What to do with Bradford Pear tree with insects and limb loss? #151298 - Ask Extension


What to do with Bradford Pear tree with insects and limb loss? #151298

Asked September 05, 2013, 7:02 PM EDT

Bradford pear, approximately 40 feet, large limb at split broke off, looks like boring in tree around, age of tree unknown. Found insects -see attached - crawling all over tree. Round small holes up and down tree and noted on large limb that split off. Black inside where split/limb broke. 3 other Bradford pears in yard seem to have the same holes in larger or smaller section of trees. St. Mary's County, low lying but not flood area, soft soil, assisted in softness by moles and voles. Drainage issues only during heavy rains, but soil drains pretty well overall. Recent insecticide of grub killer on grass . Full sun. Only purchased home less than a year ago. No notice previously of the boring holes or insects. Trunk and larger limbs on each tree seem to be affected, but don't have a ladder to look further. Obviously the issue is bad - as branches/large limbs where the tree trunk splits is breaking off. No constant wind, only during significant storms.

St. Mary's County Maryland

Expert Response

The insect in your photo is most likely a red-headed ash borer, Neoclytus acuminatus.  You may wish to confirm and learn more about this borer at the following site:
As you have observed, Bradford pears have very brittle wood and are prone to split and break in wind storms.  Although they are very beautiful in full bloom, they have become a seriously invasive and weedy tree.  We do not recommend them for landscape use and encourage homeowners who are having problems with them to remove them and replace them with more suitable species.
Your trees certainly fall into this category.  Not only do they pose a potential threat to property and persons, they will serve as a reservoir for boring insects. 
Reference the Bradford pear trees and borer insect.
Thank you for your response. 
Is there anything that I need to do to avoid these insect/infestation to another plant/tree if I replace these.

I anticipate I will at least be removing 2 of them.  Costs to take down may be more than I can afford at this time.  I want to avoid infestation, but want to have trees which grow at a bit of great rate - as my yard has only these 4 Bradfords and what looks like 2 smaller oaks in a corner and a holly in another corner.  I understand the importance of the trees, root system, drainage, and also providing some shade for the yard and the house.

Suggestions are welcome.  I would like to consider Redbuds, Acorn, wheeping cherry or willow. Red Maples are appealing as well. I just don't know enough about either.

And finally, is there anyone I need to report this infestation?  Cooperative Extension local office? 
The Question Asker Replied September 06, 2013, 10:10 AM EDT
Although these insects have a broad range of hosts, they typically attack dead wood (fire wood is a common host), or trees under stress.  Unfortunately, this includes young trees that are struggling to become established and may be under drought stress.  There is no truly effective control other than keeping your trees as healthy and stress-free as possible.
As for replacements, the redbuds are nice, but relatively short-lived.  Weeping cherry trees are an excellent choice as are crabapples.  You might also consider Styrax.  You should avoid willow and give careful consideration to maples.  Maples are very popular and traditional favorites, but they have very shallow roots that eventually break the surface and cause other frustrations.  Assuming you mean oak trees when you suggest Acorn, they are slow growing and require lots of room.  Nurseries rarely sell oak trees since the young tree has a deep taproot and they do not like being in containers.
There is no need to report the infestation.  We have a record of your report and your photographs.  If numerous incidences occur, we will notify the appropriate organizations. 

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