These Invasive Insects Are Destroying Our Georgia Trees

Trees are our bridge into nature, a timeless piece of serenity providing us with much more than just the oxygen we breathe. They give us a sense of calming and peace, provide us with shade from the sun, filter pollution, block out sound, and create privacy between our neighbors and us. Trees and shrubbery offer food and shelter for wildlife, and many of us can remember playing in treehouses as a kid.

It’s no wonder that the residents and businesses in the Jonesboro area are compassionate about their lawn ornaments. And while these tall, living statues may seem fierce and resilient, they are vulnerable just like your turf. Because of our warm, humid climate, many different diseases, fungi, and pests plague our local area.

Insects are the number one cause of tree decline in the country. Insects such as the Emerald Ash Borer and the Elm Bark Beetle are responsible for the deaths of millions of American trees, but they aren’t the only ones. Japanese beetles, aphids, mites, tree scales, bagworms, and tent caterpillars love to feed on trees. These pests can severely weaken your tree’s immune system, leaving it vulnerable to fungus and disease. Many of these insects are invasive, meaning they are not native to our local region and live free from natural predators, parasites, or competitors. As a result, they develop large populations rather quickly and cause significant harm to our local plants, economy, and environment. Today, we will discuss two of the most common yet, aggravating damaging tree insects in the Jonesboro area. 

Tree Scale

Tree scale refers to scale insects, which are common pests of landscape trees and shrubs here in Georgia. They are tiny insects that feed off the sap of your trees. There are two different types, armored scale, and soft scale. Armored scales have a hard shield that is not attached to their body. They are smaller and fatter than soft scales. Soft scales are shaped like rounded bumps with a waxy coating for protection and produce a waxy substance known as honeydew. The honeydew cannot be separated from their body. While it’s meant to be a protection from natural enemies and pesticides, it is this sugary liquid that attracts ants and is responsible for the black sooty mold fungus that interferes with photosynthesis. Armored scales do not produce honeydew.

What Does This Mean for Our Jonesboro Area Trees and Shrubs
Honeydew is both a nuisance and a threat to plant health. Parked cars, sidewalks, and benches under infested trees often become a sticky mess. While the dew itself does not damage your trees, scales feed off the sap of your trees. When they hatch in the spring, they search for a permanent place to stay and use their mouthparts to pierce the tree and begin feeding. When they do this, they inject a toxin into the plant that can cause yellowing of tissue, reduced growth, and branch dieback. Scale-damaged plants look withered and sickly.  Heavily infested plants produce little new growth. If scale insects are not controlled, the death of infected plants is possible.

Control and Prevention
Scales thrive on threes that are under stress. Keeping up with your trees with proper pruning and trimming, utilizing fertilizer at the appropriate times, and watering on a routine schedule will go a long way toward ensuring the health and longevity of your trees. If you suspect tree scale, first check the bark and flip over any bumps or lumps that could be scales. If only a portion of the shrub is infested, prune out heavily infested shoots or limbs and promptly dispose of prunings. Horticultural oil is typically a safe and good choice, especially when timed applications coincide with the scale crawler stage. There are several insecticide options on the market that can help with tree scale but the timing and precise amount you use is very important. 

Does all of this sound a bit much? When it comes to tree scales and other tree pests, your best option is to leave it up to the professionals who have the training and knowledge necessary to inspect, analyze, protect and treat your beloved ornamentals. 

Japanese Beetle

Japanese beetles are invasive species that feed on the leaves, flowers, and fruit of more than 300 species of plants. The Japanese beetle grub is the infamous caterpillar-looking creature that feeds on the blades of your grass, causing it to turn brown and die. This article focuses solely on the Japanese beetle that is decimating trees and shrubs throughout the area.

These unfathomable creatures skeletonize leaves by feeding on the tissue between the major veins. The damaged leaves turn brown and then fall off. Some of the plants Japanese beetles prefer include rose, grape, linden, apple, crabapple, cherry, and plum. They also enjoy feasting on birch, elm, raspberry, currant, basil, hollyhock, marigold, corn silk, and soybean. A healthy, mature tree or shrub is actually able to sustain a lot of feeding without significant long-term damage. Plants that are injured, unhealthy, or even young may suffer severe damage and even die. Fruits, vegetables, and herbs can tolerate these small feedings, but a severe infestation can affect plant growth.

Prevention and Control
Japanese beetles feed for six to eight weeks, so it’s important to continue management during this time. Once they are abundant in numbers, managing them becomes more difficult. Maintaining healthy trees and plants through a tree and shrub care program that includes fertilization and insect control will go a long way toward protecting your plants. As we mentioned above, healthy plants are able to sustain feeding well better than unhealthy plants.

Physically removing beetles can be effective for smaller landscapes and a few plants, especially when a small number of Japanese beetles are involved. Handpick or knock them into a bucket of soapy water. There are several different types of insecticides that have been proven to be somewhat effective, including products containing pyrethrins (e.g., Pyola®) or neem oil. Still, they must be repeated every several days and are only effective if small numbers of Japanese beetles are involved.

Get Help From Duncan’s Green Team, The Professionals Who Know Tree Care

We recommend calling in the help of a professional who is trained and knowledgeable in caring for trees. Duncan’s Green Team is here to help. We offer a tree and shrub fertilization program to help provide your valuable lawn ornaments with the nutrients needed to become healthy, and resilient to insects and disease. We also offer deep root fertilization, insect, disease, and fungus control.

Make sure your trees and shrubs last for generations. Call the experts at Duncan’s today or visit our website and contact us here. For Duncan’s Green Team and all things related to tree care, call 770-478-0098.   For Duncan’s Landscaping and Maintenance, call 770-473-7700. Want more tips and ideas for your landscape and lawn care? Read our other blog articles and follow us on Facebook. And don’t forget to watch some of our latest projects via our YouTube Channel.


© 2024 Duncan Green Team | All rights reserved.