All posts by hudelson

Root Rots on Houseplants

Wilting of poinsettia associated with Pythium root rot.
Wilting of poinsettia associated with Pythium root rot.

What is root rot? Root rot is a general term that describes any disease where the pathogen (causal organism) causes the deterioration of a plant’s root system. Most plants are susceptible to root rots, including both woody and herbaceous ornamentals. Root rots can be chronic diseases or, more commonly, are acute and can lead to the death of the plant.

How do you know if your plant has a root rot? Homeowners often become aware of root rots when they note that a plant is wilted, even though the soil is wet. Plants with root rots are also often stunted, and may have leaves with a yellow or red color, symptoms that suggest a nutrient deficiency. Careful examination of the root systems of these plants reveals roots that are soft and brown. These roots may have a bad odor.

Where does root rot come from? A large number of soil-borne fungi cause root rots. Pythium spp., Phytophthora spp., Rhizoctonia solani, and Fusarium spp. are the most common root rot fungi. These fungi have wide host ranges, and thus can cause root rots on a wide variety of plants. Most root rot fungi prefer wet soil conditions and some, such as Pythium and Phytophthora produce spores that can survive for long periods in soil or plant debris.

How do I save a plant with root rot? Often the best and most cost effective way of dealing with a plant with root rot is to throw it out. If you decide to keep a plant with root rot, REDUCE SOIL MOISTURE! Provide enough water to fulfill the plant’s growth needs and prevent drought stress, but DO NOT over-water.

Throw out plastic pots if plants grown in them have suffered from a root rot.
Throw out plastic pots if plants grown in them have suffered from a root rot.

We DO NOT recommend use of chemical fungicides for control of root rots on houseplants because of the limited availability of products for use by homeowners, and because those products that are available tend to be expensive.

How do I avoid problems with root rots? First, buy plants from a reputable source and make sure they are root rot-free prior to purchase. Second, replant your houseplants properly. Use a pot with drainage holes, but DO NOT put rocks or gravel at the bottom of the pot. The presence of rocks or gravel can actually inhibit drainage. Use a pasteurized commercial potting mix, NOT soil from your garden. Garden soils often contain root rot fungi. Add organic material (e.g., peat moss) to heavy potting mixes to increase drainage. Third, minimize potential contamination of your plants with root rot fungi. DO NOT reuse potting mix from your houseplants, or water that has drained from your plants, as both potentially can contain root rot fungi. After working with plants with root rot problems, disinfest tools, working surfaces and clay pots with a 10% bleach or detergent solution, or alcohol. DO NOT reuse plastic pots as they are often difficult to disinfest adequately. Finally and most importantly, moderate plant moisture. Provide enough water to fulfill your plants’ needs for growth and prevent drought stress, but DO NOT over-water. In particular, DO NOT allow plants to sit in drainage water. REMEMBER, root rot fungi grow and reproduce best in wet soils.

For more information on root rots: Contact your county Extension agent.

Lichens

There are many types of lichens. Crustose lichens (left) are crust-like and adhere tightly to the surface upon which they grow. Foliose lichens (right) are leaf-like and composed of flat sheets of tissue that are not tightly bound.
There are many types of lichens. Crustose lichens (left) are crust-like and adhere tightly to the surface upon which they grow. Foliose lichens (right) are leaf-like and composed of flat sheets of tissue that are not tightly bound.

What are lichens? Lichens are organisms that arise from mutually beneficial interactions between certain fungi and algae. The fungi provide the physical structures of the lichens, as well as protection for the algae. The algae, in turn, produce food for the fungi via photosynthesis.

What do lichens look like? Lichens come in four basic growth forms. Crustose lichens are crust-like and adhere tightly to the surface upon which they grow. Foliose lichens are leaf-like and composed of flat sheets of tissue that are not tightly bound together. Squamulose lichens are composed of scale-like parts. Fruticose lichens are composed of free-standing branching tubes.

Where do lichens come from? Lichens are everywhere. There are an estimated 13,500 to 17,000 species of lichens, and lichens can be found growing in tropical, temperate and polar regions throughout the world. Lichens will grow on almost any surface that is stable and reasonably well-lit. In temperate regions, lichens can often be found growing on the bark of trees or old fence posts. Others lichens grow in less hospitable places, such as bare rock surfaces or old headstones in graveyards, where they aid in the breakdown of rocks and the formation of soil.

There are many types of lichens. Crustose lichens (left) are crust-like and adhere tightly to the surface upon which they grow. Foliose lichens (right) are leaf-like and composed of flat sheets of tissue that are not tightly bound.
There are many types of lichens. Crustose lichens (left) are crust-like and adhere tightly to the surface upon which they grow. Foliose lichens (right) are leaf-like and composed of flat sheets of tissue that are not tightly bound.

