Saturday, August 31, 2013

September Tree Care Checklist

September is upon us already and it seems like summer just started. Weather is hot and humid, but probably not for long. The leaves will be turning and the awesomeness of fall will be upon us.  
Pay special attention to your trees and shrubs this month. If you feel you'd like to move them to a new location, or need to move them for any reason, you should wait until trees and shrubs drop their leaves or undergo color change  before doing so.  After plants and tree drop their leaves they enter a state of dormancy. When they are in dormancy they react better to transplanting. Transplant shock will be minimized if you wait. Of course, if you need help, call your local arborist or tree service and they can help you with transplanting your trees and with your other fall tree care needs. If you are local to the Chicagoland area, contact Trees "R" Us, Inc. for your tree and plant concerns.
If you have broadleaved and needled evergreens, either dwarf or standard, then you should pay special attention to getting those moved by October 1st.  Make sure you give them ample water at planting time and each week up until the ground freezes.
For general tree care, you should continue to water large trees and shrubs, especially evergreens, until the ground freezes hard. Since we still have some rather hot weather with little rain, you really need to make sure those trees are kept well hydrated. 
For Evergreens, they continue to lose moisture through their needles throughout winter and must have adequate water in their root zones to avoid winter burn or dessicated needles. It is weird to think that you need to water trees in the winter, but it is true. Newly dessicated needles that show up in early spring are mainly due to lack of water from the winter. 
For general fertilization, you should wait until October. I would recommend fertilizing any tree or shrub that looks like it might benefit from extra nutrition — for example, has stunted growth, has failed to fully flower or leaf out, or has undersized fruit or off-color foliage. If you are unsure what plants and trees need some nutritional support or don't know what to treat the plants and trees with, contact your local arborist. Trees "R" Us, Inc. has a team of arborists that are well trained on how to best service your plants and trees during each time of the year. 
Check back next month for the October list. And in the meantime, follow our blog for me details on tree care. We post regularly and have been for over a year.  You'll find a wealth of information here with us!
Thanks for reading, 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Trees Get Thirsty Too!

How you can help spot your community’s stressed, thirsty trees and give them the water they need to restore their spring vigor?

Chicago-area tree canopies may be experiencing a little bit of stress lately with the lack of rain we've been had. The rainy and cool beginning to spring that stretched into summer has quickly ended with little to no rain for weeks and now soaring temperatures. Yes, it has been a strange summer in terms of weather and if we think so, so do our trees and plants. 

As a result, our once lush trees are withering under the pressure. Throughout Chicagoland, especially in the more recently developed residential communities where trees tend to be younger and less mature, leaves are turning yellow, drooping and even falling off. This is not because fall is on its way. This is because of the lack of water! This is a protective mechanism since trees lose moisture through transpiration on their leaves. The leaves droop in an effort to create a smaller surface area to lose the moisture from. You can help spot and soothe your stressed trees by following these recommendations:

  • Look for trees that are yellow in color or look ‘scorched’ with a red outline that have drooping branches and/or already experienced a loss of leaves.
  • Water trees with a soaker hose or another hose with a low flow. This way the water can soak in rather than just run off the surface.
  • Place two 20 litre buckets and drill holes in the bottom of the tree. Buckets can then be placed next to the tree and filled with water. The water will seep through the holes to the feeder roots, which are often located a small distance away from the trunk.
  • Do not prune tree branches on your own. Even if the leaves have fallen, the branch could still be alive and possibly bud new leaves later in the summer. Contact a qualified arborist, like the ones at Trees "R" Us, Inc., for any pruning or questions.
  • Ensure to water close to the drip line. The drip line being the edge of a tree’s canopy on the ground all the way around the tree

Older trees in well-established areas will be able to withstand the heat better than younger trees planted within two to three years in recently developed areas. Older trees have a well-established root system, whereas young trees are planted in areas that lack the organic matter that retains the moisture trees need to flourish. Older trees should remain healthy trees. Our communities are designed to get rid of water quickly, so it’s challenging for trees to get enough of water. If you require the services of a professional and dedicated arborist, and are in the Chicagoland area or suburbs, contact Trees "R" Us, Inc. and we will be more than happy to answer any of your questions or send over a qualified arborist for a free estimation on any of your tree care needs.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Prevent and Manage Wood Boring Insects

To complete my series on wood-boring insects, I'd like to conclude with the management of these bugs. Managing wood-boring insects can be a difficult task and one that is best left to a professional tree service and/or a certified arborist. For the readers that are from the Chicagoland area, you can trust that Trees "R" Us, Inc. will give you honest, accurate and professional advice for all your tree care needs, not just those about wood boring insects.  Now on to the management and prevention of wood borers.


