How Insects Impact the Health of Your Trees

Insects play a critical role in our environment and there’s no question that they’re necessary to the survival of our ecosystem. Honeybees allow fruit trees to flourish through essential pollination, and myriad insects nest in trees that ultimately form a complex and lively insect biome. But there’s also no question that insects can be detrimental (sometimes even fatal) to the health of our trees. With this in mind, following are some ways that insects can be harmful to your trees and some things you can do to protect your trees from their wrath.

Tree Enemy #1: The Emerald Ash Borer

When it comes to tree damage, there’s no insect more notorious in Missouri than the Emerald ash borer. This green beetle is a vile little bugger, and it’s currently the biggest concern in the Kansas City area and in southeast Missouri near Rolla and surrounding cities. The Emerald ash borer is particularly dangerous for ash trees because it physically bores into them when the insect is in its larval stage.

When an infestation occurs, the ash borer bores holes and the feeding patterns of the larvae disrupt the flow of nutrients as they rise up the trunk of the tree. From there, the nutrient process further is disrupted from the roots to the crown, just under the bark. Eventually, this results in the death of the tree; this process can take place over a number of years, but the first noticeable sign is typically some death occurring in the crown of the tree. Once some die back is spotted, the tree will often be dead by the following year or soon after. In areas where the insect is invasive, such as southeastern Missouri, the emerald ash borer can have a devastating effect on the local ash tree population.

Preventing Insect Damage

In order to prevent tree damage, it’s important to keep in mind the fact that most insects look for trees that are already declining in health. That said, you should always strive to keep your trees well watered and properly pruned. Aside from that, it may be worth your while to call up your local tree care service to see what (if any) tips they can give you for protecting against known and harmful insects for trees in the area.

Reducing Insect Damage

When it comes to reducing insect damage that’s already been done to your tree, there are a few things you can do. First off, depending on the extent and location of the damage, you may be able to simply remove the section of tree that is infected. For this, there is a treatment available for ash trees that will deter the Emerald ash borer from nesting in the treated tree. Unfortunately, this treatment is not currently recommended in central Missouri because the Emerald ash borer isn’t considered close enough to infect local trees. And although that may be the case, there are some dishonest people that are selling the Emerald ash borer treatment prematurely. Shame on them!

Stewart Scott is the owner of Cevet, a tree service provider in Columbia, Mo. Since 1995, Cevet has served mid-Missouri for all of its tree service needs.

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