continue reading “Educational HRD video now available”

USDA seeks ash trees to battle EAB

Emerald ash borer (EAB) is an invasive insect from Asia that was first introduced into the United States in 2002. Since its discovery, EAB has caused the death and decline of tens of millions of ash trees. Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is using ash trees against the pest to help preserve and protect the tree species. Staff in the USDA EAB biological control (biocontrol) program are asking Wisconsin landowners in Sheboygan, Fond du Lac and Door counties to help by donating infested ash trees for use in raising wasps that attack and kill EAB.

A square window of bark is removed from green ash to uncover EAB larvae underneath.

USDA staff cut a “bark window” in green ash to uncover signs of EAB.

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Proposed guidance available for public comment

By Bill McNee, forest health specialist, Oshkosh,, 920-360-0942

The DNR Forest Health Program currently has proposed guidance, “Organizing an aerial spray for forest pests: Recommendations and regulations,” available for public comment until May 25. The document can be found on the proposed DNR program guidance webpage under “new proposed program guidance.” Comments can be submitted through this webpage.

Cover page of proposed aerial spray guide.

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DATCP pesticide certifications during COVID-19

By Becky Gray, forest health team leader, Fitchburg,, 608-220-3022

Due to COVID-19, the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is extending pesticide certifications. If your pesticide certification will expire between January 31st and September 30th, then your certification is now valid until October 31st. Please refer to DATCP’s press release for more details.

If you were planning to take the test for pesticide certification this spring, DATCP is offering online pesticide exams for certain categories, including Forestry Category 2.0. The online exams are only for a temporary pesticide applicator certification which will be good until October 31st. Please refer to DATCP’s press release explaining the online pesticide exams for more information.