Since most wood-boring insects are considered secondary invaders, the first line of defense against infestation is to keep plants healthy. Proper care of trees and shrubs discourages many borer pests and helps infested plants survive. Good sap flow from healthy, vigorously growing trees, for example, defends the plant from damage by many borer pests. Good horticultural practices include: Selecting well adapted species of trees and shrubs that are not commonly attacked by wood borers in your area. Arizona ash, birch, cottonwood, locust, soft maple, flowering stone fruits (such as peaches and plums), slash pines (in west Texas), willow and poplar are especially prone to borer attack. Choosing and preparing a good planting site to avoid plant stress, freeze damage, sun scald and wind burn. Minimizing plant stress and stimulating growth by using proper watering and fertilization practices. Avoiding injury to tree trunks from lawn mowers, weed trimmers or construction.

Promptly caring for wounded or broken plant parts using pruning or wound paint during all but the coldest months of the year. Properly thinning and pruning during colder months. Removing and destroying infested, dying or dead plants or plant parts, including fallen limbs. Wrapping tree trunks and limbs with quarter inch hardware cloth spaced about 1 1/2 inches from the tree’s surface where woodpecker damage is likely. Wrapping trunks to prevent borer attack is ineffective and may, under certain conditions, increase the rate of infestation. Using plastic trunk protectors to help prevent injury from lawn mowers and weed trimmers is a good idea. Non-chemical control for infested plants. Once trees and shrubs are infested, non chemical options for borer control are limited. One option is to remove and destroy heavily infested or injured plants. Also, inspect damage sites closely to determine if the larvae can be extracted from the plant with a pocket knife, wire or other suitable tool.

Chemical control

It is important to remember that stressed, unhealthy trees can be attacked repeatedly and will need repeated applications of insecticide indefinitely. In most cases this is neither economically nor environmentally justified. When chemical treatments are used, efforts always should be made to improve overall tree health. Most of these products are applied as sprays to the trunks and branches, and are non-systemic, residual insecticides (e.g., bendiocarb, carbaryl, chlorpyrifos, endosulfan, esfenvalerate, fluvalinate, lindane, methoxychlor, cyfluthrin, bifenthrin, permethrin, sumithion). While these products do not kill larvae that have already penetrated the sapwood or heartwood, they will kill adults and larvae tunneling through the treated bark layer. This is primarily a preventive treatment. Some products (those containing paradichlorobenzene and ethylene dichloride) act as fumigants to repel egg-laying adults or kill accessible larvae.

Systemic insecticides applied to the soil are ineffective for borer control and few are registered for this purpose. Trunk injection products (containing abamectin, acephate, dicrotophos, imidaclaprid and oxydemeton-methyl) are registered for treatment of some borers. These products are reported to work by delivering insecticides into the cambium and phloem tissues where borers feed. Several factors should be considered when using insecticides to control insect borers:

1. Time your treatments to match adult activity. Knowing when adults lay their eggs is critical, as insecticides are most effective if applied when adults are emerging and eggs are hatching. For the peachtree borer, a single surface application of a contact insecticide in late August or early September can prevent infestations on Prunus species. For most beetles, the adult egg-laying period is either very long or unknown. Surface treatments are effective for only a 3- to 10-week period. Therefore, regular re-treatment of susceptible plant parts is needed for effective control.

2. Be sure coverage is complete and minimize drift. Effective treatment for borers requires that all surfaces of trunks and branches be covered. Only in a few instances (such as for peachtree borer) is treatment of only the base of the tree trunk sufficient to protect the tree. Complete coverage may be difficult on large trees and may result in drift to non-target areas. To minimize drift, spray only on days when wind is less than 6 to 7 miles per hour. When making Sapsucker damage appears as square holes in a tree trunk. 

Treat susceptible plants. Treatment of highly valued landscape trees or vulnerable plants may be justified. Newly transplanted trees and shrubs are naturally stressed and may need treatment, especially when borers are known to attack newly planted trees in the area.

Adult wood borers sometimes emerge from firewood stored indoors. While most of these insects are not considered harmful, old house borer and powderpost beetles will attack seasoned, dry wood inside the home. Treating firewood with insecticide is both ineffective  and potentially dangerous to the homeowner. Wood should be stored outdoors away from the house until just before use. If firewood is infested with borers it can be treated by wrapping it in a tarp and allowing sunlight to heat it. Stacking wood layers in alternate directions will help it dry and reduce areas that can harbor insects.

