Wherever there are trees, there are bound to be insects. When you’re out in the summertime or walking through the woods, it is evident that bugs are present, but there are some trees that insects love even more than they like bothering you!
While trees in general attract variety of bugs and insects, these are the 6 most common types of trees insects adore:
- Cottonwood Trees
- Pine Trees (Conifers)
- Mulberry Trees
- Pear Trees
- Apple Trees
- Rotting Trees
Insects are attracted to these trees because they either have sweet sap, fruit, or shelter.
If you have any of these trees in your yard, there is a good chance you’ve seen quite a few insects roaming around as well. Let’s dive into more on why insects love being around these trees so much!
Most Common Insects To Find In Trees
There are quite a few insects that love to hang around trees because of the natural structure, safety and sheltering aspects they provide. Not to mention, they are also great sources of food or water and moisture for a lot of insects.
Specifically, moths, beetles, caterpillars, borers, and aphids are usually the most common types of bugs you will see in trees because they are burrowing insects at some point in their life cycle. The most common types of insects on trees specifically are the clearing and flathead boring beetles.
You can also take a look at our list on the most common animals and insects that live in trees if you’d like to learn more about the actual creatures, rather than the specific trees themselves!
Issues That Insects Cause To Trees
Wood-boring insects are usually pretty destructive and can cause quite a bit of harm if you aren’t aware of their presence, and sometimes it is hard to notice because these insects like to live under the bark. Usually, they weasel their way under the bark when a limb falls or the tree takes some sort of injury, this creates an open door under the bark’s surface.
When insects get underneath the tree’s bark like this, they can cause damage in a couple of different ways. First off, they will burrow even deeper into the conductive tissue under the bark which is responsible for transferring both water and sap throughout the tree.
After this, the tree’s tissue will essentially turn into decomposing matter. Because the tissue is underneath the bark, it creates a wound inside the tree that is now in the tree’s main nervous system. It is very hard to spot and it cannot be healed, once a tree starts to decompose you cannot reverse what has been done, you can only stop it from spreading further.
Because of this, insects can cause things like girdling, structural weakness and branch dieback in trees. This can also cause deformities in trees as they grow around wounds and try to repair themselves, almost like scars.
Insects Love Cottonwood Trees
Cottonwood trees are one of the most common types of trees that insects are attracted to. Cottonwood trees are very old trees and they’ve been around for a long, long time. According to Lake Forest College, they are actually the oldest hardwood trees.
Cottonwood trees produce a sweet-smelling resin-like sap, which makes bugs flock to them just because of the sweet scent they produce. Cottonwoods also have trembling leaves. Trembling leaves are ideal for bugs because they can easily stay on the leaves to munch, but it makes it difficult for predators to see and catch them when they’re moving around.
The bark on a cottonwood tree is incredibly thick, so it provides great shelter to bugs that want to burrow their way under and make a home. These cottonwood trees are also very susceptible to limbs falling, so it’s very easy for bugs to find access to the sweet-smelling home that lays under the bark’s hard exterior.
We will discuss later how insects love trees that are rotting, but cottonwoods are susceptible to rotting so they have another vote from insects on the best place to live. Cottonwoods are susceptible to rot because they need so much water, and if they don’t get enough the portion of the tree that doesn’t get enough water will start to rot away.
The most common insects to find on cottonwood trees are:
- Wood leopard moths
- Leaf feeders
- Cottonwood borers
- Poplar tentmakers
- Carpenter worms
- Clearwing borer
- Redhumped caterpillars
- Twig borers
- Fall webworms
- Leaf Curl Mites
If you need to defend against these insects, Monterey LG 6299 Horticultural Oil Concentrate is great to help keep them away because it can be used when the tree or plant is in the dormant season or when it’s growing. It’s easy to use, just mix with water and apply to trees!
Pine Trees (Conifers) Attract Bugs And Insects
Pine trees (or conifers) are another great place for bugs to invade. They have a sticky sweet sap that bugs are attracted to, and they have thick bunches of pine needles that make protecting themselves from predators a breeze.
Pine trees are usually a pretty wet wood, so it’s a great source of moisture and water for insects. Mosquitoes actually love them in the summer because of the moisture they provide under their thick foliage.
They are softwood, making burrowing a dream. They are also trees that are incredibly hardy and grow in the winter months, so they are a great choice when insects are looking for a place to get out of the elements.
According to the Oregon Department of Forestry, pine trees go through abiotic damage, this is damage caused by the environment. Any limb damage from the elements or things of that nature is considered abiotic damage. Because they are softwood trees that leaves them open to having not only exposed opening in their bark but they are also susceptible to rot.
When this happens, you can start to see markings on the trees from the damage the bugs have made from making their homes after they found a susceptible pine tree. You might see things like brown frass, pitch pearls, and streaming pitch on the bark of the tree if this has happened.
A lot of bugs are attracted to pine trees, like pine beetles, wood borers, defoliators, and sapsuckers. The most prominent type of bug that likes to be around pine trees according to the United States Department of Agriculture is the pine beetle. A fitting name, right?
These beetles like to make their way under the bark of a pine tree and then lay their eggs, feed off of the softwood of the tree, and essentially make themselves right at home. They can destroy a tree in a matter of a few short weeks and then they will turn around and move to a different tree and start all over again.
