Category Archives: Tree Disease

Gypsy Moths – Damage and Prevention

As we discussed in our last blog, Gypsy Moths are not only a nuisance but can be extremely damaging to foliage in our local and regional area. Thousands of acres of trees have been defoliated year-after-year causing permanent damage to them, in some cases killing off many. To add insult to injury, once Gypsy Moths have defoliated and weakened trees, secondary pests find it easier to invade thus compounding the problem.

Along with defoliating and damaging tree growth these caterpillars are a problem in a few other ways as well. For many in affected areas, the hairs on a Gypsy Moths body can cause an itchy rash, which is treatable with an over-the-counter anti-itch cream. Unfortunately, many people do not realize that this is what is giving them a rash. In addition, the dropping of these “constantly munching” insects can create not only a gross mess but also a slipping hazard around homes and businesses.

In order to prevent these insidious creatures from damaging the beautiful trees around properties, many homeowners are trying some fairly “do-it-yourself” techniques to prevent the outbreak. These include:

  • Keep trees and plantings healthy through regular maintenance, watering, pruning and mulching.
  • Contact a licensed arborists to spray chemicals on your trees and home to keep them at bay.
  • Use a power washer to clean off your siding and walkways of these pests.
  • Use burlap or other home techniques to keep the caterpillars from climbing up the trees.
  • Keep your yard as clean as possible. Remove discarded items, dead branches, stumps, etc., where the adult female moth is likely to lay egg masses. Destroy any egg masses that are found.
  • Consider Gypsy Moth traps.
  • Talk to the experts at Pro-Tech Lawn Care about what might be right for your home.

Gypsy Moths – Where Did they Come From?

It is hard to believe that an insect less than three inches in length can be so destructive but Gypsy Moths can defoliate entire neighborhoods of trees in weeks. In 2016 Massachusetts suffered more than 350,000 acres of defoliation from the dreaded Gypsy Moth caterpillars. This was the biggest outbreak since the early 1980s and has alarmed agriculturalists around the region. This year promises to be just as harmful an infestation according to the University of Massachusetts Agriculture Extension School.

The outbreak of these invasive, plant munching species is not new to the New England area. We have had numerous years where the defoliation was intense especially during the 80s and 90s. Gypsy Moths are not hard to spot as they are hairy caterpillars with blue and red spots varied on their bodies. They grow to be about three inches long and seem to be everywhere during an outbreak. You may notice them crawling on your car, trees, sidewalks and anywhere outside.

According to these insects became a problem when they were introduced to Massachusetts in the late 1860s by E. Leopold Trouvelot, who brought them to Medford from France to study the caterpillars for silk production. Since then New England has experienced numerous outbreaks. Until 1989, New England would typically get a “population explosion” of gypsy moths, followed by a collapse. But at the end of the 1980s, a Japanese fungus introduced to North America in the early 1900s called entomophaga maimaiga started killing the caterpillars. Since then, the fungus has played a large role in keeping the gypsy moth population low, along with other diseases and natural predators.

Visit us again next week when we discuss the damage caused by these invasive pests and what you can do about them.

Are your Killing the Trees in your Yard?

Trees are a beautiful addition to any yard. They provide shade, add to the ecosystem and are a home to many critters that live in your yard. But humans have a funny way of neglecting or, possibly, over-caring for trees in their yard. Without the proper care and nutrition trees can quickly die off. Here are the top ways we “non-green-thumb” humans are harming trees.

  • Neglecting Pest Control – There are hundreds of diseases and pests that can assault our trees depending upon the region where you live and the type of tree growing in your yard. Don’t neglect inspecting and treating trees for pests annually.
  • Incorrect Planting Location – Novices usually pick a place in the yard where they want to grow a tree based on non-scientific reasons. Choose a place where the soil can drain properly as well as consider the right depth according to the type of tree it is. Usually nurseries provide the specs for where and how to plant a tree.
  • Too Much Mulch – Applying a layer of mulch is a great way to conserve moisture and reduce annual weed seed germination. One to two inches of mulch is plenty. Many people use a much thicker layer of mulch in an effort to stop perennial weed growth. But tough perennial weeds can grow right through the mulch. Mulch that is too thick prevents moisture from reaching the tree roots.
  • Too Much/Too Little Water – Newly planted trees and shrubs are often killed by kindness.(Too much water.) Only water an inch once per week for the first year or two, and then only when there has been less than an inch of rain. On the other hand, don’t ignore thirsty plants or trees. Look for signs of thirst by feeling the soil and looking for wilting leaves.
  • Lawn Cutting Accidents – Many trees get injured due to being hit by a weed-whacker or lawn equipment. When you damage the base of the tree with the lawn mower or string trimmer, you provide that entry wound that can lead to disease or pests.

