Maple tree being chewed up

Asked June 5, 2018, 2:56 PM EDT

5 years ago, we had a large limb sawed off our tree. Yesterday, while mowing, I noticed some (what looked like) shavings right under the sawed off part. The shavings were about an inch long or slightly longer. Some of what was on the ground looked like sawdust but the sawdust was WAY thicker than sawdust. I went into the neighbors yard to get a different view and was surprised to see at least 4 feet of bark had been ripped away, right beneath the sawed part and there are holes in the tree where there's no bark. The sawed off part (approx. 10-12 feet up) faces the sky so I can't tell what's going on there. Also, it looks like something is eating my leaves. If you need better photos, I can climb up on a ladder. Do I call a tree guy or a pest guy?

Wayne County Michigan

1 Response


Consulting a certified arborist is the best way to determine what all the issues are and what can be done other than just good tree care. Certified arborists are not just a tree service, they have attended school for all woody plants and their diseases, pests, and treatments. He/she will go over the whole tree and give you a health plan, may recommend some pruning, advise on cleaning up any torn bark in the correct way, and diagnosing the cause of the sawdust like material. You can find arborists by zip code here—-

From what I can see in your pictures, the leaves have signs of anthracnose- the black irregular area. This disease was rampant this spring due to our cool wet weather. Leaves are now mature and won’t be susceptible to it now- no treatment is needed. The picture showing an old wound from the limb removal shows some signs of rot, and looks like the limb was taken off too close to the tree, which prevents the tree from healing over the wound(I may be wrong on this-again, another thing an arborist should check). Nothing can be done for this now, except giving the tree good care. The torn bark isn’t healing over yet, and the arborist may be able to do a procedure that can help the wound close more efficiently.

The sawdust and chips you describe can have several different insects causes. Carpenter ants can nest inside a tree, but usually do not require treatment- Borer insects can also cause this, and there are many- leopard moth larvae, carpenterworm, and ambrosia beetle larvae are a few examples. The holes you saw on the bare part of the trunk leads me to think some type of borer insect.

The most important thing the arborist does is determines if the tree is safe. Once rot is in a tree it is systemic, and eventually— usually taking many years—- the tree is unstable and needs to come down.

What you can do— Good tree care means having dead branches safely removed, 2-3 inches deep of wood chip or shredded bark mulch around the root zone, out several feet, on a large tree( but not piled against the trunk), and most importantly, deep slow watering during droughts, including up to when the ground freezes in November. Trees need to go into winter with moist soil at least 12 inches down so roots are well hydrated. This can be a long process since the larger the tree the more water is needed; using a long soaker hose wrapped around the root zone about 4feet out from the trunk, then 8 feet out, would be one way.

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