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Oak Wilt killing oak trees along Michiana lakeshore

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 5:52 PM EDT
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BRIDGEMAN, Mich. (WNDU) - Oak trees are dying in Michiana from a disease called Oak Wilt.

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the most recent reports of sick trees in our neck of the woods are coming from the Bridgeman area.

That’s where 16 News Now tells us not only what Oak Wilt is, but also how we can keep it from spreading.

Oak Wilt is caused by a fungus that is lethal if it infects any red oaks, so prevention ends up being a big deal.

You’ll want to start being mindful of what time of year you do your tree maintenance if you live by oaks.

If your oak trees are acting like fall is right around the corner, it could be showing symptoms of Oak Wilt.

“Leaf drop is going to be your main symptom and it’s going to start from the top down. You may get variation within a single leaf of bright green, to dull green, to brown,” said Berrien County Conservation District manager Nancy Carpenter.

Fresh cuts or wounds on trees make them vulnerable to sap beetles carrying spores of the fungus that causes Oak Wilt.

We can keep the disease from moving to new locations by holding off on tree pruning and maintenance while these beetles are most active.

They’re most active from April 15th-July 15th, when you should never prune your trees.

They’re less active but still a risk from March 15th-April 14th and July 16th-Oct. 31st.

The ideal time to prune is when beetles are least active from Nov. 1st-March 14th.

“If you have to shape your tree or if you have to prune your tree, try to do it in the cold months. Do it over winter. Do it when it’s below 45 degrees and you don’t have that beetle movement,” Carpenter said.

A Bridgeman resident saw the devastation of Oak Wilt firsthand on his property.

Once the trees are dead, it can cost roughly $1000 per tree to get rid of them.

“Over the years we’ve had to take probably eight or ten of them down,” said Bridgeman resident Brad Anderson.

He says he does what he can to prevent Oak Wilt from spreading by injecting his oaks with a preventative treatment and painting over damaged spots that make them vulnerable.

“I’ve never done this before so it’s a new thing. I’ve ordered some chemicals and injectors so that’s basically what we’re going to do,” Anderson said.

Oak Wilt is basically untreatable without these prevention techniques.

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