Clearwing Borers

Departments - Under the Microscope

The larvae of these insects bore into the wood of trees and shrubs, leading to decline and death.

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March 7, 2019


Wood-boring insects are among the most destructive pests of ornamental trees and shrubs. Most borers are the larvae (immature stages) of certain moths and beetles. They tunnel and feed under the bark in living wood, destroying water- and sap-conducting tissues. This causes girdling, branch dieback, structural weakness, and decline and eventual death of susceptible plants. Infestation sites also provide entry points for plant pathogens.

Clearwing and flatheaded borers are the main types that attack woody ornamentals. The groups differ somewhat in their habits and host preferences, which can affect the approach for controlling them with insecticides. The keys to controlling these pests are to keep plants healthy and, if necessary, to treat during those times of the year when the insects are vulnerable to insecticides.

While some are attracted to a range of hosts, most attack only certain kinds of trees and shrubs. The most damaging clearwing borers are associated with dogwood, lilac, ash, oak, rhododendron, and ornamental Prunus species, including flowering peach, plums, and cherries. It is important to know when the adults of each species are active and which plants are vulnerable in order for treatment to be effective.

Source: University of Kentucky Entomology department