Keep ALB and other pests in check with healthy trees

August 21, 2013 -  By
The Asian Longhorned Beetle dons long antennae and white spots on its 1 to 1½ inch-long, black body. Photo: USDA

The Asian Longhorned Beetle dons long antennae and white spots on its 1 to 1½ inch-long, black body. Photo: USDA

More than 80,000 trees have been cut to a stump and grinded to nonexistence due to Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) infestations, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The invasive pest dons long antennae and white spots on its 1 to 1½ inch-long, black body. It targets 13 types of trees, thermoregulating itself inside and decorating the trunk with dime-sized holes when it chews its way out.

August is the peak season of ALB emergence, which is why the USDA deemed it Tree Check Month, said Clint McFarland, ALB project manager with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

“Why we do Tree Check Month is early identification is key to treatment for this,” McFarland said. “We can do things more savvy if we educate.”

Yet prevention through keeping trees in good health could be similarly effective against the ALB and other pests, said Rex Bastian, Ph.D, arborist for The Care of Trees in Wheeling, Ill., regional technical adviser for Davey Tree.

“Pest problems develop because of other stressors that predispose trees into a condition where these biotic organisms can take advantage of it,” Bastian said. “Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t pay attention to their trees until something is seriously wrong with them.”

Bastian shared what to be on the lookout for during a tree check to ensure a tree is healthy, thus more able to deter pests year round.

Check for safety

If something about the tree is unsafe, mainly in regard to the possibility of the tree or branches falling, it could be an indication of poor health.

Keep an eye out for large areas of dead wood, decay on the tree trunk, loose bark, mushrooms at the base and dead branches.

Compare to peers

“Trees can’t talk to us so we have to use a lot of their visual cues,” Bastian said.

Such cues could include a tree coloring up early in the fall. Most trees should change color in September or early October. If there’s greenery on neighboring trees, yours should probably be green too.

Keep human health care in mind

Merely pay attention to a tree’s abnormalities, just as you would to your body’s.

“You’re looking for things just like with us,” Bastian said. “We know how we’re supposed to feel and if we don’t feel that particular way the question is, ‘Well, is there something going on?’

“Prevention, as with human medicine, is essentially the most important factor.”

Bastian’s foremost advice, though: If something doesn’t look right, call an expert.

About the Author:

Former Associate Editor Sarah Pfledderer is a West Coast-based contributing editor for Landscape Management.

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