September 5, 2018

Elm Leaf Beetle

What happened to our elm trees this summer?

You may have noticed that beginning about a month ago elm trees throughout Athens began to suddenly turn brown. We’ve received quite a lot of calls lately from homeowners and property managers who are concerned that their elm trees may have died.

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The good news is that the affected elms are not dead (please don’t cut them down!). This year we’ve seen a significant increase in an insect pest called Elm Leaf Beetle. Both the larvae and adult stages of this insect feed on elm leaves. The larval stage in particular causes a distinct type of damage to the leaves called skeletonization in which the pests feed on the leaves but not the veins of the leaf, leaving behind a brown ‘skeleton’ of the dead leaf. When this damage occurs to a large portion of the tree canopy (more than 25%) it causes stress to the tree. When the damage reoccurs for multiple years it can lead to decline and possibly death of the tree.

Elm Leaf Beetle snuck up on us this year and it’s a bit too late to treat for the pests for this season. For affected trees, we’re employing a soil care program to help improve tree health and we’ll plan to treat preventatively next spring to help reduce the damage from beetles next year.