How do I save a tree with lichens? DO NOT PANIC! Lichens do not harm trees; they are not pathogens or parasites, and do not cause disease. Lichens are self-reliant, with the algal component of the lichen producing food for the organism via photosynthesis. Lichens absorb water and minerals from rainwater and the atmosphere, and because of this, they are extremely sensitive to air pollution. As a result, the presence or absence of certain lichen species can be used as an indicator of levels of atmospheric pollutants. Information on the abundance and species of lichens growing in an area can give a good indication of the local air quality.

For more information on lichens: Contact your county Extension agent.

Deciduous Tree Leaf Disease Quick Reference

Anthracnose for Quick Guide Anthracnose
Hosts:  Most trees, commonly ash, maple and oak
Pathogens:  Gloeosporium spp. as well as other fungi
Signs/Symptoms:  Blotchy dead areas on leaves
For more information see:  UW Plant Disease Facts D0002
Purple-bordered leaf spot Purple-Bordered Leaf Spot
Host:  Amur, Japanese, red, silver and sugar maple
Pathogen:  Phyllosticta minima
Signs/Symptoms:  Discrete, circular leaf spots with purple borders
For more information see:  UW Plant Disease Facts D0089
 Tubakia leaf spot Tubakia (Actinopelte) Leaf Spot
Hosts:  Oak
Pathogen:  Tubakia spp. (Actinopelte spp.)
Signs/Symptoms:  Discrete circular, or irregular blotchy dead areas on leaves
For more information see:  UW Plant Disease Facts D0118
 Scab Apple Scab
Hosts:  Apple, crabapple, pear, mountain-ash
Pathogen:  Venturia inaequalis, V. pirina
Signs/Symptoms:  Circular, black leaf spots with feathery edges; eventual leaf loss
For more information see:  UW Plant Disease Facts D0004
 Cedar-Apple Rust Gymnosporangium Rusts
Hosts:  Apple, crabapple, hawthorn
Pathogens:  Gymnosporangium spp.
Signs/Symptoms:  Bright yellow-orange, circular leaf spots
For more information see:  UW Plant Disease Facts D0058
 Powdery Mildew Powdery Mildew
Hosts:  Most deciduous trees
Pathogens:  Several genera of powdery mildew fungi
Signs/Symptoms:  Uniform/blotchy powdery white areas on upper and lower leaf surfaces
For more information see:  UW Plant Disease Facts D0087
 Downy Leaf Spot Downy Leaf Spot
Hosts:  Hickory, walnut
Pathogen:  Microstroma juglandis
Signs/Symptoms:  Discrete powdery white areas on lower leaf surfaces
 Clorosis Chlorosis
Hosts:  Oak, red maple
Cause:   Iron or manganese deficiency, often induced by high soil pH
Signs/Symptoms:  Yellow leaves with dark green veins
For more information see:  UW Plant Disease Facts D0030
 Scorch Scorch
Hosts:  Most deciduous trees
Cause:   Water stress induced by drought, high soil salt content, or other water-limiting factors
Signs/Symptoms:  Dead tissue on leaf margins
 Tatters Tatters
Hosts:  Most deciduous trees, but commonly oak
Cause:  Possible early season cold injury
Signs/Symptoms:  Lacy, tattered-looking leaves
For more information see:  UW Plant Disease Facts D0111

For more information on deciduous tree leaf diseases:  See https://pddc.wisc.edu/ or contact your County Extension agent.

