4 Florida Pests That Will Harm Your Trees
Florida houses over 373 species of bugs and insects. Many of these species are harmless, searching for food and shelter in local grasses and shrubs. Some of these species are even helpful, eating other bugs and insects that would otherwise damage our homes or gardens.
And still other species attack and kill our trees.
The following pests, in particular, are notorious for damaging trees throughout Florida and nearby states. Although some of these multi-legged invaders don’t kill the tree directly, they do introduce disease and strip trees of their leaves and bark.
As a property owner, you should keep an eye out for the following pests in your trees and reach out to a pest control expert if you see signs of infestation.
1. Dogwood Borer
The dogwood borer looks a bit like a wasp with its black and yellow bands on its abdominal segment. However, this clear-winged moth does much more than hover around your picnic table.
Dogwood borer females lay their eggs on tree bark, and when the eggs hatch, the larvae enter into wounds on the tree and burrow their way into the living wood. If left unchecked, the pests will compromise the tree’s structural integrity and slow the progression of new growth. In some cases, the dogwood borer will permanently disfigure the tree and cause the tree to die within a year or two after infestation.
2. Asian Citrus Psyllid
The Asian citrus psyllid has a mottled brown body and black head. The insect secretes a waxy, whitish substance that gives it a dusty appearance.
The Asian citrus psyllid lays eggs on growing plant tissue, often the shoots of unfurling leaves or new fruit. When the eggs hatch, the larvae nibble away at the leaves and buds. However, it’s not the larvae that cause the most damage.
Asian citrus psyllids carry bacterium that causes Huanglongbing, or citrus greening. This disease infects the sap of the tree leaves, preventing nutrients from traveling through the tree’s vascular system. Over time, the nutrient deficiency causes the tree veins to yellow, and any fruit on the tree will drop prematurely.
Although these symptoms can take years to appear, the infection is a death sentence to the tree, as researchers have yet to discover a cure for the disease.
3. Pine Bark Beetles
Pine bark beetles have cylindrical bodies with brown or black coloring. They are small, no more than 0.07 inches to 0.15 inches in length. But despite their small size, they can do a great deal of damage in large groups.
Adult female bark beetles land on weakened trees and emit pheromones that attract other males and females. Within a few days, thousands of beetles overwhelm the trees and then colonize nearby trees.
Once the beetles have tunneled through the inner bark, they’ll lay their eggs. Within a week, the eggs will hatch and the larvae will feed on and then pupate in the bark. Soon, a new generation will emerge and repeat the process.
Pine bark beetles effectively girdle trees, or remove bark around the entire circumference of the tree. Girdling often results in the death of plant tissue above the affected spot. Additionally, pine bark beetles carry blue-stain fungi, and when introduced to the tree, the fungi block water flow within the tree, ultimately killing the tree.
4. Tent Caterpillars
The forest tent caterpillar moth measures at over 2 inches in length and their color ranges from black to dark brown to gray. They have a white spot on their abdominal segments, and they have soft, fur-like bristles that cover their body.
Despite the name, the moths do not make tents. Rather, they weave a silky sheet during molting, and they wrap the silk around tree branches. The adults do not feed on the trees, but they do deposit hundreds of eggs in the tree. When the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on expanding buds, flowers, and foliage, often devouring entire leaves.
In general, tent caterpillars do not kill their host trees, and many defoliated trees will regrow their leaves within a few weeks after the caterpillars have finished feeding. However, consecutive defoliation distress the tree and leave it vulnerable to disease and other pests. Older, weakened, or unhealthy trees may die not long after infestation.
Take Steps to Protect Your Tree
While these insects can wreak havoc on your trees, you don’t have to stand by and let them defoliate or destroy your plants. Insecticides, tree trimming, mulching, and fertilization can all go a long way toward maintaining a healthy, pest-free tree. If you need additional tips for protecting against pests talk to a professional arborist for advice.
However, if your trees already have seen a severe pest infestation, hire a tree removal service to cut down the affected tree. If you act quickly, you can stop the pests from spreading to nearby trees and causing more damage.