Remember to take care when using pesticides and attempting to treat infestations of insects. When in doubt, call upon a professional.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

More on wood borers

As promised, here is some useful information about wood-boring insects. There are a lot of these insects that we encounter through our work around Chicagoland. I've covered quite a few here, but yet there are even more! This list is lengthy,  but doesn't even cover all the different wood borers out there. A least my hope is this will give you some insight on what to look for in and around your yard. Remember, for questions, treatment or removal of these pests, contact your local tree service and/or arborist. Trees "R" Us, Inc. for the readers in the Chicagoland area will provide you with the expertise of a certified arborist in order to help you with your tree care issues. First up is...

Long-horned beetles or round-headed borers (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae) 

Adults are called long-horned beetles because their antennae are unusually longer than their bodies. Larvae tunnel underneath bark and into the heartwood. The tunnels are oval to almost round in cross section because of the round shape of the larvae. Larvae of some species are legless, but most have three pairs of small legs on the first three segments behind the head capsule. While tunneling, larvae continually pack their tunnels with excrement (frass), which looks like compressed wood fibers, or push frass out of the holes they produce. This excrement, along with the sap exuded by the plant in response to the damage, is often visible on the outside of infested trunks or branches. Many species of beetles belong to this group, but most are secondary invaders. Some examples of long-horned beetles are described below.

Locust borer (Megacyllene robiniae) adults are medium-sized (3/4 inch long) long-horned beetles frequently found feeding on goldenrod or other flowers in the fall. They are dark brown to black with distinctive gold-yellow markings. Larvae hatch from eggs laid in bark crevices. Visible symptoms of infestation are wet spots and frass on the bark of black locusts. Later, larvae tunnel into the inner bark and construct cells in which they spend the winter months. In a year the larvae are fully grown and about an inch in length.

Cottonwood borer (Plectrodera scalator) is frequently found on cottonwood, poplar or willow trees. Adult beetles are large (1 1/4 inches long) with an attractive black and whitish-yellow pattern. They are active from May through August. The larvae (1.75 to 2 inches long) tunnel at the base of the trunk or below ground level. They require about 2 years to develop.

Red-headed ash borer (Neoclytus acuminatus) is one of the most common wood-boring beetles. It has a narrow body with a reddish thorax and light brown wing covers marked with four yellow lines on each. The yellow lines are slanted downward toward the middle, giving the appearance of a “V” across the back. The antennae are rather short and the long legs are thin and fragile. Red-headed ash borers feed in many species of wood including ash, oak, elm and even grapes. Adults can be found on dead log piles and frequently emerge from firewood. 

Red oak borer (Enaphalodes rufulus) attacks oak and maple trees and can be a serious pest in nurseries. The reddish-brown adults (5/8 to 1 1/8 inches long) lay eggs individually in bark crevices during July and August. Larvae tunnel under the bark and into the heartwood. Infested sites can be recognized by the frass around the buckled bark near the gallery entrance. Larvae often tunnel completely around the trunk or branches they infest, producing noticeable scars or girdling. Red oak borers feed for more than a year before pupating in chambers tunnelled into the heartwood. Damage kills limbs or terminals and increases the risk from secondary invaders and diseases.

Twig girdler (Oncideres species) damage occurs primarily from egg laying. This insect attacks pecan, mimosa, chinaberry and huisache. The grayish-brown adults (1 1/16 inch long) girdle limbs during the fall (late August through mid-November) by chewing a V-shaped groove entirely around twigs, branches or terminals. Eggs are inserted into the bark on the girdled part of the branch away from the tree. Girdled limbs eventually break and fall to the ground, particularly during high winds and storms. Damage can disfigure a young tree and leads to secondary branching, particularly if the terminal is attacked. Larvae reach up to 7/8 inch long and are unable to develop in healthy sapwood. Removing the girdled twigs and branches from the ground during winter and spring and destroying them can reduce the population of these insects.

Twig and branch pruners (Elaphidionoides and Agrilus species) produce damage superficially similar to that of twig girdlers on elm, hackberry, hickory, maple, oak, pecan, persimmon, redbud, sweetgum and other trees. In these species, however, it is the larvae that girdle twigs and branches underneath the bark. The surface of the severed end of the twig is smooth. The insect usually severs branches where small twigs branch from the main, girdled branch.