Conifer Disease Quick Reference

Conifer - Root and Crown Rot Root and Crown Rots
Hosts:  All conifers
Pathogens:   Assorted root rot fungi/water molds
Signs/Symptoms:  Poor growth, branch dieback, discolored and deteriorated roots
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0094
Conifer Rhizosphaera Needle Rhizosphaera Needle Cast
Hosts:  Colorado blue spruce, other spruces
Pathogen:   Rhizosphaera kalkhoffii
Signs/Symptoms:  Browning/purpling of interior needles of lower branches, followed by needle drop
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0093
Conifer - Cytospora Canker Cytospora Canker
Hosts:  Colorado blue spruce, other spruces
Pathogen:   Cytospora kunzei
Signs/Symptoms:  Branch dieback with milky-white patches of dried sap on affected branches
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0037
Conifer - Spruce Needle Drop Spruce Needle Drop
Hosts:  Spruces
Pathogen:   Unknown (possibly Setomelannoma holmii)
Signs/Symptoms:  Needle loss and dieback at or near branch tips
Conifer - Cedar Apple Rust Gymnosporangium Rusts
Hosts:  Juniper, apple, crabapple, hawthorn, quince
Pathogen:   Gymnosporangium spp.
Signs/Symptoms:  Brown blobs with orange gelatinous masses (juniper); yellow/orange leaf spots (other hosts)
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0058
Phomopsis Tip Blight Phomopsis Tip Blight
Hosts:  Junipers
Pathogen:   Phomopsis juniperovora
Signs/Symptoms:  Browning and dieback of branch tips  in spring and early summer as new growth emerges
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0077
Conifer - Diplodia Tip Blight Diplodia Shoot Blight and Canker
Hosts:  Austrian pine, other pines
Pathogen:   Diplodia spp.
Signs/Symptoms:  Dieback of branch tips with dead needles showing uneven lengths
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0042
Conifer - Dothistroma Needle_ Dothistroma Needle Blight
Hosts:  Austrian pine, other pines
Pathogen:   Dothistroma pini
Signs/Symptoms:  Needle tip browning and death with a distinct break between live and dead tissue
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0043
Conifer - Drought Stress Drought Stress
Hosts:  All conifers
Cause:   Insufficient water
Signs/Symptoms:  Purpling/browning of needles near branch tips or higher up in plants during the summer
Conifer - Winter Injury Winter Injury/Winter Burn
Hosts:  All conifers, particularly yew and juniper
Cause:   Insufficient water
Signs/Symptoms:  Needle browning/bleaching over winter or in spring as plants come out of dormancy
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0127
Conifer - Herbicide Damage Herbicide Damage
Hosts:  All conifers
Cause:   Exposure to herbicides
Signs/Symptoms:  Twisted or otherwise distorted growth, needle yellowing or browning, plant death
For more information see:       UW Plant Disease Facts D0060

For more information on conifer diseases:  See https://pddc.wisc.edu/ or contact your county Extension agent.

Peach Leaf Curl

What is peach leaf curl?  Peach leaf curl is a common disease of peach and nectarine trees throughout the Midwest and eastern U.S.  Where the disease is severe, tree vigor and fruit quality and yield are reduced.  Peach leaf curl often becomes more prevalent after relatively mild winters, which are more favorable for the survival of the organism that causes the disease.  A related disease, plum pockets, affects plums.

Leaf distortions and discoloration typical of peach leaf curl.
Leaf distortions and discoloration typical of peach leaf curl.

What does peach leaf curl look like?  Diseased leaves are distorted with puckered, thickened, twisted areas that can be light green, yellow, or reddish to purple in color.  Leaves later turn brown and fall from the tree.  Diseased shoots are stunted with small, yellowish leaves, or have leaves arranged in tight whorls (rosettes).  Diseased flowers may abort, leading to reduced fruit set, while diseased fruit are bumpy, reddish in color, and fall prematurely.

Where does peach leaf curl come from?  Peach leaf curl is caused by the fungus Taphrina deformans, which overwinters in bark and bud scales of peach and nectarine trees.  Fungal spores infect leaves and shoots in the spring while leaves are still in the bud and as they just begin to emerge.  Mild (50 to 70°F), wet weather during this period favors infection.  Additional spores form on the surface of diseased tissue, and these spores cause new infections if the weather remains mild and wet.

How do I save trees that have peach leaf curl?  Peach leaf curl is unlikely to kill a peach or nectarine tree on its own.  However, if significant premature leaf drop occurs, trees will be susceptible to drought stress and winter injury.  To help maintain tree vigor, apply water (approximately one inch per week) at the drip lines (i.e., the edges of where the branches extend) of peach and nectarine trees during dry periods.  Also, fertilize trees with nitrogen, but avoid fertilizing after August 1; late season fertilization will prevent trees from hardening off properly before winter, making them prone to winter injury.  Finally, thin fruit if the crop load is heavy.

How do I avoid problems with peach leaf curl in the future?  Because Taphrina deformans survives in bark and bud scales, removing diseased leaves in the fall will not reduce disease.  To prevent serious problems with peach leaf curl, plant resistant or tolerant peach varieties (e.g., ‘Frost’, ‘Indian Free’, ‘Q-1-8’, varieties derived from ‘Redhaven’).  Avoid growing susceptible varieties (e.g., those derived from ‘Redskin’).  In addition, consider applying a single fungicide spray in the fall after leaf drop or in the spring before buds begin to swell to control peach leaf curl (and also plum pockets).  Effective fungicide active ingredients include chlorothalonil, copper (e.g., Bordeaux mixture), and ferbam.  Choose a fungicide that is labeled for use on edible fruit crops, and read and follow all label instructions to ensure that you use the product in the safest and most effective manner possible.

For more information on peach leaf curl:  Contact your county Extension agent.