You can notice if a pine beetle is invading your pine tree if you see it start to turn red and then turn brown, if this happens you will want to look at ways to reduce your pine beetle numbers because they will continue to decimate pine tree populations.
You can remove trees that have been affected and trees that are injured or rotting. Pine beetles can be dangerous, and they are a big cause for concern. They wreak havoc on multiple pine trees, which then will become dry and can result in forest fires.
Pine beetles can damage tens of thousands of trees if not taken care of and they have caused mass destruction in pine tree numbers since the beginning of the 2000s.
You can check out more about pine trees in our article 5 Reasons Why Your Pine Tree Isn’t Growing (& How To Fix)!
Insects Thrive Off Pear And Apple Trees
If I were a bug, I think these are the trees I would probably pick to make into my home. Pear trees and apple trees are a hot spot for bugs to live because, well you probably guessed it, the fruit they provide.
All fruit trees are attractive to bugs, but because pear and apple trees usually have fruit that stays on the tree a little longer to mature, they continue to attract insects.
It is said that a lot of people who plant fruit trees regret it once they find out how many bugs (and even animals) might come into their yard looking for a snack.
Insects burrow into the bark and the fruit rather than just eat it and walk off. Insects are a bit harder to detect than deer or other animals when it comes to fruit trees, but they do leave some tell-tale signs that they’ve been around.
Insects can leave scabs on the tree or the fruit once they’ve infested it. They can also cause rot or mildew, which you can see on the bark and from the outside of the tree.
Most tree affilictions like fire blight are more common if insects are involved. This also includes cankers, flyspecks, blotch, freckles, and wilt. All of these things are common signs of insects hanging around your fruit trees.
Common types of insects you might see around pear and apple trees are weevils, mites, fruit flies, moths, aphids, slugs, and beetles.
Mighty Mint 32oz Plant Protection Peppermint Spray is a natural alternative to insecticides that many people use on fruit trees to help keep away insects! It does a great job of handling the pests without being a chemical insecticide.
Insects Love Mulberry Trees & Their Fruit
There are red and white mulberry trees with fruits that are pink, white, and purple. They are really attractive trees and their fruit is very fragrant, so you know what that means-insects are close by.
These trees are pretty susceptible to root rot because they are so used to dry soil and dry conditions if they get too much water they cannot handle it. Their roots then begin to grow mildew and rot and again-you know what that means (cue the insects).
When these trees get too wet, they also can get bacterial infections causing more rot throughout the tree. If they get too wet they are ideal living situations for insects and they meet all of the requirements to be move-in ready.
Whiteflies and mulberry flies are big pests to the mulberry tree and they can cause quite a bit of damage. They can eat the fruit as well as the inner workings of the tree, just like all of the trees we have talked about so far, the mulberry tree is no exception.
Neem oil is a commonly used oil for fruit trees, a lot of people like to take a more natural route for insecticides on fruit trees especially if they intend to eat the fruit. Bonide BND022- Ready to Use Neem Oil has a great ready-to-use formula that you can spray right on the tree to help protect it and keep it good for the long run.
Rotting Trees Provide Shelter For Insects
Finally, we come to rotting trees. It doesn’t matter what type of tree it is, if it is rotting it is susceptible to bugs. Insects will find their way into rotting trees and feed off of them, but once they have done all the damage they can do they will move on.
Sooner or later, when they have gotten to all of the rotting trees they will move on to flourishing trees. When this happens, we see mass amounts of devastation in our forests and large numbers of issues within our trees.
If you have a rotting tree, we suggest that you call a professional arborist to assist you in cutting it down and to get rid of the tree to help avoid insects from inhabiting it. Not only will it save you time, but it will also save you in the long run money because you won’t have to cut down mass amounts of trees since you got rid of the one that was creating problems.
Also, if bugs are attracted to already rotting trees, they tend to wear them down even more, which then starts to weaken the structure, making those trees dangerous to be near due to a fall hazard.
We wouldn’t say if a tree has some rot that you definitely need to get rid of it. Like we said earlier, a tree might have rot that forms a callus around it and can still be in good shape. However, if you a mostly rotten tree, then it is an issue.
If you have a tree with some rot that you are not wanting to get rid of, you can try bug repellents on it to help keep the bugs away. Organic Laboratories 100-021 Lab QT Organocide is a great option to get rid of the insects you want, and not the ones you don’t.
That’s A Wrap!
Trees everywhere have been bothered by bugs since the beginning of time, and while there isn’t a whole lot we can do about it there are steps we can take to help keep our trees happy and lively while they provide a home for bugs and insects alike.
If you have any of these trees in your yard, try out one of the insecticides listed and see how it goes for you, just make sure to carefully read the label before trying it out and if you want to don’t hesitate to call a licensed professional for help!
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Kiritani, K. “The impact of global warming and land‐use change on the pest status of rice and fruit bugs (Heteroptera) in Japan.” Global Change Biology 13.8 (2007): 1586-1595.
Ohira, Y. “Outbreak of the stink bugs attacking fruit trees in 2001.” Plant Prot. 57 (2003): 164-168.
Wermelinger, B. E. A. T., Denise Wyniger, and B. E. A. T. Forster. “First records of an invasive bug in Europe: Halyomorpha halys Stal (Heteroptera: Pentatomidae), a new pest on woody ornamentals and fruit trees?.” Mitteilungen-Schweizerische Entomologische Gesellschaft 81.1/2 (2008): 1.
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