Keep your eye on your trees

Checking the trees in your yard for signs of insect damage could help prevent Michigan’s next invasive forest pest.

Now is the perfect time to take a few minutes to evaluate the health of the trees in your yard or neighborhood. When deciduous trees have all of their leaves, it is easier to spot signs of stress or insect infestation by looking for areas of leaves that are yellow or brown. These areas should then be carefully inspected (using binoculars if necessary) to help determine the cause and initiate treatment if necessary.

There are several things to look for if the tree is exhibiting yellow or brown foliage. First, check the trunk of the tree to be sure there are no new wounds to the tree that could disrupt the flow of water or nutrients in the trunk. Next, check in the crooks of the branches for sawdust and for small holes in the trunks or branches around the yellowing foliage. You can also check for unusual occurrences of sap flowing in hardwood trees or pitch buildup in conifer, or evergreen trees.

Checking a tree using these methods can take as little as five minutes and can be instrumental in catching an infestation or problem with the tree before it becomes severe or even fatal to the tree. In fact, the Michigan Eyes on the Forest program has developed a protocol for checking trees, the results of which can then be entered into a database for use by Michigan State University Extension scientists and researchers as an early warning system for the detection of three target pests as well as others occurring around the state.

Sentinel Tree Monitoring

You can become actively involved with the proactive detection effort by taking part in Sentinel Tree Monitoring. The Sentinel Tree Network is made up of trained volunteers who agree to adopt an individual tree, then periodically monitor and report on the condition of the tree over time. The more pairs of “eyes” out checking the trees, the more likely it is that new pests or other problems will be detected early before substantial damage occurs. Reporting for the Sentinel Tree Monitoring Program is online through the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network, or MISIN, which is an invasive species identification and mapping website developed by Michigan State University’s Department of Entomology. The full protocol for checking trees can be found by going to the MISIN site, clicking the drop-down menu for “Citizen Science” and choosing “Eyes on the Forest”.

Eyes on the Forest

The “Michigan Eyes on the Forest Program” aims to increase public awareness of three invasive species that could be potentially harmful to Michigan forests, should they become established. The three target pests include the Asian longhorn beetle, hemlock wooly adelgid and thousand cankers of black walnut. The goal of the program is early detection and rapid response, with the objective that these and other invasive pests will be detected and reported to regulating agencies soon after arriving in an area. Eliciting a rapid response to confirm a new arrival will help regulating agencies quickly work to eliminate any new invasive pests before landscape damage to the forest resource can occur.

Target Pests

Of the three target pests, the Asian longhorn beetle (ALB) would likely cause the most widespread damage in Michigan because of the abundance of one its target species, maple trees. The ALB is a boring insect and affects trees much like the emerald ash borer did. Things to look for are dying branches in maple and other hardwood trees coupled with pencil sized exit holes and the occurrence of woody shavings on or near the affected trees. While it prefers maples, ALB has the potential to also infest poplar, willow and a variety of other hardwood species. There is a native pine sawyer that resembles the ALB; however, the pine sawyer only affects pine trees and ALB only hardwoods.

The Michigan Eyes on the Forest program is funded by the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program and delivered in partnership by the Michigan State University Department of Entomology and Michigan State University Extension. For more information about the Michigan Eyes on the Forest Program, the target pests and the Sentinel Tree Monitoring contact Julie Crick, MSU Extension Natural Resources Educator at 989-275-5043.