Homeowner Guide to Emerald Ash Borer Insecticide Treatments – Pest Alert

Emerald ash borer insecticide treatment considerations.  Several insecticide products are available to homeowners for control of emerald ash borer (EAB).  Since the presence and infestation level of EAB is quite difficult to determine at early stages of an infestation, insecticide treatments may be merited to mitigate damage by EAB.  However, not all ash trees should be treated as some may be too extensively compromised or in poor condition to receive treatment.  Tree location, value, and health, as well as the cost of treatment are all factors to consider.  Due to the expense of yearly insecticide treatments, one should consider the value of a particular ash tree in relation to insecticide treatment costs before making any treatments.  In addition, consider the health of each tree before treating.  Research suggests that insecticide treatments are significantly more effective on EAB-infested ash trees with less than 50% canopy thinning.  Insecticide treatments are not suggested for trees with greater than 50% canopy thinning.  Trees with greater than 50% canopy thinning should be removed and handled in accordance with local guidelines.  For a more detailed discussion on this topic, see University of Wisconsin Garden Facts XHT1215, Is My Ash Tree Worth Treating for Emerald Ash Borer.

Emerald ash borer insecticide treatment options.  Insecticide products available for use by homeowners are summarized in Table 1.  They include:

  • ACECAP 97 Systemic Insecticide Tree Implants (acephate)
  • BioAdvanced 12 Month Tree and Shrub Insect Control (imidacloprid)
  • BioAdvanced 12 Month Tree and Shrub Protect & Feed (imidacloprid)
  • BioAdvanced 12 Month Tree and Shrub Protect & Feed II (imidacloprid + clothianidin)
  • Bonide Annual Tree & Shrub Insect Control with SYSTEMAXX (imidacloprid)
  • Compare N Save Systemic Tree & Shrub Insect Drench (imidacloprid)
  • Ferti-lome Tree and Shrub Systemic Drench (imidacloprid)
  • Monterey Once a Year Insect Control II (imidacloprid)
  • Several other products containing imidacloprid are also currently available

Most of the products available to homeowners are systemic insecticides containing imidacloprid and are applied as soil drenches around the base of an ash tree.  A few granular products are also available.  Recent university research suggests that applications of imidacloprid should be made in spring to be most effective.  Research also has demonstrated that soil applications of imidacloprid-containing homeowner products provide excellent EAB protection for ash trees that are less than about 47 inches in circumference [i.e., 15 inches in diameter at breast height (DBH)].  Due to differences in application rates and label restrictions, treatment by a tree care professional (e.g., arborist) may be the best option for larger trees.  For best results, treatment of trees should begin before trees become infested.  Lastly, insecticide treatments must be repeated each year to maintain the health of ash trees.

Be aware that many insecticide products available at hardware stores and garden centers look alike.  Carefully check all product labels before purchase to make sure that you have selected the correct product/active ingredient.  ALWAYS read and follow the pesticide label directions on the product that you select!

Finally, note that although ACECAP 97 Systemic Insecticide Tree Implants are available to homeowners, we do NOT recommend that homeowners use these because they require physically drilling into a tree during their application.

Table 1

Emerald ash borer insecticide treatments available to homeowners

Product Active Ingredient Timing Type of application
BioAdvanced 12 Month Tree & Shrub Insect Control (D)

BioAdvanced 12 Month Tree & Shrub Protect & Feed (D or G)

Bonide Annual Tree & Shrub Insect Control with SYSTEMAXX (D)

Compare N Save Systemic Tree & Shrub Systemic Insect Drench (D)

Ferti-lome Tree & Shrub Systemic Drench (D)

Monterey Once a Year Insect Control II (D)

Imidacloprid Mid-April to mid-May Soil Drench (D)

or

Granular (G)

BioAdvanced 12 Month Tree & Shrub Protect & Feed II (D or G) Imidacloprid

+

Clothianidin

Mid-April to mid-May Soil Drench (D) or Granular (G)
ACECAP 97 Systemic Insecticide Tree Implants Acephate Mid-May to mid-June Trunk Implant

Other emerald ash borer treatment options.  Homeowners may also contact a certified arborist or certified pesticide applicator to treat their trees.  See http://www.waa-isa.org for a list of certified arborists in Wisconsin.  Professionals have access to some products that are not available to homeowners.

The University of Wisconsin does not endorse commercially available insecticide products over those available directly to homeowners.  Products discussed in this fact sheet have been evaluated in university research tests on EAB.

For more information on controlling emerald ash borer:   See: https://eab.russell.wisc.edu, http://www.emeraldashborer.wi.gov or http://www.emeraldashborer.info or contact your county Extension agent.

