Environment & Conservation
When Should You Prune That Oak Tree?
Some of the lower limbs on my Red Oak trees prevented me from perfectly viewing the birds at my bird feeder this past summer. Although my first impulse was to trim those branches so I could better see my fine feathered friends, I remembered what a naturalist for Oakland County Parks and Recreation told me during a Trailblazer Walk at Springfield Oaks this past summer. He said NEVER prune Red Oaks in the summer. This will help prevent the spread of oak wilt.
Oak wilt is a lethal disease caused by the fungus Bretziella Fagacearum (formerly called Ceratocystis Fagacearum). This fungus invades and quickly disables the vascular (water conducting) system in Red Oaks and White Oaks. For Red Oaks (Northern Red Oak, Northern Pin Oak, Scarlet Oak, and Black Oak), oak wilt is so deadly that it can kill a tree within three weeks of being infected! White Oaks (White Oak, Swamp White Oak, Bur Oak, and Chinquapin Oak) are also affected by oak wilt, but have a much better chance of recovering from the disease.
The origin of oak wilt is not known, but this invasive fungal disease was first seen in Wisconsin in 1944. Since then, the disease has spread to oak trees throughout the midwest and also into many counties of Texas. See USDA Forest Services 2016 U.S. Counties with Oak Wilt map below.
Here in Michigan, oak wilt has been gaining significant momentum in recent years. See Michigan DNR 2016 Michigan Oak Wilt Map below.
So how does a Red Oak tree get oak wilt? Initially, oak wilt obtains entry into the tree via either root grafts or through wounds. Wounds come from tree trimming or damaged limbs during storms. Within weeks of the infection, the tree loses leaves and dies. The following year, “pressure pads” with spore (fungal) mats grow, rupture the bark, and emerge. The spore mats exhibit a fruity odor which attracts sap beetles (see photo below). During feeding, the sap beetles pick up spores and mycelium (fungal body stands) on their bodies. If a nearby oak tree has a fresh wound, the sap beetle is lured to that tree for more nourishment. It is during this feeding that the diseased spores on its body are transferred to the healthy tree, thereby infecting it.
According to David L. Roberts, Ph. D., Michigan State University, “it is estimated that approximately 90% of oak wilt transmission is via the underground root graft mode. However, all new geographical locations of oak wilt outbreaks are due to the overland spread of the fungus to wounds by insects”. Interestingly, fresh tree wounds are only attractive to sap beetles for 5-7 days after the wound occurs. If an oak tree is wounded when sap beetles are active, immediate application of a sealant is recommended. And lastly, it is also important to know that the spread of oak wilt can also be caused by transporting diseased logs and firewood from one place to another.
So, back to my original question. When should you prune your oak trees? Well the time is now. The safest time to prune oaks is from November 1st to March 14th. See Michigan Oak Wilt Coalition Oak Wilt Risk Meter chart below. It is during this time that the tree is dormant and there are no active sap beetles. And yes I know it is cold out there, but your trees will thank you in the spring when they come back to life healthy and well!
Written by: Greg Petrosky
Date: January, 2021
What To Do With Your Naturally Grown
Christmas Tree After The Holidays
Naturally grown Christmas trees are selling briskly this year due to COVID-19. According to the Michigan Christmas Tree Association (MCTA), 65% of Michigan tree farms surveyed have seen sales increases of at least 25% this year. MCTA Executive Director Amy Start stated “COVID has definitely played a role in the rise in demand. You can’t really do a lot these days, so
people are looking for that outdoor experience and things you can do with their families. The farms are being careful and
using protocols to keep people safe. People just have more time for the real tree experience.”
The National Christmas Tree Association says U.S. tree farms grow close to 350 million Christmas trees on 350,000 acres.
These farms on average sell 25-30 million Christmas trees every year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture 2017 Census shows Michigan cut 1.7 million Christmas trees in 2017 ranking it third in the country behind Oregon (4.7 million) and North Carolina (4.0 million). Michigan grows and sells more than nine major species on the wholesale level which is more than any other state. Varieties include Scotch Pine, White Pine, Blue Spruce, Black Hill Spruce, Balsam Fir, Concolor Fir, Douglas Fir, and Fraser Fir.
Now, once the holidays are over, many people wonder what they should do with their natural grown Christmas tree.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has a wonderful suggestion. They recommend putting the tree in your backyard.
Dan Kraus, NCC’s senior conservation biologist states “Leaving it in your backyard over the winter can provide many benefits
for backyard wildlife. Your tree can provide important habitat for bird populations during the winter months, especially on cold nights and during storms.”
Dan says, “Prop it up near another tree, against a fence, or lay it in your garden. You can even get the family involved by redecorating it with pine cones filled with peanut butter, strings of peanuts, and suet for birds to enjoy.” These decorations will provide food for birds while they find shelter in the tree.
In the spring, you can cut the tree branches off and lay them where spring flowers are starting to grow in your garden. The tree branches will shelter your flowers, hold moisture, and help build the soil. The tree trunk can be placed on the soil, but not on top of any flowers. The trunk will attract insects, including pollinators such as carpenter bees that will burrow into the wood.
