Have you ever been caught off-guard by caterpillars? I don’t mean that a gang of caterpillars jumped from behind a tree and scared the pants off you. I mean one week trees look fine and the next they are defoliated. Rapid growth and feeding make caterpillars important and challenging pests of trees in nurseries and landscapes. There are dozens of caterpillar pests of woody trees and shrubs, but in this article I cover the two most common pests of oaks and maples, which are two of the most common trees.
Both species are in the family Saturniidae. This family contains many of the world’s largest and most beautiful moths characterized by rings or eyespots on their wings that resemble Saturn. Orangestriped oakworms (Anisota senatoria) are common throughout the eastern U.S. and west to the Great Plains. They typically have one generation per year. Adults are 1-2 inches long and orange to pink with a stark white spot on each forewing. Female moths lay clusters of yellow eggs on the bottom of oak leaves in mid to late summer. Eggs hatch in a week or two then tiny young caterpillars feed in groups beneath leaves.
This is the sneaky part about caterpillars. They start small and are hard to notice, just skeletonizing leaves. However, they grow quickly and increase their body weight and feeding by hundreds of times. Orangestriped oakworm larvae become black with increasingly noticeable orange stripes. Larvae grow more than 2 inches long and consume entire leaves, leaving only the toughest midveins. They also become less gregarious and spread throughout a tree or groups of trees in search of new leaves.
Orangestriped oakworms, as you would expect, feed primarily on oaks. Red oaks, scarlet oaks, pin oaks, and willow oaks are preferred over white oaks, chestnut oaks and others for feeding and oviposition. Maples and other trees can be damaged by orangestripedoakworms, particularly if they are near a heavy infestation on oaks.
Greenstriped mapleworm, Dryocampa rubicunda, has many similarities to orangestripedoakworm. It is also found throughout the Eastern United States. Adults are called rosey maple moths. They are bright pink and yellow and about an inch long. They lay eggs in early summer and tiny yellow caterpillars feed gregariously like their orangestriped cousins. These grow into 2-inch green caterpillars with black horns. In just 30 days they are full grown and ready to pupate. However, unlike orangestripedoakworms, a second generation of moths will emerge from these pupae in a couple weeks to lay eggs again. Greenstriped mapleworm can have two to three generations per year in warm regions.
Caterpillars damage trees by eating leaves. Hundreds of caterpillar species feed on oaks and maples but only a couple are pests that cause noticeable damage. Even feeding by pests, like oakworms and mapleworms, may be limited to a single branch that could go without notice. However, sometimes and in some places, outbreaks occur in which many trees are defoliated. Sometimes because caterpillar outbreaks do not occur every year. Some places because certain nursery and landscape situations are more prone to damage than others.
It is hard to predict the years when caterpillar outbreaks will occur. The places where outbreaks occur are easier to predict. Most pests become more abundant and damaging when lots of their host plants are grown together under unnatural conditions. Thus, caterpillar damage can be worse in nurseries where many oak or maple trees are grown in tight quarters. Severe defoliation also occurs on urban trees where whole neighborhoods can be lined with one species of oak or maple growing in hot dry conditions.
These nurseries and urban street plantings make it easy for female moths (and other pests) to find their preferred host tree to lay eggs. Once the eggs hatch in these situations it is easy for caterpillars to move from tree to tree eating leaves. Presumably, if you are reading this you manage trees in nurseries or landscapes and may have to deal with orangestripedoakworms or greenstripedmapleworms. So, what do you do?
Scouting and control
Luckily, considerable research was conducted at Virginia Tech to develop integrated pest management tactics for orangestripedoakworm. The first thing you can do is look for moths and eggs in midsummer. In central North Carolina, moths turn up at porch lights and start laying eggs in late July. Inspect trees to find the masses of yellow eggs. I know this seems like finding a needle in a haystack, but each egg mass has up to 700 eggs, so it is worth finding them. Focus on the trees most likely to be infested, which means trees in groups or stressful conditions and trees that were infested the previous year. They often hit the same locations year after year because they pupate in soil near the trees where they feed.
Eggs are laid on the undersides of leaves so looking up from below you can scan for the yellow masses. Trees are pretty tough and can tolerate around 25 percent defoliation, especially late in the season, without reducing vigor. Citizen complaints also increase above 25 percent defoliation, so this has been established as a reasonable aesthetic injury level for orangestripedoakworm. Twenty-five percent damage can occur with as little as one egg mass on trees up to 18 feet or nine on larger trees around 40 feet.
Unfortunately, similar work has not been conducted to determine aesthetic injury levels and egg mass thresholds for greenstripedmapleworm or many other pests. Use orangestripedoakworm guidelines, but be sure to look for eggs earlier in the season and watch for multiple generations.
Small patches of defoliation are easier to see than egg masses. Each group of caterpillars came from one egg mass, so you can gauge how many egg masses were present and the potential for damage. But don’t get caught off guard. Defoliation happens fast, so a few nibbled leaves could become severe defoliation in a week or two.