Viburnum Leaf Beetle – Pest Alert

The viburnum leaf beetle (VLB), Pyrrhalta viburni, is an invasive insect that feeds exclusively on and can significantly damage Viburnum species.  VLB is native to Europe and was detected in Canada in 1947.  The first report of VLB in the United States was in New York State in 1996.  VLB is now found scattered across much of the northeastern US.  In Wisconsin, an isolated infestation of VLB was discovered in Dane County in 2009, but was successfully eradicated.  In 2014, VLB was detected on a mature viburnum bush in northern Milwaukee County and other nearby infestations were detected in June 2015.  As of early 2021, VLB infestations have been found in 12 Wisconsin counties, including Brown, Dane, Iron, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Sheboygan Walworth, Washington, Waukesha, and Winnebago Counties.

Viburnum leaf beetles adults (left) and larvae (right). (Photos courtesy of Paul Weston, Cornell University, Bugwood.org)

Appearance:  Adult VLB’s are approximately ¼ inch long and yellowish-brown in color.  VLB larvae can be up to ⅓ inch long and range in color from yellowish-green to light brown with a series of black spots and dashes on their bodies.

Symptoms and Effects:  VLB larvae chew holes in viburnum leaves in the spring creating a lace-like (i.e., skeletonized) pattern.  VLB larvae feed individually or in small groups and can cause significant damage to viburnum shrubs.  This damage can resemble the feeding damage of Japanese beetles (see University of Wisconsin Garden Facts XHT1062 “Japanese Beetle”).  In late June and early July, VLB adults begin to feed, chewing oblong holes in leaves.  Severe VLB infestations can cause complete defoliation of a viburnum shrub, which weakens the plant over time and can eventually lead to death.

Life Cycle:  There is only one generation of VLB per year.  VLB’s overwinter as eggs and development from eggs to adults takes approximately eight weeks.  Larvae typically appear in early to mid-May and feed for several weeks, passing through three stages (instars) as they grow.  In early to mid-June, larvae pupate in the soil and adults emerge by late June or early July.  VLB females lay eggs during the summer and into October.  They chew small pits in twigs, deposit five to eight eggs into each pit, and then cover the pits with tiny pieces of chewed wood to protect the eggs.  Each female can deposit up to 500 eggs.  Eggs remain in place through the winter until they hatch the following spring.

Control:

Cultural:  When selecting viburnum plants for the landscape, DO NOT use arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum), European cranberrybush viburnum (Viburnum opulus), or American cranberrybush viburnum (Viburnum opulus var. americanum) as these types of viburnums are strongly preferred by VLB.  Instead use resistant viburnums such as doublefile viburnum (Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum), Judd viburnum (Viburnum x juddii), or Koreanspice viburnum (Viburnum carlesii).  In addition, between October and the following spring, examine viburnums for twigs where VLB’s have laid their eggs.  Prune and destroy these twigs to reduce VLB numbers.  During the growing season encourage natural VLB predators in your area (e.g., lady beetles, spined soldier bugs, assassin bugs, green lacewings) that can reduce VLB numbers.

Adult viburnum leaf beetle feeding damage (left) and egg-laying sites (right). (Photos courtesy of Paul Weston, Cornell University, and Bruce Watt, University of Maine; Bugwood.org)
Adult viburnum leaf beetle feeding damage (left) and egg-laying sites (right). (Photos courtesy of Paul Weston, Cornell University, and Bruce Watt, University of Maine; Bugwood.org)

Chemical:  Prior to bud break, apply horticultural oil to twigs where VLB eggs have been laid.  This will significantly reduce the number of eggs that will hatch.  Control any surviving larvae with contact insecticides such as acephate, bifenthrin, carbaryl, cyfluthrin, deltamethrin, lambda-cyhalothrin, and permethrin.  Horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, pyrethrins and spinosad can also be effective.  To achieve the best results, apply insecticides when larvae are small and before they have caused significant damage.  VLB adults can be managed with contact insecticides, if needed, but are mobile and more challenging to control.  Systemic products (e.g., clothianidin and imidacloprid) applied as soil drenches can also be effective, but apply these products after flowering (to minimize any risks to pollinators), but before VLB damage occurs to achieve the best protection.

For more information on viburnum leaf beetle: Contact your county Extension agent.

Fleas

Fleas are parasites of many animals including cats, dogs, rodents, birds, and bats.  Cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis) are the most common fleas that infest homes and attack humans, although cats, dogs and some wild animals (e.g., raccoons and opossums) are their primary hosts.  Unlike most fleas, cat fleas remain on their host throughout their entire life cycle.  Although fleas are capable of transmitting disease-causing organisms to humans, this rarely occurs in Wisconsin.  Fleas more commonly transmit tapeworms to cats and dogs.