In the fall, the branches and trunk will begin to decompose into soil. If your tree is a spruce or balsam fir, they have a very low rot resistance and break down quickly when exposed to the elements. The more contact the cut branches and trunk have with the ground, the quicker they will decompose. Drilling holes in the tree trunk will also expedite the decomposition process. What a great way to recycle your tree!
Written by: Greg Petrosky
Date: December, 2020
Spotted Lanternfly Invasive Species Alert
The Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is an invasive species that was first discovered in 2014 in Pennsylvania. It has since been found in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia. This plant hopper is a native insect of China, Bangladesh, and Vietnam. See images below.
To date, no established populations have been found in Michigan. However, dead spotted lanternfly adults were found in two areas of southern Michigan this fall! In one instance, a citizen found the dead insects hitchhiking on material that had been shipped to Michigan, photographed them, and sent their photos to Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) for identification. The concern with this invasive pest is the damage they do by feeding on as many as (70) different tree species (i.e. American Basswood, American Beech, Bigtooth Aspen, Black Cherry, Black-gum, Dogwoods, Maples, Oaks, Paper Birch, Pignut Hickory, Pines, Sassafras, Slippery Elm, Tulip-tree, White Ash, Willows, etc.), numerous fruit trees (i.e. Apple, Apricot, Cherry, Peach, Plum, etc.), grape vines, and hops vines. When they feed, spotted lanternflies pierce the bark of the host plant and suck the sap from stems and trunks. These wounds can allow pathogens into the plant thereby infecting it. In addition to tree damage, spotted lanternflies excrete a sugary substance know as "honeydew” that encourages the growth of black sooty mold. The mold can kill plants and foul surfaces. The honeydew also attracts hornets, wasps, and ants to the site.
To identify this pest, see pictures A-E and life cycle image below.
Spotted lanternflies live for only one year and must lays eggs for future generations to survive. Once the eggs hatch, the spotted lanternfly will be black with bright white spots on them for the first three instar stages of their life (Picture B above). During the fourth instar stage, the spotted lanternfly is vibrant red with distinct patches of black and equally distinct white spots (Picture C above). The adult is approximately 1” long. The forewing is grey with black spots and the wing tips have reticulated black blocks outlined in grey. The hind wings have contrasting patches of red and black with a white band. The legs and head are black. The abdomen is yellow with broad black bands (Pictures D & E above). Adult female spotted lanternflies lay eggs in masses in late fall on trees, under bark, posts, lawn furniture, cars, trailers, outdoor grills, and many
other surfaces. Each female lays 30-50 eggs! See images below.
So what do you do if you suspect you have seen a spotted lanternfly or egg patch? Kill it by smashing it. Spotted lanternflies are not harmful to humans in that they will not sting or bite you. If you can, take pictures and then contact one of the following and report what you have found:
Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development:
Email or call the MDARD Customer Service Center at 800-292-3939.
MSU Plant and Pest Diagnostics: Email or call 517-432-0988.
Use the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network’s (MISIN) online reporting tool or download the MISIN smartphone app and report from your phone:
Written by: Greg Petrosky
Date: December, 2020
Ways You Can Help Birds
Top 10 Ways You Can Help Birds
1. Protect birds from glass collisions
2. Say “No” to pesticides
3. Donate to a reliable bird conservation group
4. Be a responsible cat owner, keep your pet inside.
5. Take action for birds - become a conservation advocate. Promote Chimney Swift, and Purple Martin conservation.
6. Create a native bird habitat
7. Reduce, reuse, recycle
8. Buy bird-friendly coffee
9. Turn out lights; Safe Passage Great Lakes
10. Plant bird friendly plants
Resources for this list: www.abcbirds.org (American Bird Conservancy)
This article is on Recycling in Michigan, and was inspired by a spot on “Live in the “D”” about battery recycling in Michigan.
I am sure if you are like me you are always looking for new ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle. I will start with batteries; remember when you could take your batteries to Radio Shack and recycle them? After their bankruptcy, a search of my
i-phone shows that there are only two stores left in Michigan, some Michigan residents may have a long drive to use that service. A call to Lowe’s and a few other recyclers turned up empty. With these results, we are going to have to be a little more creative in our recycling efforts.
The recycling solution that was covered on the morning TV show turned out to be a pay to recycle solution, with “kits” ranging in price from $50 - $300 depending on the amount of batteries recycled. This is probably not a viable solution for most individuals trying to be good environmentalists.
I tried searching for why battery recycling wasn’t much of an option anymore. I found an article titled, Recycling that typical household battery is not as easy as you think (www.michiganradio.org). Basically most recyclers; since mercury was removed from lithium batteries in 1990 feel that it is not profitable enough to recycle most batteries, and recommend throwing them in the trash. It all comes down to money.