Metallic wood-boring beetles (or flatheaded borers) (Coleoptera: Buprestidae)

Adult beetles are flattened, hard-bodied and boat-shaped with short antennae. These are beautiful beetles with distinctive metallic colors (green, blue, bronze, copper). Larvae are cream-colored and legless with widened, flattened body segments just behind the heads. Consequently, when these larvae tunnel beneath bark or into the sapwood they produce oval or flattened tunnels in cross section. Galleries are often winding and packed with frass. Tunneling can girdle trunks and branches. Many species of flat-headed borers occur in the state. Most are secondary invaders.

Bark beetles (Coleoptera: Scolytidae)

Beetles in this group tunnel below the bark of trees and/or into the wood. Adult beetles are small and reddish-brown to black. Larvae are cream colored grubs without legs. One member of this group, the European elm bark beetle (Scolytus multistriatus), is the carrier of Dutch elm disease. Other members of this group are described below.

Southern pine beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis) is a primary pest of southern pine forests. Adult beetles are active during warmer months (when temperatures are above 58 degrees F), and disperse widely to injured, weakened or stressed trees in the spring. Seven or more generations may be completed within a year. When abundant, they can attack healthy trees. Larvae tunnel beneath the bark producing tunnels or galleries in patterns resembling the letter “S”. This tunnelling quickly disrupts the cambium layer, girdling the tree. Infested trees can have numerous masses of resin called "pitch tubes" on the tree trunk. Needles of newly attacked trees turn reddish-brown 1 to 2 months after infestation during the summer, and up to 3 months afterward in the winter. Removal and destruction of infested trees may prevent healthy trees in the vicinity from being attacked.

Ips engravers (Ips. spp.) are often mistaken for the southern pine bark beetle because their appearance and damage are similar. Their gallery patterns tend to be more parallel to each other, however. Ips usually attack weakened trees only. Recently felled wood should be covered with plastic to prevent Ips beetle infestation.

The black turpentine beetle, Dendroctonus tenebrans, is another species attacking pines.

Shothole borers (Scolytus rugulosus) are secondary pests of common fruit trees (peach and plum), wild plums and occasionally ash, elms and hawthorne. Beetles tunnel through the bark and make small holes in the bark crevices.

Asian ambrosia beetle (Xylosandrus crassiusculus) is a newly introduced species that attacks healthy, stressed or freshly cut elm, pecan, peach, Prunus species, oak, sweetgum and other trees. Tiny (2 to 3 millimeters long), dark reddish-brown adult female beetles tunnel into twigs, branches or small tree trunks, excavating a system of tunnels in the wood or pith in which they lay eggs. They also introduce a fungus on which the larvae feed. Visible damage includes wilted leaves on infested branches and protrusions of compressed wood dust from numerous small holes, resembling toothpicks pointing outward. Dead and dying areas of bark (cankers) can form at the damage site, eventually
girdling the tree and killing it. There are several generations per year. Chemical control of this species has been generally unsuccessful. Native ambrosia beetles are also called shot-hole or pine-hole borers. These species have similar biologies but rarely attack healthy, vigorous trees. 

Weevils (Coleoptera: Curculionidae)

Adult weevils have a characteristic snout that bears the chewing mouthparts. Larvae are legless and cream-colored, and generally feed in cells or hollowed out cavities underneath the bark rather than in galleries or tunnels as do bark beetles. Weevils attack the trunks during the winter, where young trees are in poor planting sites. Several weevil species attack the bases and roots of woody ornamental plants, cottonwood, Chinese tallow and fruit trees such as pear and cherry. These larvae develop over 2 or 3 years, initially feeding underneath the bark but later tunnelling into the heartwood. Outward signs of attack include piles of sawdust and excrement, particularly in cracks and crevices. Carpenter worms may enter and exit the trunk of the tree several times during their development. Adult moths, which emerge in the spring, are rather large with spotted wings.

Peach tree borer (Synanthedon exitiosa) is one of the most important insect pests of peach and plum. Adult peach tree borer moths mate and lay their eggs on the trunks of peach and plum (Prunus species) trees during August and September. These daytime fliers are one of several species often called clear-wing moths, and they look superficially like wasps. Larvae hatch from eggs in about 10 days and tunnel beneath the bark for 10 to 11 months before emerging from the base of the trunk. Infected trees exhibit dieback, yellowing of leaves, stunted growth and possible death if larvae girdle the trunk near the soil line - from 10 inches above the ground to 3 inches below the ground. After emerging, they drop to the soil to pupate at the base of the tree. Affected trees can be identified by masses of sap around damage sites at the base of the trunk. Infestations can kill scaffolding limbs or entire trees.

