If you have beech trees on your property, then it's important that you're familiar with beech bark disease. This condition affects beech trees across the United States, and it has a complex nature because it is caused by a combination of fungal infection and insect infestation. Here's a closer look at what beech tree owners need to know about the disease.
What causes beech bark disease?
The disease is initiated when a species of insect known as the beech scale takes up residence in the tree. It deposits its eggs on the tree's bark, and by summer, these eggs hatch into wingless larvae. Some of these larvae work their way beneath the tree's bark, where they spend the winter feeding on its wood before emerging as adults in the spring.
The insects bring with them two species of fungi known as N. conninea and N. galligena. When the larvae bore into the bark, they take the spores of these fungi beneath the bark, too. The fungus replicates, eventually causing the major symptoms of the disease.
What are the signs of beech bark disease?
The primary symptom is the appearance of small, red fruiting bodies on the tree's trunk. You may also notice a white wax appearing on the bark of the tree. This substance is secreted by the beech scale larvae that are dwelling beneath the bark. As the disease progresses, eventually large cankers (sunken in sores) appear where both the fungi and insects have eaten away portions of the wood. When an individual branch becomes completely girdled by a canker, it will die and its leaves will fall to the ground.
How can beech bark disease be treated?
If the disease is caught before large cankers begin appearing, treating the tree with insecticides and fungicides can often revive it and help fight off the infection. However, when the disease is not treated until its later stages, the damage is typically so severe that the best option is to have it removed. Doing so will help prevent spreading the condition to other nearby beech trees.
If you have other non-infected beech trees on your property, having them sprayed with insecticides can protect them while you're in the process of having the infected tree removed.
Beech bark disease is relatively common in areas where beeches comprise a large portion of the forests. If you're thinking of planting beech trees, ask your cooperative extension how common beech bark disease is in your area. If it is very prevalent, you may wish to plant a different type of tree instead. For more information, contact companies like Gene's Tree Service.