Weather didn't wash out insects

Sorry, but the rumor that the record wet spring has drowned all the pests is not true. In fact, as new foliage begins to appear, various pests are lying in wait to begin their annual feasts. The following are signs of some of the more common and highly visible insects and diseases that soon will be visible.

Insect Damage

Colorado blue spruce: old, dead, brown tops. Pest: white pine weevil larvae have been feeding on the top leader in the past. Other branches may have turned up to form multiple tops. New growth that will soon be visible and is under attack will soon begin to wilt. Treatment: if reachable, cut out the drooping top below where the larvae are feeding and destroy them. Sprays are not practical.

Various spruce species: severe loss of interior needles and sections where branches have died.  Pest: most likely the spruce aphid – a tiny green insect that does its damage in late winter.  Treatment: tap the foliage to dislodge insects onto an index card. If very tiny green spots begin to slowly move, you’ve got them! Hose the plants with high-pressure water or spray with insecticides. Note: any fast moving insects are likely beneficial predators.

Flowering plums and cherries: curled or wrinkled leaves.  Pest: most likely aphids visible as tiny, light colored insects and/or their shed skins may be left behind.  Treatment: They can be sprayed but generally are not worth worrying about.

Disease Problems

Flowering plums and cherries: leaves with several small holes, sometimes premature heavy loss of leaves.  Pest: Coryneum blight or “shothole” fungus. Treatment: rake and destroy leaves. Fungicides can be applied at leaf fall in late summer and in the spring when flower petals have fallen and the leaves begin to emerge.

Dogwoods: new leaves wrinkle up and have brown splotches; can have premature heavy loss of leaves.  Pest: most likely dogwood anthractnose – a common fungus that infects many native and non-native dogwoods.  Treatment: rake and destroy fallen leaves. Fungicides can be applied at bud break and continued at 10 to 14 day intervals until weather dries out. Resistant varieties are available at nurseries.

Japanese and lace-leaf maples: suddenly wilted foliage that hangs on the branches; may start with a single branch dying and spreading to others.  Pest: possibly verticillium wilt – a soil borne fungus that affects roots and spreads upward throughout a tree. Infected trees may be killed outright or may tolerate the fungus for several years.  Treatment: prune out and destroy infected branches. No sprays are recommended. This is a highly contagious disease of maples and several other hosts. Dig out as many of the roots as possible if removing a diseased tree.

Rules for Pesticide Treatments

Most of the pests noted above do not kill the host tree. They can be ignored if one chooses not to use pesticides. If a chemical treatment is desired, here are three rules that must be followed:

1 – Have the pest properly identified; 2 – Determine the appropriate pesticide by asking nurseries and reading labels; 3 – Apply the recommended pesticide at the proper time and at the recommended rate.

Dennis Tompkins is a certified arborist, certified hazard tree assessor, Master Gardener and urban forester from the Bonney Lake-Sumner area.  He provides small tree pruning, pest diagnosis, hazardous tree evaluations, tree appraisals and other services for homeowners and businesses. Contact him at 253 863-7469 or e-mail Website:

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