In many cases caterpillar infestations are small and do not cause much damage. Even trees that are entirely defoliated will leaf out again and be fine unless it happens every year. In nurseries, mid-summer damage may not be a problem if trees won’t be sold and planted until fall. If an early infestation is confined to a branch or two a little pruning might be all you need. For high-value trees and those with yearly infestations, a variety of insecticides are available that can be applied to the foliage or even injected into the trunk. The most important thing is to monitor trees to catch problems early, so you are not caught off guard when a tree goes bare.
Steve Frank is Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department Entomology and Plant Pathology at North Carolina State University. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on nursery and landscape IPM visit http://ecoipm.org.
Food for the forgotten
Departments - View Point
Dallas’ Bonton Farms invests in soil and souls in a poverty-stricken food desert.
Bonton is a South Dallas community where 85 percent of men have been to prison, poverty is rampant and jobs are scarce. Bonton is also a food desert, where access to healthy foods is non-existent. Daron Babcock, along with several other faithful helpers, are steering this neighborhood in a completely different direction.
Bonton Farms was Dallas’ first urban farm. Daron started the farm on 1.25 acres amidst a neighborhood riddled with crime. In 2016, a local Dallas family donated 20 acres of land located about 10 miles from the original farm. The family was so inspired by the mission of the farm, they purchased another 20-acre plot adjacent to the original one.
The Bonton Farms mission statement: An agricultural intervention to restore lives, create jobs and ignite hope in the most forgotten and neglected neighborhoods for the most marginalized and vulnerable people.
In the Bonton neighborhood, 63 percent of residents lack personal transportation and the nearest grocery store is a 3-hour round-trip city bus ride away. Instead of making that long trip, the residents go to one of the three beer and wine stores where they have over-priced, outdated, processed foods. Daron explains how the impact on the residents’ health is devastating. Bonton’s cardio-vascular disease rate is 54 percent higher than that of the city of Dallas. Diabetes is 45 percent higher; stroke 61 percent higher; and cancer 58 percent higher. As Daron reveals, this affects the health of the community in Bonton, and impacts people and their ability to work and be productive.
“We believe that our little neighborhood should change from within, driven by our own people using our own hands. So, we launched Bonton Farms,” he says.
Bonton Farms grows myriad of fresh food, taking great care to adhere to organic standards. The farm diverts organic waste from many channels to create compost that replenishes the soil. Besides vegetables and fruits, the farm is also home to free-range chickens, goats, turkeys, rabbits and beehives.
Danny George, who grew up in the Bonton neighborhood, manages the farm. He told D Magazine that he remembers when people from the Rhoads Terrace housing project would take potshots across the street into the police station and shoot at the officers’ wives when they’d come by with lunch.
“Growing up in Bonton was like growing up in Afghanistan or Pakistan,” he told the magazine. “People were shot and killed daily. My mother would cover me with her body when the shooting would start.”
Danny left the neighborhood and worked as a machinist in Garland for 10 years before Daron convinced him to move back and manage the farm. He makes less money now, but told D Magazine “he’s doing God’s work.”
The crape myrtle bark scale (Acanthococcus lagerstroemiae) is a recently introduced pest from Asia that initially infested crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia spp.) in Texas during 2004. Since then, it has spread rapidly through the movement of plant material. The pest is currently in 12 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington. It is one of the only scales known to infest crape myrtles.
Achieve the ultimate customer experience
Departments - Tip Jar
7 high-impact, low-cost ways to drive employee engagement and get your clients to love you.
We all seem to get it by now — more engaged employees perform at a higher level. The organizations that get their strategy right in this area provide a superior customer experience, have lower levels of employee churn, higher morale, and ultimately much higher financial performance. Their customers love them more! What can you easily implement that will give you a big lift in your levels of employee engagement with the lowest investment?
First, hire right. Making the right hire is well over half of the battle in your employee engagement levels. Hire people who believe what you believe and have the attitude you want. Get that right, and the following 7 ideas can help them thrive.
Embrace and adopt a strengths-focused culture
People excel in their areas of talent and strengths. You can find many assessments to help you in this area. But the key is focusing on people’s strengths first. Identify them, and then figure out how you can stretch them in those areas. Once it takes hold, it impacts decision-making, structuring project teams and the particular talents are required for a specific project. It does not mean you ignore their weaknesses, but your people become more engaged when doing what they naturally do best.
Volunteerism and company support from top-down
It’s important to help the communities in which you serve. You cannot underestimate the impact of allowing your people to volunteer (yes, even on company time). It is beyond giving back, it is team building, networking and uniting around a common problem to overcome obstacles. With regard to engagement levels, this is one of the highest-rated items on many Employee Engagement surveys, and it is a multiplier in terms of return on happier and more satisfied employees.