Other species of clear-wing moths are: 1) the lilac or ash borer (Podosesia syringae), which has its adult flight period during the spring and early summer; 2) the dogwood borer (Synanthedon scitula); and 3) the lesser peach tree borer (Synanthedon pictipes).

Other caterpillar pests include: the southern pine coneworm (Dioryctria amatella), which tunnels around the bases of Virginia pine trunks; Euzophera ostricolorella, a root collar borer that infests potted magnolia; and the American plum borer (Euzophera semifuneralis), which invades damaged or improperly pruned branches on a wide variety of woody ornamentals.

If you are concerned about the bugs lurking in your yard and munching on your trees, then stay tuned for my next post on managing wood boring insects.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Borers - Bad Bugs that Bring Big Problems for Trees

Many insects feed and make their homes in the bark, trunks and branches of shade trees and shrubs in the Chicagoland area. Summers are hot and insects are just looking for a cool dark place to rest as well as a good food supply - all of which can be found in trees.  

Insect borers belong to several different insect groups including a variety of beetles, moths and horntail wasps. In addition, most insect borers are attracted to weakened, damaged, dying or dead plants. These are referred to as “secondary invaders” because they attack only after a plant has been weakened by another stress. 

Secondary invaders are a symptom of other problems with the health of the tree or shrub, but may contribute to its decline. Secondary invaders include species from groups already mentioned, but also may include termites, carpenter bees and carpenter ants. Many other insects live in dying or dead trees, including natural enemies (predators and parasites) of the insect borers, sap or fungi feeders, or species which merely use the spaces provided by the tunnels and galleries as living quarters. 

On the other hand, there are also primary invaders. These are wood-boring insects that attack healthy trees and shrubs. Primary invaders are much more dangerous than secondary invaders as they may eventually kill trees.

Wood Boring insects often lead to infestations of the insect. Unfortunately, these infestations often go unnoticed until plants or parts of plants begin to die or show external  signs of damage. Which, by then, treatment is much more intense in order to try to save the tree.  In some cases it is too late to save the tree at this point, but always consult with your local arborist for a professional opinion of the condition of your tree. You'd be surprised the condition of trees that can be salvaged. 

A tell-tale sign that your tree has wood boring insects is a sawdust-like frass (excrement). Another sign is the damage to the tree or plant. Their holes are normally round, oval or semicircular and are found in a random pattern on the plant.

Please stay tuned...there's more to come on these borers. The different types of borers and their management will be in my next post. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Keeping up with the Jones'

So, all your neighbors seem to have the greenest thumb around while yours is ... purple, at best. It can be embarrassing when your lawn, trees and landscaping really pale in comparison to those around you. You want them to be envious of your home, not the other way around. What do you do without having to spend a small fortune on landscapers, lawn services, products, plants, etc.? Here are few of the little tricks I can share with you.  
  1. Trees are key to a nice looking, bucolic lawn. They add distinction, poise and personality to any home. But, the key to getting the most from your trees is planting them in the right place. Dogwoods don't belong in full sun, Douglas-fir shouldn't be planted under the power lines.  There are so many dos and don'ts that I couldn't possibly go over all of them here.  Your local tree service will know the best trees for planting in your location.  Trees "R" Us, Inc. is happy to help those readers in the Chicagoland area.  Just give us a call at 847-913-9069 or fill out our on line form on our site at  
  2. Mulch! Water and mulch newly planted trees. Also add mulch to gardens, walks and ornamental features. Mulch, as a part of nature, decomposes and needs to be replenished regularly. You should add mulch to your garden areas each season. Mulch with a ring of woodchips extending out 2 feet from the base of the tree. For the best mulch prices in the Chicagoland area, contact Organic Solutions, Inc. Premium and Super Premium organic mulch in a variety of colors at unbeatable prices; what more could you ask for?
  3. Mulching trees plants and walks and other ornamental areas will also serve as a way to protect them from harm. Mechanics like mowers, weedeaters, and other equipment are notorious for causing damage to plants and trees because the user is trying to get rid of the overgrown blades of grass. Mulch = less grass and weeds!
  4. Keep your trees and shrubs looking coiffed. The best way to do this is through proper pruning methods. If you don't know how or when to prune, your best bet is to hire an arborist. This way you'll avoid damage to trees.  Trees "R" Us, Inc. has professional, certified arborists that can help you with this.
Best of luck to you.  Hope you found these tips helpful.  Remember to use your local tree company to get jobs like these done correctly.

Thanks for reading,

Of all these steps, I still stand by proper pruning as one of the top tips for tree maintenance.  Correct pruning is the best thing you can do for your tree.