Cat fleas are brown and flattened, and have large hind legs (see arrow).
Cat fleas are brown and flattened, and have large hind legs (see arrow).

Appearance:  Adult cat fleas are brown, flat and wingless, have large hind legs adapted for jumping, and are less than 1/8 inch in length.  Larval cat fleas are about 3/16 inch in length and resemble tiny, white, hairy caterpillars.  The presence of dried blood and dark reddish-brown or black flea excrement (i.e. flea ‘dirt’) may be the first noticeable clue that a pet has fleas.

Symptoms and Effects:  Fleabites on human skin may result in raised, red bumps that itch.  These symptoms may persist for five days or more.  Bites found on humans are typically in clusters on lower legs.  Some people are resistant to fleabites and may not notice their presence.  Other people, as well as pets, may experience fleabite allergic dermatitis, resulting in more intense itching, hair loss and reddening.  Scratching these areas may result in secondary infections.

Life Cycle:  Adults fleas lay approximately 20 to 50 eggs per day on their host.  Eggs may fall from the host and survive in carpeted surfaces.  Eggs hatch into larvae within one to 12 days.  Larvae molt three times over a period of seven to 15 days, then spin cocoons and develop into adults.  Larvae avoid light and require humidity above 75%.  Unfavorable temperatures and humidity may extend larval periods to six months or longer, and pupal periods to 12 months or longer.  Adult emergence is stimulated by noise or vibration indicating the presence of a potential host.  Typical emergence cues include vacuuming or being walked upon.  Adults fleas live for one to 12 months.  Under optimal conditions, the cat flea life cycle spans approximately 18 to 40 days.  Cat fleas may be found year-round, but are more prevalent during spring and summer due to more optimal temperatures for larval development.  Adults feed on blood using sucking mouthparts.  Larvae feed on a combination dried blood and excrement (called flea “dirt”) that accumulates in pet resting areas.  Adults may survive for weeks without a blood meal, but females require a blood meal from a non-human host before laying eggs.

Control:

For pets:  ALWAYS consult your veterinarian before selecting a specific treatment product, as different breeds of cats and dogs have different tolerances to particular active ingredients.  In general, topical, oral or flea collar applications of insecticides provide better flea control than shampoos, dips, powders, or sprays.

Flea ‘dirt’ (a combination of dried blood and excrement) indicates a flea problem.
Flea ‘dirt’ (a combination of dried blood and excrement) indicates a flea problem.

Apply topical chemicals carefully.  Follow label directions and apply where pets are unable to lick (e.g., the nape of neck or between shoulder blades).  Effective topical pet treatments (available over the counter) commonly contain active ingredients such as fipronil, imidacloprid, indoxacarb, permethrin, or selamectin.  Effective oral products contain active ingredients such as afoxolaner, fluralaner, lufenuron, nitenpyram, sarolaner, or spinosad.  Flea collars contain insect growth regulators such as methoprene or insecticides such as flumethrin, imidacloprid, or tetrachlorvinphos.  Ineffective flea treatments include vitamin B1 or yeast supplements, herbal collars and ultrasonic devices.

For home:  Indoor areas should be regularly and thoroughly vacuumed.  In addition, chemical treatments may be needed.  Common indoor flea treatment products contain pyrethroid insecticides such as permethrin, β-cyfluthrin, or deltamethrin.  Products containing pyrethrins also may be used, although these products are contact insecticides with little residual effect.  Products containing insect growth regulators (e.g., pyriproxyfen) are also available.  These ingredients prevent eggs from hatching and kill larvae, but do not kill adult fleas.  When treating, target areas such as carpets, furniture crevices, pet beds and any other areas frequented by pets.  DO NOT use foggers (often referred to as bug “bombs”), as these are generally ineffective against fleas.

If you have a flea problem, but have no pets, then you may have wild animals (e.g., raccoons, opossums or squirrels) nesting in an attic, fireplace or crawlspace.  Seek out these areas for possible treatment.  Although breeding flea populations outside of homes are rare in Wisconsin, such populations can potentially occur in pet resting areas, animal nests or sand or gravel areas in the landscape.

For more information on fleas:  Contact your county Extension agent.

