an oak tree with borer beetles

bagsmom(7)April 15, 2011

Hey everyone -

Someone on the Southern Gardening forum suggested I put my question on here.

I have a big oak that needs to come down. It is infested with borer beetles -- we think ambrosia beetles. They started in on the tree about 5 years ago. We had an arborist try to save it with pesticides and some "good" biological soil strengtheners in the soil. We tried, but the poor tree is a goner. It is rotten out at the base and is dangerous.

SO -- we know for sure the tree needs to come down.

My question for you is this: am I correct in thinking that we must remove the tree from the woods? ALthough it would be fun (and cheaper) to leave the wood in the forest for habitat and for my kids to walk on and climb over, I'm concerned that leaving the beetles there is a bad idea.

I know some borers only go for almost dead trees and might not bother healthy ones. We had so many years of drought here that many of our trees were weakened. We are also in a very old neighborhood with very old trees. I'm not sure if many of our big trees are healthy anymore. Lots of nice magnolia, redbud, and dogwood, but the big trees need loving care.

Any thoughts or advice for me? It seems like getting the tree down and OUT is probably the answer (but I would love to hear if it isn't necessary!)


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Dan Staley

Leave it. Standing dead are good for cavity nesters and perchers who need clear lines of sight. The forest soil will appreciate the carbon, and the opening created when it comes down will release plants to exploit the new light. The borers are already in the vicinity, having already completed several life cycles there, and your tree will not be a new source. The forest is already undergoing change with man-made climate change, N deposition, acid deposition, fragmentation, low-level ozone, and many other man-made disturbances. Let the forest have some processes. The borers are exploiting change and that is how nature works.

[/ecologist-naturalist hat]


    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 12:53PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i agree .. if it is completely safe.. no threat to anything... why pay money to make it go boom ...


    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 1:18PM
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Sorry to hear about your loss.

Dan is very experienced but I have to strongly disagree with him in this case.

When you have ambrosia beetles, you want to get rid of remnants of the tree and get them far away as possible from your other trees. Some people go as far as bagging the limbs or burning them.

You might also want to try some preventative spraying, especially on the younger trees you may have.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 2:54PM
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Thanks everyone! I may have made it sound as if we are in a huge forested area -- like actual wooded land. We are actually on a half-acre lot -- long and skinny. THe back 1/4 of it is wooded and really nice. We are in a very old neighborhood and many of our old trees are in jeopardy -- just from age and from the aforementioned drought years. My neighbor has 3 humongous oaks that are nearly dead from ambrosia beetles. His are next to the street, power lines, etc. He is just going to let them fall. I hate that -- but he doesn't have the money to cut them down.

Our tree won't hurt any buildings if it goes, but it would probably hurt some other trees that have a really nice start -- even worse -- our kids like to play back there.

I spoke to someone at our extension office today -- they said to get rid of the wood! I guess I'd better tell our tree guy to NOT give anyone the mulch from the chipped limbs.

Although.... I wonder how far up these beetles have gone? I know they are up past my head... but maybe not WAY up there. Maybe that wood would be OK.

THanks to all for all the input. It is great to be informed!

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 3:59PM
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Dan Staley

We are actually on a half-acre lot -- long and skinny. THe back 1/4 of it is wooded and really nice.

Totally different scenario. Get rid of it. And ensure the other trees nearby are healthy, as your neighbor is making a luxury hotel for pests.


    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 4:19PM
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Thank you!!!!! :)

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 4:59PM
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Its discouraging to hear they are attacking mature trees like that.

I've heard of them attacking smaller trees but I was under the impression once trees get above a foot in caliper and get some bark that they were pretty safe. I guess not.

And oaks too... how far did they go to determine what the pest was?

You definitely don't want to use the chips for mulch. In fact in recent years there is some people that are quite adamant about using free mulch for fear there are some pests in it. You do have to sort of be careful about where you get it from.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 6:52PM
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Dan Staley

You should have a certified arborist in there to take it down. When they come out for an estimate, you can verify if it is ambrosia beetle or something else that needs post-treatment to prevent spread. If not, you can leave it. If so, the arborist is there already and can give an estimate. And tell you if your other trees can withstand drought and pathogen attack. Not Billy Ray with a pickup and chainsaw, but ISA Certified.


    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 7:40PM
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