June 16, 2014

Wichita elm trees show signs of new pest

A pest that puts holes in the leaves of elm and lacebark elm trees has moved into Wichita.

A pest that puts holes in the leaves of elm and lacebark elm trees has moved into Wichita.

The European elm flea weevil is an aesthetic nuisance rather than a threat to trees, extension agent Bob Neier said Monday. So treatment isn’t necessary for the health of a tree.

The weevil has been elsewhere in the Midwest and Colorado for several years, but this is the first time it’s been detected in Wichita. It was also found in Johnson and Lincoln counties when it was found in Wichita, Neier said.

“We’ve been seeing the samples for a while – people have been bringing samples off mainly Siberian elms,” Neier said. Some of the insects were caught in Wichita on Friday, when they were confirmed as the culprit of the holes in the leaves.

“It looks like it was shot by a shotgun,” Neier said of the leaf damage. When the bugs feed heavily, leaves also can turn brown. The weevils can appear on Chinese, American and hybrid elms as well as Siberian and lacebark elms.

“It will not kill a tree, but it looks bad,” Neier said. “What’s kind of discouraging is we’re finding it on lacebark elm, which we considered to be pretty much pest-free.”

The weevils feed in May and June, so damage can still show up this year on elms, Neier said. The bugs are tiny, about the size of a flea, and are brown with black spots, with a snout and long legs that are detectable under a magnifying glass, Neier said. They hop like fleas.

If a person is treating an elm tree for elm leaf beetle, the treatment will also work for the weevil, Neier said. If you see the weevils on an elm tree early on and don’t want the leaf damage, you can use imidacloprid, carbaryl or acephate to kill them, Neier said.

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