Professional Guide to Emerald Ash Borer Insecticide Treatments – Pest Alert

Emerald ash borer insecticide treatment considerations.  A variety of insecticide products and application methods are available to professionals for control of the emerald ash borer (EAB).  Since the presence and infestation level of EAB is quite difficult to determine at early stages of an infestation, insecticide treatments may be merited to mitigate damage by EAB.  However, not all ash trees should be treated as some may be too extensively compromised or in poor condition to receive treatment.  Due to the expense of yearly insecticide treatments, one should consider the value of a particular ash tree in relation to insecticide treatment costs before making any treatments.  In addition, consider the health of each tree before treating.  Research suggests that insecticide treatments are significantly more effective on EAB-infested ash trees with less than 50% canopy thinning.  Insecticide treatments are not suggested for trees with greater than 50% canopy thinning.  Ash trees with greater than 50% canopy thinning should be removed and destroyed in accordance with established state and federal guidelines.  For additional information on this topic, see University of Wisconsin Garden Pest Alert XHT1215, Is My Ash Tree Worth Treating for Emerald Ash Borer.

Emerald ash borer insecticide treatment options.  Insecticide products that are available for use by professionals, with information on appropriate application methods and application timings, are summarized in Table 1.  These products include:

  • Ace-Jet (acephate)
  • ACECAP Systemic Insecticide Tree Implants (acephate)
  • ArborMectin (emamectin benzoate)
  • AzaGuard (azadirachtin)
  • Bifen XTS (bifenthrin)
  • Boxer Insecticide-Miticide (emamectin benzoate)
  • Dinocide, Dinocide HP (dinotefuran)
  • IMA-jet, IMA-jet 10 (imidacloprid)
  • Imicide, Imicide HP (imidacloprid)
  • Inject-A-Cide B (bidrin)
  • Mectinite (emamectin benzoate)
  • Merit 2F, Merit 75 WP, Merit 75 WSP (imidacloprid)
  • OnyxPro (bifenthrin)
  • Pointer (imidacloprid)
  • Safari (dinotefuran)
  • Tempo (cyfluthrin)
  • Transtect (dinotefuran)
  • Tree-äge, Tree-äge G4, Tree-äge R10 (emamectin benzoate)
  • Treeazin (azadirachtin)
  • TreeMec Inject (emamectin benzoate)
  • Xytect 2F, Xytect 75 WSP, Xytect 10% infusible (imidacloprid)
  • Zylam (dinotefuran)

University research indicates that soil drenches or injections of imidacloprid provide excellent EAB protection for small ash trees [less than six inches diameter at breast height (DBH)] in the first year following treatment.  Larger trees may require two consecutive years of treatment before they are effectively protected.  Thus, treatment of large trees should begin before the trees become infested.  While spring and/or fall applications are allowed on certain product labels, recent university research has indicated that spring applications have been more effective at controlling EAB and protecting canopy health.  Most insecticide treatments must be repeated each year.  Products containing emamectin benzoate are labeled to provide two years of protection.  Recent university research suggests that some of these products may provide more than three years of control with a single application when used at the highest labeled rate.

Trunk injections and implants require physically drilling or coring into a tree during the application of the insecticide.  Thus, use of these application methods has the potential to cause injury to trees (especially smaller trees), and may provide entry points for certain disease-causing fungi [e.g., Nectria, the cause of Nectria canker (see University of Wisconsin Garden Facts XHT1094 Nectria Canker)].

Table 1.  EAB insecticide treatments available to professionals*
Active Ingredient Product(s) Timing Application Method
Acephate ACE-Jet Mid-May to mid-June Trunk Injection
Acecap Implants Trunk Implant
Azadirachtin AzaGuard, Treeazin Early/mid-April to
early September
Trunk Injection
Bidrin Inject-A-Cide B Inject when infestation is evident Trunk injection
Bifenthrin Bifen XTS, OnyxPro Apply prior to or just at the time of adult emerge. Multiple applications may be needed Preventative bark and foliage cover sprays
Cyfluthrin Tempo
Dinotefuran Dinocide, Dinocide HP Late-April to late-May Trunk injection
Safari, Transtect, Zylam Soil drench, trunk spray
Emamectin benzoate ArborMectin, Boxer, Mectinite, Tree-äge, Tree-äge G4, Tree-äge R10, TreeMec April to September Trunk injection
Imidacloprid Merit 75 WP, Merit 75 WSP, Merit 2F, Xytect 2F, Xytect 75WSP, and others Mid-April to late-May

and/or

Early-Sept. to mid-October

Soil injection or drench
IMA-jet, IMA-jet 10, Imicide, Imicide HP, Pointer, Xytect 10% Mid-April to mid-May Trunk injection

The University of Wisconsin does not endorse any one specific commercially available insecticide.  Products discussed in this fact sheet have been evaluated in a variety of university research tests on EAB (http://www.emeraldashborer.info/).  No matter which insecticide you use, always read and follow all label instructions.  Avoid skin contact with insecticides and safely store insecticides out of the reach of children.

