Oak trees #167574 - Ask Extension

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Oak trees #167574

Asked February 20, 2014, 8:35 PM EST

We are having to replace our roof. While we were at work yesterday the roofers cut three small branches of our 250 yr old live oak. We just saw the cuts. Is it too late to paint the wounds? Should we recut the sites, then paint. We have no idea what type of saw they used. We are pretty sure it was not a clean one. Thank you for your response. Kris Parker

Travis County Texas

Expert Response

Unfortunately, it is too late to paint the cut surfaces.  Pruning cuts should be painted within 10 minutes of being cut.  That's to stop the volatile compounds that are exuded from traveling through the air and attracting the beetle that vectors the oak wilt virus. 

BUT, two more important pieces of good news in your situation:
1. It's February and we've had a really cold winter.  So the likelihood that the beetle is active yet is pretty slim.  We list safe pruning dates for oaks as December/January, then again in the middle of the summer.  That's because these are times when the Nitulid beetles are dormant, and so are not athreat for transmitting oak wilt.  We still recommend painting pruning cuts on oaks at all times of year, but that is an extra cautious measure, on the outside chance that the weather has been warmer and the beetles active earlier than normal.

2. The fact that the pruning tools may not have been "clean" is not an issue for oak wilt.  This disease is not transmitted by unclean equipment.  It is only vectored by the Nitulid beetle.  Although unclean pruning equipment could potentially cause other issues, that's really rare.  And so, I wouldn't give it too much thought at the moment.

Okay, so the bottom line is: no matter what, not much to be done at this point.  BUT, the likelihood of any issues arising are very low.  Hope this helps put your mind at ease.  :-)
Daphne Richards Replied February 21, 2014, 9:57 AM EST

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