Sometimes it’s not sudden, violent storms and wind that damage our trees. Sometimes, it’s far more subtle than that. Many homeowners don’t realize their tree is infested with mites or overtaken by scale until it’s pretty advanced. Here are some of the most common smaller pests and diseases that decimate our ornamental plants.
9 Bugs, Critters, And Diseases That Destroy Our Trees
1. Eriococcus Scale
This invasive species is considered a “felt” scale because it’s not an entirely soft scale nor an armored scale. Most other scales are considered “armored” because they have a hard exoskeleton or soft. After all, they don’t have this bodily structure. Felt scales are not as common and fall somewhere in the middle, looking like fluffy bumps on infected trees. It’s believed that the Eriococcus scale may be attracted to pruning wounds. These bugs grow up to 2 mm long and lay masses of pink-colored eggs beneath the fluffy white outer covering. Felt scale tends to congregate on the underside of branches to stay safe from the intense sun. Because the Eriococcus scale secretes honeydew, ants will travel up trees, seeking them out so they can collect this tasty substance. So if you see ants traveling up the tree trunk, follow them, and you can locate where the scale infection is. Unfortunately, ants hunting for honeydew can help spread fungal infections when they move scales to other healthy plants. That’s why it’s so important to call tree services experts as soon as you detect scale. We can simultaneously treat your infected tree and stop the spread to other healthy plants.
2. Kermes Scale
Kermes scale is most commonly found on the tips of branches. They like to eat the leaves and sometimes go unnoticed because they are similar in appearance to the tree’s buds. Their activity can cause branches to grow twisted and warped, and leaves will become misshapen and die off. They will cause a great deal of branch droppings. Look for small rounded bugs about 1/8″ in length. They usually are black due to the sooty mold that coats their bodies. Like other scale bugs, Kermes scale produces honeydew and molds, especially sooty molds, like to grow on this sweet substance.
3. Lecanium Scale
There are several species of scale insects in this genus. These bugs grow to about 1/4″ in length. Females are rounded and reddish-brown. Male scales are smaller and can fly, but you’re more likely to encounter female bugs. The eggs are whitish and resemble pollen. Astonishingly, female scale bugs can lay between 1,000 – 5,000 eggs in as little as a month! Look for flat waxy patches that look like tiny shields on your tree. These are the nymphs, which will eventually become rounded females who remain on the tree or males who fly away seeking mates. Lecanium scales drink the sap from leaves and twigs, draining the tree of its nutrients and moisture.
4. Obscure Scale
Obscure scale is in the “armored” class, meaning it has a thick protective exoskeleton. Unlike other scales that are fine with leaves and twigs, Obscure scale goes right for the trunk and larger limbs of young and mature trees alike. Without intervention, you will likely lose the tree. And unfortunately, they love to dine on many of our most beloved trees, including dogwood, hickory, maples, and oaks. Since females are only about 3 mm long, it can be pretty challenging to locate them. Like all scale bugs, they suck out the tree’s sap to feed. Their activity can frequently open up the tree to other troublesome pests. One piece of good news is that this scale doesn’t produce honeydew, so you won’t have to worry about different molds or ants seeking them out and inadvertently spreading the problem.
5. Spider Mites
Spider mite activity can cause various issues for your trees and shrubs, including discoloration or bronzing, scorched leaves, and even loss of the plant. Unfortunately, spider mites have become increasingly common in recent years because insecticides have killed many of their natural predators, like lady beetles. Like scale bugs, these mites injure the tree when they feed and suck out the sap, like tiny vampires. Damaged areas of the tree will look speckled or flecked, as we say in the pest control industry. Spider mites are a type of arachnid and are so small it’s difficult to see with the naked eye. They come in a variety of colors, including red, brown, yellow, and green. They can modify their coloring with the changing season, making them even more challenging to spot. Like full-sized spiders, spider mites produce a webbing that helps protect them and their eggs. And as if spider mites themselves weren’t bad enough, they can host other mites – all the more reason to call a certified tree care specialist the moment you spot trouble. But wait – there’s more! North Texas’ hot, dry conditions are precisely what the spider mite loves. When the climate has low humidity, they can evaporate excess moisture when they excrete, which means under dry conditions, they can feed more efficiently. Plants already under duress from drought may produce changes in their chemistry that make them more attractive to spider mites. In short: spider mites are incredibly annoying to deal with; in fact, they just might be the most annoying critter on this list.
6. Powdery Mildew
Named for its similarity to white powder, this microscopic disease will attack your trees and lawn alike. Leaves of infected trees will look like they’ve been covered in flour or baby powder. Powdery mildew loves shade, which is not hard to find beneath the canopy of a tree. Infected leaves will start to yellow and will eventually wither and die. If left untreated, the tree will be frail, opening it up to infection by other bugs and diseases.
Find Tree Care Near Lubbock
Is your tree or shrub looking under the weather? Let the experts at Ashton Walden Turf Services bring it back to health! Our tree and shrub care program tackles all of the most common pests and diseases. Plus, we provide targeted nutrients through our biannual deep-root feedings. We also offer lawn care services to keep your turfgrass as green as the foliage on your trees. To learn more about how we can help your trees or schedule an appointment, you can reach us at (806) 632-3571 or via our online form here.
Don’t forget to check out our previous blog articles, where you can learn more about keeping your yard healthy and vibrant.
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