Oak Decline

Over the past few weeks we have been discussing tree diseases and continue with this topic today in the examination of Oak Decline in the Northeast.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Forest Service periodic occurrences of decline and death of oaks over widespread areas have been recorded since 1900. These outbreaks, variously named oak decline, oak dieback, or oak mortality, are caused by a complex interaction of environmental stresses and pests and given the name oak decline.

Outbreaks caused by pests and environmental factors greatly impact red, scarlet, pin and black oaks throughout our New England region.  Other important tree species that have suffered serious declines include ash, birch, beech, and maple.(insert image) Environmental factors could include: drought, waterlogging, or frost. Pests include defoliators or tree sucking types.  The two major pests associated with oak decline are Armillaria mellea (Vahl: Fr.), a root disease commonly called armillaria root rot, and Agrilus bilineatus (Weber), the twolined chestnut borer. The progression is usually slow over the first few years and then a fairly rapid decline after that.

Symptoms:  Symptoms of the decline include:

  • production of chlorotic, dwarfed, and sparse foliage
  • development of sprouts on main branches and stem
  • premature autumn leaf color and leaf dropfigure1

Treatment: Treatment will depend upon the cause; whether it is an environmental stress that needs to be counteracted or pests which will need chemical or cultural treatment by a professional pest control company such as Pro-Tech.  Please contact us if you suspect your trees are affected by any type of disease and we can help you identify the cause and suggest a treatment.


Tree Disease Risks: Part II

Winter is a great time to inspect your property for damage that may be evident on your property including the trees that add life and color to your precious landscape.  Last week we discussed several common diseases and continue to do so this week.  Here further educational details about pests and diseases that may impact your yard.

  • Cottony Scale insects are closely related to aphids and affect Holly, Euonymus, Yews, and a variety of other trees and shrubs. Cottony scale occurs when scale insects feed by tapping into the plant stem or leaf and withdrawing plant sap. Plants infested with scale will show signs of thinning, yellowing foliage, and even branch dieback. In severe cases, cottony scale can kill a plant or tree.
  • Lace Bugs are small, winged-insects that are common on New England’s most popular trees and shrubs, such as the rhododendron, azalea, Hawthorne, and many other broadleaf and deciduous trees. The Lace Bug gets its name because its entire body is covered in veins, thus resembling the appearance of lace. Damage caused by Lace Bugs begins to appear in yellow spots on the upper leaf surfaces of infected plants. This is caused by the Lace Bug feeding on the underside of the leaf, using its piercing and sucking mouths to damage the leaves. Lace Bug treatment requires professional pest management tools.  Contact Pro-Tech to discuss your tree needs.
  • The Fall Webworm (hyphantria cunea) is a pest that is found throughout New England, and is common on a variety of shade trees and shrubs.  The Fall Webworm appears on our deciduous trees in the late summer and is very similar to the Eastern Tent Caterpillar, with the only difference being how the insect builds its nests. Fall Webworm nests can be found at the end of branches, and consists of a white hair-like mass that houses up-to a thousand eggs.

Tree Disease Risks: Part I

New England is a tree-friendly climate that ensures the region’s forests will endure for many, many years. Unfortunately, a wide array of pests and diseases also means that the region’s 33 million acres of trees will continue to be at risk for damage or destruction.  Here is a glossary of common tree diseases for homeowners to review for reference for the organic growth on their property.  Please return next week as we continue to discuss more insect and diseases that can and do impact our foliage in our region.

