Pests like Spotted Lanternflies and Hemlock Woolly Adelgids might be sucking the life out of the trees in your yard, literally.
"Trees help us in so many ways, such as sustaining other plants and animals, providing storm water and energy benefits and giving us beauty," said Valerie Huelsman with Prince William County's Mosquito and Forest Pest Management program. "Unfortunately, there are many organisms out there that can negatively affect our trees and lead to tree death. Often, these threats require human intervention for management, especially for non-native species not originally from our area."
There is help available, though. The program works with residents to help identify and remediate problems that these pests can inflict on the trees in the area. And now is the prime time to find certain forest pests, Huelsman said. "August is a great time to check for Asian Longhorned Beetle adults and Spotted Lanternfly nymphs and adults. Also, keeping your trees healthy by following good tree care guidelines can help to reduce some pest risk, particularly for native pests."
Catching a problem early can help with the intervention that might prevent problems, so the program also monitors threats even before the presence of harmful insects is confirmed. The branch also monitors insects that are already confirmed to be in the area by tracking populations, assessing the damage they cause, and taking action when appropriate, Huelsman said.
So what are those pests that can damage trees to the point of killing them? Wood boring beetles, sap suckers, fungi and defoliators are among the most likely.
Wood boring beetles, such as the Asian Longhorned Beetles and the Emerald Ash Borer, are two types of damaging beetles that eat through the tree's inner wood, Huelsman said. "In early stages these pests can sometimes be hard to find, but looking closely you may see exit holes where beetles emerge as adults or sites where eggs were laid or dying branches."
Sap suckers, including the Spotted Lanternfly and Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, damage trees by piercing plant tissue to consume the sugary sap. When the Spotted Lanternfly is present, trees can show wilted leaves and dead branches. Oozing sap can be visible with sooty mold or other molds developing at the base of the tree as the lanternfly feeds.
Defoliators, such as Fall Cankerworms and Gypsy Moths, eat leaves which prevents the tree from photosynthesizing. Trees can tolerate some defoliation, and some leaf feeding helps support the larger ecosystem. But too much defoliation, particularly in early spring, can stress trees to the point of death.
Pests can also spread through human activity, Huelsman said. The Walnut Twig Beetle and other wood boring insects can be transported via untreated firewood and other unfinished wood articles. Insects like the Gypsy Moth and Spotted Lanternfly lay eggs that can be attached to things like lawn furniture, brick and stone.
For more information on what you can do to protect your trees, visit www.pwcgov.org/gypsymothmosquito or call 703-792-6279.