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Black Twig Borers in Local Trees

Black Twig Borers in Local Trees

 

Common symptoms of the black twig borer. Image Credit Matthew Orwat UF IFAS Extension

Common symptoms of the black twig borer. Image Credit Matthew Orwat UF IFAS Extension

Q. Small branches are dying in some of my trees. What’s causing this? 

A. More than likely the culprit is the Black Twig Borer. This very small beetle, about 1/16 inch long, has been active this year. 

Common trees attacked include cedar, golden rain tree, maple, redbud, sweetgum, loquat, dogwood, Shumard oak, Chinese elm, magnolia, Bradford pear and pecan. The beetle is not limited to these trees. And it may attack woody shrubs and grapevines.  

 

Black Twig Borer Entry Holes. Image Credit Matthew Orwat UF IFAS Extension

Black Twig Borer Entry Holes. Image Credit Matthew Orwat UF IFAS Extension

Black Twig Borer Entry Holes. White Frass Visible. Image Credit Matthew Orwat UF IFAS Extension

Black Twig Borer Entry Holes. White Frass Visible. Image Credit Matthew Orwat UF IFAS Extension

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This beetle only damages branches that are approximately pencil size in diameter. These small branches die above the point of entrance with the leaves turning brown, creating a flagging effect of numerous dead branches scattered throughout the outer canopy of the tree. These dead twigs with their brown leaves are what bring attention to the infested trees. 

Bending an infested twig downward will result in it snapping or breaking at the entrance/exit hole. Carefully putting the twig back together may allow you to see the hole. The hole is usually on the underside of the branch and will be very small, about the size of pencil lead in diameter. Sometimes you may see the minute, shiny black beetle and/or the white brood inside the hollowed out area of the twig at the point where it snapped. 

 

Black Twig Borer inside the stem. Image Credit Matthew Orwat UF IFAS Extension

Black Twig Borer inside the stem. Image Credit Matthew Orwat UF IFAS Extension

The black twig borer, Xylosandrus compactus, is one of the few ambrosia beetles that will attack healthy trees. However, the heavy rainfall this summer stressed many of our tree and plant species making them more susceptible to insect damage and disease.Female beetles bore into small branches or twigs of woody plants, excavate tunnels in the wood or pith and produce a brood. Damage occurs when the beetle introduces ambrosia fungi on which the larvae feed. The beetles emerge in late February, attack twigs in March and brood production begins in April. Highest population levels occur from June to September. Adults spend the winter in damaged twigs and branches. So it’s important to pickup and dispose of the small branches as they fall.

Where practical, the best control is to prune tree limbs 3-4 inches below the infested area, then remove and destroy the limbs. Proper mulching, avoiding over fertilization and irrigating during dry weather should improve tree health, allowing trees to better withstand attacks. Chemical controls are usually not practical or effective.

Entry point from a different angle. Image Credit Matthew Orwat UF IFAS Extension

Entry point from a different angle. Image Credit Matthew Orwat UF IFAS Extension

 

 Additional information on this beetle is available though the UF IFAS Extension Office, your County Forester or online at the UF IFAS Featured Creature page

PG

Author: Larry Williams – llw5479@ufl.edu

Larry Williams is the County Extension Director and Residential Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Extension Office in Okaloosa County.

Larry Williams

Permanent link to this article: http://okaloosa.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/12/17/black-twig-borers-in-local-trees/