  •  Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) is threatening one of our most valuable native trees – the Eastern Hemlock. This insect was introduced to the United States from Asia in Massachusetts in 1988.  HWA is easily recognized by the presence of white cottony egg masses on young Hemlock twigs. Damage is caused when these eggs hatch and begin to feed by sucking the sap from the twigs, effectively killing them. As of today this insect has killed over 500 Hemlocks in the area of Boston’s Arnold Arboretum.
  •  Winter moths are invasive pests, originating from Europe and Western Asia around 1930. Winter moths rip and shred the leaves off of many types of trees including trees such as: cherries, crabapples, dogwoods, maples, and oaks. Winter moth, and their larvae, are most common in eastern New England, primarily Boston’s North and South Shores.
  •  Leaf Spot is a disease that affects trees and shrubs, and is extremely common across New England. Leaf Spot can be caused by insects, pollutants, and bacteria, but is most commonly a pathogenic fungus that can be identified by brown or black spots, or blotches, that are left on leaves.  This fungus can continue to grow to a point where it kills the leaves and causes defoliation. Deciduous trees, such as oak, ash, maple, and hickory, are common hosts of leaf spot, while coniferous trees are less impacted.
  •  Gypsy Moth were mistakenly introduced in hopes of starting a silk production and have quickly spread throughout the North East. Gypsy Moths are most commonly found on oaks, but have been known to devastate a wide variety of trees, including, hemlock, pine, spruce, willow, birch, and poplar. Once the Gypsy Moth caterpillars infest a tree they can quickly defoliate it by consuming all the leaves. Though a tree may survive one year of defoliation, multiple years of repetitive defoliation will kill a tree.


Stay tuned for continued coverage of tree disease and pests.

Trees with Hidden Risks to Pets and Family Members

Homes that have trees on the property add character and personality. Trees that provide shade, produce flowers, bear fruit, or light up with color in the fall can be eye catching and add beauty to the surroundings.  Unfortunately, there are some risks that homeowners may not realize when purchasing a property including hidden risks to pets or disease that can easily spread throughout the yard.  Let’s examine some of the basics of trees and what you should know as a homeowners about the organic growth on your landscape.

Understand the Landscape

The first thing a new homeowners (or even one who has held the property for years) will want to do is to find out what trees are on the property.  Research the type of trees and find out potential pests that may try to harm the tree as well as potential issues that may be created for pets or people. If you are unaware of the types of growth on your property ask neighbors and “Google”  the images of your yard to find out more.

Be Aware of Risks –

Some trees and bushes are at greater risk to attract pests and could have harmful effects if ingested by a pet or young child.   Here are a few to be aware of . . . .

  • Black walnut – Dogs have recently been added to the watch list for this commonplace tree. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the danger lies in molds that grow on decomposing nuts. Dogs that eat these molds develop vomiting, diarrhea and possibly tremors and seizures. Typically, a well-fed dog leaves fallen nuts alone. But if your pooch develops a taste for walnuts or likes to play with them, rake and gather them regularly.
  • Holly – Both the spiny leaves and bright-red berries contain toxins that can harm your pets. Plants contain saponins and theobromine, the same compound that makes chocolate toxic for dogs and cats. If a pet munches this plant, it will likely develop a stomachache or diarrhea.
  • Horse chestnut – Every part of horse chestnut contains saponins, chemicals that can depress the central nervous system. Avoid letting pets play with chestnut twigs or fruit. Keep young children from putting chestnuts in their mouths.

What To Do if Poisoning Occurs

Post poison control numbers in an easily visible spot: 1-800-222-1222 for children and adults; 1-800-213-6680 for the Pet Poison Helpline (a fee may apply).


Diseased Trees – Flat Headed Borers

As a Lawn Care Company that enjoys working closely with our customers, it is our aim to continually educate about the potential damage that tree pests can have on your landscaping.  This month we continue our discussion about diseased trees with information about Flat Head Borers.

Flat headed borers have more than 150 species and varieties, all of which are very destructive to a wide and diverse set of tree species, both softwoods and hardwoods. The most common of these pests is the apple tree borer.  If you find that the trees in your yard or neighborhood have discolored or wilting foliage and may also have damaged bark then you may want to call Pro-Tech Lawn Care to evaluate the trees on your property to analyze the type of pests and the extent of damage there may be.

