Laurel and Avocado tree owners beware. A fungal disease has been progressively spreading from South Carolina to Florida and has now been detected on a grand scale as far south as Pinellas County. The fungus is spread by an insect commonly called the red bay ambrosia beetle. It attacks red bay laurels, pondspice, swamp bays, and, most concerning for Florida’s agriculture industry, avocado trees. As the beetle travels from tree to tree, it carries with it a fungus termed laurel wilt, which it feeds on. Laurel wilt fungus grows within the tree blocking the flow of water causing rapid decline and unavoidable death. Sadly, once a tree has the fungus there is no cure.
The red bay ambrosia beetle and laurel wilt fungus are host specific, meaning that they will not travel to other species of trees. Signs that a tree is infected with laurel wilt include small bore holes within the bark. It is unlikely to see the beetle itself, as it is smaller than a grain of rice. In warm conditions, you may expect to see small tubes of compact sawdust coming from the bark (about the size of a toothpick.) The leaves of the tree will begin to wilt, turn red in color, and eventually die. Infected trees should be quickly removed to lessen the spread of the disease. The tree should then be burned or shredded.
Although the disease is not treatable, it is preventable. According to the Tampa Bay Times newspaper, “Officials recommend that you contact a certified arborist if you have concerns about your trees in your yard.” The article continues to read, “An arborist could take preventative measures to try to ward off the beetle. This involves injecting the tree with a bright blue fungicide called Alamo before the tree is infected.” Although these steps will have to be repeated every couple of years, they are the only known measure to save trees from laurel wilt.
If you are interested in treating your trees to prevent the spread of laurel wilt, please contact us. If you believe you have an affected tree, please contact us for inspection, removal, and proper disposal.