What's eating my tree leaves?

Asked July 16, 2018, 9:34 PM EDT

5 trees in my yard have been decimated by whatever is doing this. All within the last two weeks. I have never seen any insects on the trees. I just come out to find the treet totally mutilated. I've also seen large trails of ants marching up this tree. I took care of the ant problem, but clearly the ants didn't do this. I suspect the ants were going after aphid honeydew, but my googling doesn't lead to this being aphid damage. Please help. What is doing this and what do I need to do to slaughter them?

Frederick County Maryland

5 Responses

The tree looks like a cherry tree and the damage has already been done. Looks like it has some insect as well as a fungal issue.

The damage looks like there was feeding by Japanese beetles and/or oriental beetles. Controlling adult Japanese beetles is difficult when populations are high. They feed on at least 275 different plant species and will fly in from neighboring areas if you have plants that are especially attractive such as plants in the rose family. The least toxic control is going out in the morning or early evening and knocking or sweeping the adult beetles from foliage into a jar of soapy water.

If you want to use a herbicide next season, check with local garden centers for a registered insecticide containing an insecticidal soap/pyrethrin blend. Some plants can tolerate moderate defoliation.

The foliage also looks like it was subject to cherry shot hole, a fungal disease. This can be common when we have wet spring weather and may continue to infect leaves throughout the growing season if rainy weather persists. You will also see some defoliation. In most cases trees recover from these diseases and no treatment is necessary. Remove and dispose of fallen leaves in the fall to reduce overwintering pathogens.

At this point, rake any fallen leaves. Keep the tree watered and make sure mulch is no thicker than several inches and away from the base of the trunk. The good news is that there is plenty of foliage and the tree will recover.


Thank you! The other damage was indeed done to several other cherry trees and a large rose bush. Thank you for the information. I have not witnessed the beetles at work so I will just keep an eye out for them since there doesn't seem to be a way to reliably prevent them. I'm hoping my regular use of Talstar-P from now on across the lawn and gardens will help keep them at bay a little bit too.

This is a broad spectrum insecticide that controls many pest insects as well as beneficial insects. We do not recommend this.

All of our recommendations are based on IPM (integrated pest management), which always seeks the least toxic alternative for garden solutions. You need to become familiar with your plants, their growth habit and
necessary conditions for good growth. You will have to monitor your plants and look for potential problems. Identify the pest, learn the life cycle, and the best time to take action. It is possible that beneficial insects may control the pest naturally.

If your plants and lawn are growing well and the pest problems are under control, then you do not need to spray. It may be helpful to view our publication "IPM - A Common Sense Approach to Managing Your Landscape."

Please send us photos as soon as you notice symptoms on your plants, so we can see what you may be dealing with.


The Talstar I only intend to use as needed, primarily for ants and ticks. I happened to notice the beetle damage while I was out spraying. In the past, at my old house, targeted non-replant bait year round, and 1 annual broadcast application of Talstar completely eliminated the ant situation, sometimes lasting for 2 years. I definitely only use what is needed, when it is needed. Not the kind of thing I just spray across an acre of yard monthly for fun :). If you have an alternative suggestion for nuking ants and ticks out of my yard, I am certainly all ears!

I wish I knew about this resource before. I will definitely be utilizing this to hit the problems properly from now on. Thanks!