What are Flat Headed Borers?

Flat headed borers are beetle larvae that tunnel just under the bark of tree trunks, branches and roots.  They excavate shallow, winding tunnels through the tree phloem and outer sapwood. Adult beetles emerge year-round from infested trees or material, mate, and the females lay eggs in protected sites; in bark crevices, under bark flaps, or in wounds. Larvae first feed on tree’s inner bark, then bore into the sapwood and heartwood.

What tree types are affected?

A wide variety of softwood and hardwood trees are susceptible to flathead borer including, but not limited to: pine trees, sycamore, soft maple, boxelder, walnut, white and black oaks, yellow poplar, elm, beech, chestnut, hickory, hackberry, mountain-ash, serviceberry, hawthorn, redbud, basswood, buckeye, persimmon, apple, pear, peach, cherry, and willow.

What type of damage can they cause?

Most Borers tend to infest dead, dying, or high stressed or weakened trees.  Although some Borers do attack healthy trees. The damage that they inflict include: discolored foliage, wilting foliage, or bark that is easy to pull off.

Control or Management

Once borers have infested a tree they are difficult to control. Therefore, the best management for flatheaded borers is prevention.  Avoid borers by maintaining trees and keeping them healthy and thriving. Eliminate sources of beetles by pruning and removing dead and dying limbs and trees. There are insecticides that can be properly applied by professional lawn care companies such as Pro-Tech.  External sprays are only effective if applied to the tree when the adult beetles are active and laying eggs.  Because emergence and egg laying can occur over a long period of time, monthly or more frequent insecticide applications may be needed over the course of a summer.

Tree Pests – the Winter Moth

The University of Massachusetts Amherst Agricultural Division and the Ecological Landscaping Alliance have just released the latest information about the invasive species known as the Winter Moth.  As of November 2014, the two groups report that the Winter Moth has decimated shrubs and trees all along the shoreline of New England.  Since its introduction in the 1990’s, the destruction has been moving steadily west and north.


A Little Background       

The Winter moth is an insect pest that was introduced to North America from Europe. Many different deciduous plants are susceptible to this pest. These include: oaks, maples, basswood, white elm, crabapples, apple, blueberry, and certain spruces. The Winter Moth causes injury to trees when larvae (caterpillars) tunnel into buds to feed.


The Life Cycle

Unfortunately, given the life cycle of this pest, there’s nothing that can be done in the fall to control it. Adults emerge in the late fall, usually from around Thanksgiving through mid-December. They mate and the females lay eggs which overwinter, mostly on twigs and branches of trees and shrubs. The eggs hatch in the spring, around the time many trees are beginning to leaf out. Delayed bud opening due to cool weather conditions can lead to bud death as the caterpillars have longer time to feed. Older larvae feed in the expanding leaf clusters and are capable of creating defoliation in high populations. Research in Canada has shown that four consecutive years of partial defoliation of deciduous hosts can lead to branch mortality while complete defoliation in each of those years leads to tree mortality.


Control Methods – There are several levels of control that professionals are attempting to use to stop the spread and the continued destruction due to this pest.

  • Natural Controls such as introducing parasites such as flies and wasps may act as natural predators of this pest.  Varying amounts of success has been reported on this control method.
  • Dormant Oil Spray – Spraying trunks and branches of trees may be helpful to kill the overwintering eggs before they hatch.  While this has been fairly successful some eggs may been in other locations such as under the bark or may “balloon” on to the trees after the treatment has been applied.
  • Tree Banding – This method acts as a barrier to climbing caterpillars.  Research has not found this to be a very effective method thus far.
  • Insecticides – Insecticides based on pyrethrins, spinosyns, or Bt are relatively low-risk and effective for control of winter-moth larvae. Spinosyns and pyrethrins, though, are broad-spectrum insecticides, and need to be used with some care, especially if there are any pollinator-attracting, blooming plants in the areas to be sprayed.

This type of tree pest will continue to be a problem in New England for some time to come.  For properly timed and applied insecticides consult Pro-Tech to help you not only identify this pest but come up with a plan to solve your yard’s Winter Moth problem.

To read further about this pest:

UMass Extension School – The Winter Moth