We are not going to succumb to profit. Last year after collecting many containers of batteries (lithium, alkaline, button, etc.), I finally started calling everyone a search of the internet said recycled batteries near me. I decided on Discount Battery stores, because they were near me, and they took my batteries. I am sure there are places near you who will recycle your batteries,
you just have to be consistent.
Another piece of information from the show, is that Michigan only recycles 15% of its recyclables; lowest in the Great Lakes region, and among the lowest in the U.S.. EGLE (Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy) was started in 1995. They have an educational program called “Know it Before You Throw it”, www.michigan.gov/mienvironment, which utilizes RecyclingRacoons.org, to teach about proper way to use your community recycling. You might ask how does recycling save birds, recycling reduces the plastic that goes into our oceans which chokes and traps seabirds. The landfills poison, birds and take up space, destroying the habitat for land birds.
- Jerry Rogers
Classes held in January, February and March at the Detroit Zoo
The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) is inviting Southeast Michigan residents to hop to it and join the local chapter
of FrogWatch USA. The citizen science program teaches volunteers how to identify frogs and toads by their breeding
calls and to gather and record data that supports a national network. FrogWatch volunteers choose from locations
throughout the tri-county area and monitor the sites for several weeks. Their observations provide valuable insight
into whether amphibians in the region are declining or increasing or if new species are being found in areas where
they have not been identified before.
FrogWatch training classes for 2020 will be offered free of charge
at the Detroit Zoo’s Ford Education Center on the following dates:
* Wednesday, January 29 – 5-9 p.m.
* Sunday, February 2 – 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
* Saturday, February 8 – 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
* Tuesday, February 25 – 5-9 p.m.
* Thursday, March 5 – 5-9 p.m.
* Saturday, March 14 – noon-4 p.m.
For more information or to register for FrogWatch, contact DZS Associate Curator of Amphibians Rebecca Johnson
by clicking HERE. I plan to join one of these classes to expand my Citizen Science training.
- Jerry Rogers
Cell phones contain a mineral called coltan, mostly mined in Central Africa; which is home to the
endangered eastern gorilla. Modern electronics have created the term conflict minerals (known
as 3TGs (from their initials). These are cassiterite (for tin), wolframite (for tungsten, coltan (for
tantalum), and gold ore, which are extracted from the eastern Congo, the profits from which
have been used to finance conflict in the area. You may remember the movie about conflict diamonds.
This all effects the endangered species of the area. Recycling of electronics, and other efforts,
can help reduce the dangers of mining conflict minerals in this area.
Inspired by a short article in the Detroit Zoo magazine Habitat; Summer 2019
- Jerry Rogers
MICHIGAN CONSERVATION STEWARDS PROGRAM
Looking for an opportunity to learn about Michigan’s ecosystems from experts and volunteers involved in conservation efforts in your community? Interested in gaining the knowledge and skills needed to lead and assist in local initiatives? Consider enrolling in the Michigan Conservation Stewards Program (CSP).
CSP is designed for those interested in learning science-based ecosystem (aquatic and terrestrial) management principles and sharing this knowledge with others to help restore and sustain healthy natural areas throughout Michigan. MSU Extension works with local conservation partners to design and deliver a series of evening and Saturday lectures and field sessions, combined with online instruction.
Professional level instruction is provided by MSU Extension, Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and a variety of local conservation partners. Sessions are offered in a variety of locations which highlight local natural areas on-the-ground conservation.
This fall, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension local conservation partners are offering three programs:
Washtenaw County- September 4 – November 13, 2019 (evening classes held on Wednesdays)
Capital Area- September 10 – November 5, 2019 (evening classes held on Tuesdays)
Northern Michigan- September 10 – October 22, 2019 (evening classes held on Tuesdays)
Registration fee is $250. Scholarships are available. Deadline to register is August 20, 2019.
Visit the CSP website for complete program and registration
Oakland Audubon Society is informally partnering with North Oakland
Headwaters Land Conservancy (NOHLC); and Clinton River Watershed Council (CRWC).
Their websites has many great ecological, educational, and volunteer activities coming up.
One example is the NOHLC has a Native Plant Sale June 1.
There will be an announcement when there are opportunities for OAS Members to participate in these events.
I wanted to let you know about the newest Michigan water contaminant, as far as I know.
I was birding at Kensington Metro Park (Group Camp), looking for my first Philadelphia Vireo,
and took a picture of this sign; it is about PFA’s found in fish.
This worries me because I use well water in western Oakland County,
and am in the watershed of the Huron River.
Basically PFA’s are a chemical toxin (similar to mercury), in that they bio-accumulate in the bodies of animals as they consume the fish. Humans, Ospreys, & Eagles consume fish, and the more consumed the more toxins accumulate in their bodies; as we have already seen with mercury. This is a real problem.
The sign does not even say cut back on fish consumption; it says “DO NOT EAT THE FISH”!
We should take this new event seriously;
Link to the EPA Website on PFA’s https://www.epa.gov/pfas/basic-information-pfas
Chimney Swift Survey
Members; Michigan Audubon is looking for people to survey Chimney Swifts.
Please look at the link below, to see if you are interested.
- Jerry Rogers