Plant Health Care (PHC) professionals are our industry’s doctors. It’s their job to examine plants, diagnose any insect or disease problems and treat the plant in the most environmentally friendly way. This is a pretty tall order, and I thank them for taking on this task.
Like doctors who treat humans, PHC professionals have to diagnose accurately and treat safely. It would be an easy job if there were only a few pests but that’s not the case. There are hundreds of pests that could be causing your plants to decline. Most insects are adventitious creatures. This means they like to attack plants that have already been weakened by disease, environmental factors or by human activity, such as planting the wrong plant in the wrong place. Our PHC professional has to diagnose and take care of the cause of decline, while also controlling the insect.
How many insects are there? Below, I’ve listed just some of the insects our PHC professionals are working to control in the Rochester, NY area.
• Emerald ash borer is still at the top of the list. This native of Asia has killed millions of ash trees east of the Mississippi (including in our area), and is now working its way west. If you have ash trees in your yard, you should have us treat with a preventive. This pest is not adventitious. It will attack any ash tree, regardless of whether it’s healthy or stressed.
• Gypsy moth, one the scourges of the whole northeast, including Rochester and Monroe County, is pretty well under control here. Over the past 30 years, entomologists have discovered natural enemies, as well as chemical controls and even adhesive tree bands. However, the gypsy moth does make an occasional appearance in our area, usually when a reckless camper brings firewood home from an infested area or the gypsy moth hitches a ride on a vehicle coming to Rochester.
• Hemlock wooley adelgid (Pictured) is attacking some of the many hemlocks in our area. They are easily identified by their cotton ball appearing egg masses. They are harder to control than to see, though.
• There are a lot of less dangerous pests that we continue to search out and control. They include aphids, mites, scale, tent caterpillas, fall webworms, bagworms and Japanese beetles. The Japanese beetle attacks trees, shrubs AND lawns.
• Our eyes are constantly on the look out for species-specific pests like boxelder bug, bronze birch borer, birch leaf miner and Cooley spruce gall aphid.
• We also keep an eye out for new insects that are decimating trees in other parts of the state. The Asian longhorned beetle is active downstate and the spotted lanternfly was found in nearby Yates County.
As you can see PHC professionals have to know the biology of all these insects, as well as those not mentioned here, and how to best control them. When an insect’s signs begin to appear to the lay person, the pest may already have such a foothold that it can’t be controlled. That’s why a PHC program is such inexpensive insurance for your valuable landscape plants.
When Phytophthora ramorum arrived here, it took a few years to identify it. We knew that the ambrosia beetles were killing the trees, but were unaware that Phytophthora ramorum was the primary pathogen that was attracting the ambrosia beetles. By the time the primary pathogen was identified the disease had migrated down into Monterey County.