Controlling Tree Pests and Disease During the Winter

by Eric Bragg, Plant Health Care Specialist

In our last post, we talked about why winter is a great time to prune trees . One of the reasons is that insects are inactive at this time of the year and can’t harm your freshly pruned trees. Those insects, in the form of eggs, larva, and even adults, are waiting for the warmth to make their appearance. Fungal spores and diseases are also hiding in the bark, anticipating spring.

Just like pruning in the winter, there are many benefits to practicing plant health care now.


Hit insects and disease while they are dormant

By acting now, you can treat insects, eggs, spores, and disease while it is difficult for them to fight back. A well timed application of an eco-friendly product, like horticultural oil, won’t completely wipe out the threats they target. However, these applications mean far fewer pests becoming active in the springtime. This will greatly reduce their impact, often to the point where it is kept it check by the local ecosystem.


Proactive care is easier and milder than reactive care

Apart from being an arborist, I’m also a volunteer firefighter. I see similarities between wildfires and pests in their impact on trees. Like a fire that is not contained when it is small, the longer insects, fungi, and bacteria are free to attack a tree, the more momentum they gain and the harder they will be to stop.

If these issues are addressed early, like putting out a small fire, they will not become a problem for the tree. For example, a single yearly treatment to birch trees to defend against bronze birch borers. This is a proactive response. The tree takes the treatment into its system through its roots. If a borer attacks the tree, it will die from the systemic injections, ending the threat. If the tree is not treated, the borer makes the tree its home. It will feed, reproduce and colonize the tree. At this point, damage is visible in dying limbs and unhealthy trees.

Treatment is then reactive. It could take as many as five applications to eradicate the borer and salvage the tree. However, it is now weak. Because of loss of limbs, the tree has lost some of its beauty and majesty.


Preserving the landscape you love

Every plant on your property, including the trees, is part of an ecosystem. The loss of one tree could have an enormous impact on other life around it. For example, a crabapple tree in your yard provides beauty and a place for birds to nest. Its canopy provides a perfect environment for shade-loving perennials to grow under. If the tree is not treated, it may fall victim to a number of infestations from insects or disease. Losing an important tree like this can effect, not only your home value and feel, but the host of animal and plant life living in symbiosis with it.  When looking into replacing a tree of good size and stature, it quickly becomes apparent that preventative treatment would have been much cheaper!  This is not to say every plant on your property should live on indefinitely, but it is certainly worth considering the many benefits of your important trees and decide if a treatment plan is worthwile.


Routine plant health care to the rescue

Pre-season pest management is a smart thing to do for your trees. However, an even smarter way to take care of your landscape is to put it on a plant health care program. Like regular physical exams, eating right, and regular exercise provide you with long-term benefits, a plant health care program can do the same for your trees.

Our approach to plant health care is simple

  • Provide routine inspection, monitoring for insects and diseases
  • Treat as appropriate upon discovery of problems
  • Use “cultural solutions,” such as pruning, adjusting the soil, and use of traps to control issues
  • Develop and foster a healthy sustainable landscape through species selection, watering, and landscape changes

We have found that these approaches not only prevent disease but also improve the health of the tree. Also, implementing such a plan can help you maintain the trees and landscape you have grown—and grown to love.

For more information on Plant Health Care or to schedule a consultation, contact us at 802-296-3771 or email us.