Make friends at work
Some of you may be skeptical, but according to the 2017 Gallup Study of the American Workplace, having a best friend at work has a high correlation with engagement and higher productivity. But how can your organizations help support this? Embrace deeper mentoring programs and relationships. This should be aligned in initial onboarding so the mentor can assist and facilitate introductions, networking and group activities. The more in and out of work activities that you can schedule aids in bonding, networking, and ultimately friendships.
Establish “fun” committees
Whatever you call or brand your internal efforts to schedule fun stuff, give it to the people who are passionate, and let them run. Never underestimate the impact of happy hours, food trucks, bowling and other fun activities to help your people get to know each other better on a personal level and perform better in teams.
Really celebrate successes and wins
When someone does something awesome, find ways to recognize and reward the behavior you want. It is amazing how many employees still only get feedback primarily when they have done something wrong. So many leaders simply expect great performance, and then think they are providing fantastic coaching and leadership when they rip apart someone’s performance that screwed up. That management style is already going the way of the dinosaur if you are really looking to attract and retain the top employees of tomorrow.
Extend trust to get trust
Play a game of “What Rule or Outdated Process Can We Kill?” Once a quarter, include in any regular scheduled meetings, “Keep it, or Kill” it as an exercise. Employees get to nominate rules or processes they believe do not add value. Leadership still has veto authority, but the goal should be able to kill at least one (and you can’t add one to replace it). There are so many areas you can see this have impact. Often times, entire rules and procedures are put in place to avoid a few exceptions. Again, if you trusted them enough to hire them…
Extend trust to get trust (pt. 2)
Your people are on social media. While there are some specific instances of needed prohibition of access to some sites and/or personal devices, the best companies are moving towards the understanding that people are increasingly not separating their work and personal lives. Embrace this! Regarding social media specifically, encourage and help your people to be brand ambassadors on all platforms, not just the ones you think are for business.
These tips can help you immediately in your employee engagement efforts at a relatively low cost. The key differentiator for organizations moving forward will be in how they become an employer of choice. Those who are able to bring their best effort and energy to work each day are the ones who become truly engaged and deliver the ultimate customer experience and help you build the loyalty you deserve.
Curt Redden is a speaker, talent-development expert, and co-author of Going PRIMAL. www.primalsuccess.com
The dangers of deer
Departments - How To
Nursery owners try many methods to stop hungry deer from munching their crops.
One of the most destructive nursery pests isn’t a beetle or mite. It’s much larger and though often overlooked, capable of a tremendous amount of damage. We’re talking, of course, about deer.
Dave Tankard, Jr. and Van Tankard, are the current owners and operators of David’s Nursery. The Exmore, Va., operation is located on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, and grows acres and acres of boxwood, hosta and other shrubs. Van handles all the spraying, and has a constant battle with scale insects, but the nursery’s biggest pest is deer.
“It used to be they were an annoyance, they’d eat a few plants on the edge of a crop,” Dave says. “But they’ve been getting worse and worse.”
The nursery has a natural shade area where it grows its hostas, a shrub well-known to be a deer delicacy. The Tankard brothers protected the area, but it wasn’t enough.
“We had a little electric fence and it used to be enough to keep them out, but lately they’ve been going right through that,” Dave says.
To continue the fight against the marauding deer, David’s Nursery installed a deer fence. So far, the results have been good. There are two gates, so vehicles can still use the road going in and out of the shaded growing area. Dave plans to fence off more of the nursery as needed and as they get time.
Many nurseries allow hunting on the premises from time to time. A few employees thinning the deer population can work wonders, assuming all permits are in order. But that isn’t an option for every nursery.
Willow Springs Tree Farm is a wholesale landscape material nursery in Radford, Va. It grows conifers, hardwoods, and shrubs. The nursery is surrounded by a considerable amount of farmland and woodland. It is also located 1/3 of a mile from a 1,000+ acre military installation where hunting is prohibited.
“It goes without saying that the deer population is out of control,” says Skip Kuchenbuch, Willow Springs’ farm manager. He says deer browsing on yews (Taxus), burning bush (Euonymus), dogwood, and Fraser fir is the biggest problem the nursery has experienced.
Skip and his crew tried everything from damage hunting permits to five other types of spray deterrents but found nothing that works as well as Plantskydd.
Plantskydd is an all-natural deer repellent that lasts up to 3-4 months during the growing season, and up to six months over winter. It repels by scent; yet it has a non-offensive odor to people. The active ingredient is dried blood meal, recognized by the EPA as environmentally safe. It is OMRI-listed as an organic solution. Plantskydd was developed for commercial forest planting in Sweden, but is now produced in the U.S.
With the use of Plantskydd, Skip says Willow Springs has basically eliminated the problem. When used on hardwoods, he notes that it also seems to aid in reducing horning by bucks during rutting season.
“Because of Plantskydd’s effectiveness and ingredients, I have used it on my own farm in seed beds, orchards, and gardens with excellent results,” he says. “It lasts longer and is not offensive like other products.”