For more information on controlling emerald ash borer:
See https://eab.russell.wisc.edu/, https://datcpservices.wisconsin.gov/eab/ or http://www.emeraldashborer.info/, University of Wisconsin Pest Alerts XHT1181 (Homeowner Guide to Emerald Ash Borer Insecticide Treatments) and XHT1215 (Is My Ash Tree Worth Treating for Emerald Ash Borer).

Diplodia Shoot Blight and Canker

Diplodia Shoot Blight and Canker
Diplodia shoot blight and canker killing branch tips of Austrian pine.

What is Diplodia shoot blight and canker?  Diplodia shoot blight and canker (formerly Sphaeropsis shoot blight and canker) is one of the most common fungal diseases of Austrian pine in Wisconsin.  This disease can also affect other pines including red, jack, Scots and mugo pine, as well as other conifers including cedars, cypresses, firs, junipers and spruces.

What does Diplodia shoot blight and canker look like?  Initially, affected branch tips may ooze a large amount of resin.  Eventually, these branch tips brown and die, with dead needles on these branches having varying lengths.  As the disease progresses, sunken or swollen, discolored areas (called cankers) may form on infected twigs.  Diplodia shoot blight and canker can be distinguished from damage from boring insects (where there also may be heavy resin flow) by an absence of any tunneling.

Where does Diplodia shoot blight and canker come from?  Diplodia shoot blight and canker is caused by several fungi in the genus Diplodia.  These fungi include Diplodia sapinea (formerly known as Diplodia pinea and Sphaeropsis sapinea), which has historically been cited as the cause of the disease on Austrian pine.  However, this fungus is only one of several Diplodia species that can cause problems on this host.  Diplodia fungi survive in infected shoots and pinecones where they form small, black fruiting bodies (i.e., reproductive structures) that produce brown-colored spores.

How do I save a tree with Diplodia shoot blight and canker?  Immediately remove and destroy diseased branch tips.  Also, where possible, remove and destroy pinecones that have fallen from infected trees.  Dispose of these materials by burning (where allowed by local ordinance) or burying them.

When pruning, cut branches six to eight inches below the point where they are obviously infected.  Prune only in dry weather.  Between cuts, decontaminate pruning tools by treating them for at least 30 seconds with 70% alcohol (e.g., rubbing alcohol, certain spray disinfectants), or a 10% bleach solution (i.e., one part of a disinfecting bleach and nine parts water).  Decontaminating tools is important to help prevent accidental movement of Diplodia fungi from branch to branch during pruning.  If you decide to use bleach, be sure to rinse your tools thoroughly after pruning and then oil them to prevent rusting.

Needles of different lengths (left) and production of excessive resin on branch tips (right) are typical symptoms of Diplodia shoot blight and canker.
Needles of different lengths (left) and production of excessive resin on branch tips (right) are typical symptoms of Diplodia shoot blight and canker.

How do I avoid problems with Diplodia shoot blight and canker in the future?  Avoid planting Austrian pines; plant other types of evergreens instead.  Minimize any stresses on established Austrian pines.  Water trees adequately, particularly during dry periods.  Established trees should receive approximately one inch of water per week from the time that the ground thaws in the spring, through the summer and into the fall up until the ground freezes or there is a significant snowfall.  New transplants (i.e., conifers planted within three years) require approximately two inches of water per week.  During periods with insufficient rain, apply water at the drip lines of trees (i.e., the edges of where the branches extend) using a drip or soaker hose.

When planting trees, be sure to allow ample space for roots to grow, avoid compacting the soil around trees, and make sure there is adequate soil drainage.  Mulch trees to at least their drip lines with a high-quality mulch (e.g., shredded oak bark mulch, red cedar mulch).  Use one to two inches on heavier (e.g., clay) soils.  Use three to four inches on lighter (e.g., sandy) soils.  Keep mulch approximately four inches from tree trunks.  DO NOT fertilize new transplants, and fertilize established conifers only when a soil fertility test indicates that fertilization is needed.  DO NOT overfertilize, particularly with nitrogen.

Finally, you may want to apply fungicides to help prevent infections.  Apply fungicides only after you have pruned out diseased branches as described above.  Fungicides prevent infections but do not cure existing infections.  Alternate use of fungicides containing thiophanate-methyl and chlorothalonil that are labeled for use on conifers.  Start applications at bud break and continue at 14 day intervals until full shoot elongation.  DO NOT use thiophanate-methyl alone.  Overuse of thiophanate-methyl can potentially select for variants of Diplodia that will no longer be controlled by this active ingredient.  Be sure to read and follow all label instructions of the fungicides that you select to ensure that you use the products in the safest and most effective manner possible.

For more information on Diplodia shoot blight and canker:  Contact your county Extension agent.