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The Tree Bugs That are Thinning Out Your Canopy: Defoliators

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Updated: June 2, 2021

Is your tree canopy looking a bit sparse? The culprit may be defoliators, tree bugs that love to eat the leaves and needles of trees. Some like to feast in the early season (early spring to summer), while others will satisfy their appetites in the late season (late summer to fall). By the end of this post, you'll know the difference between the two and your treatment options.

Preserve your tree canopy by treating for tree bugs like defoliators


Early Season Defoliators

If you notice defoliators on your tree in the early season, take action. It's these pests that typically cause the most damage.

Photosynthesis, the way trees make their food, happens in the leaves. Usually, a tree will grow leaves using stored up carbohydrates, and then those new leaves will create more food to replenish the reserves.

Enter: defoliators. When these tree bugs eat leaves right at the beginning of the season, they can wreak havoc. 

Each year, carbohydrate reserves are replenished with the growth of new leaves. When adult or larval tree bugs attack the canopy, the tree then has to make a new set of leaves, depleting its reserves.

In high infestations, defoliators can eat away at most or all of the foliage on your trees, stunting their growth and decreasing their vitality. The damage could even lead to tree death.

Late Season Defoliators

You don't have to worry as much about late season defoliators. Your trees have already created and stored enough energy to grow new leaves in the spring, so caterpillars munching on a few leaves won't harm anything.

By the way, most trees can handle minor or infrequent defoliation.

So why would you schedule plant health care (PHC) treatments in the fall? Maybe...

  • These tree bugs are leaving waste on your driveway or in your pool
  • Hole-ridden leaves are ruining your yard's aesthetic
  • You want to keep the tree bug population low on your property

Any of those reasons are valid for scheduling PHC treatments.

Your Treatment Options

Early season defoliators could lead to big problems, but there's hope! If early season defoliation is caught soon enough, a systemic soil- or root-injection or basal bark spray treatment could help. On the other hand, a foliar spray treatment could be just what your trees need.

We'd be happy to take a look at your trees and let you know the best course of action.

Schedule a consultation with our certified arborists today!

Request a Consultation

Interested in learning about other summer tree pests you should be on the lookout for? Check out our Summer Tree and Pest Manual for all the info you'll need.


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