tree paint vs tree wraps and borers

bellegrovegardenerMarch 18, 2014

I started a small orchard in 2012. We have apple, pear, peach, nectarine, and plum trees.We live about 30 miles from Columbia, SC, in zone 8. Our summers are long, hot and very humid. We have had a very erratic winter this year: hot - cold -hot -cold. I would say the rainfall has been about average. I have read that it is a good idea to paint your trees with white latex or wrap them to prevent sunscald, in winter and sunburn in summer. About 2 weeks ago I noticed that the bark on one of the pears had split open/had a gash in the bark on the morning sun-facing side of the tree. The split is about 3-4 feet above the ground, about 4 inches long, and pretty deep (1/4 in deep). The orchard is completely enclosed by 8 foot fencing and no heavy equipment caused this. I am baffled as to the cause. The tree is now leafing out and seems otherwise fine at this stage but I am sure I need to seal this wound before the bugs and heat/humidity start. Someone suggested plumber's putty. Thoughts on this idea? Also, if trees can breathe through their bark, wouldn't painting them clog the pores? Would wrapping encourage mold or mildew by keeping wet wrapping right up on the bark? Almost all the stone fruit trees got borers last year. I have tried to kill them with moth cakes hanging inside a plastic tent put around each affected tree. I don't know yet if it worked, but putting some kind a wrap around the tree would hopefully keep the borers out in 2014. But I don't want to cause more damage. Any thoughts from wise experienced growers will be GREATLY appreciated!

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The wound is best left open so as to not interfere with the walling off mechanism the tree "heals" itself. I too am curious as to the cause of a split on the east side of a tree in winter.

Wrapping the tree may prevent borers and should not effect the healing process. Might trap humidity and promote fungus at some point depending upon your conditions. So I would remove such wrap at some point.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 7:31PM
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I'm in Columbia and grow the same fruits. I would not wrap the tree nor paint it. That won't discourage borers.
I would apply a tree sealant to the open area on your pear. It was probably caused by the ice storms we had.
Moth cakes will not kill nor discourage borers. You need to spray with Triazicide just after the bloom period and keep a vigilant eye for borer entry points and frass. When you see evidence, you have to dig them out of the tree. You can use a thin screw driver or wire coat hanger. At that stage, spraying will not kill them. .

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 1:19PM
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There is a spirited debate about covering wounds here. My personal belief based on various sources is to let it heal on its own without any sealant.

In UT, because peach tree borers are regularly a problem, spraying for them is the only routine spraying I apply to my preach trees. Sounds like preventative spraying is in order there too.

In zone 8 I can't imagine needing to paint to prevent winter sun scald (freeze/thaw damage). I never have done so here in 6b. And in summer, the sun is overhead when most intense and the tree has shading foliage. No need for it then.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 5:00PM
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Well... as far as borer protection goes - I apply weekly to every two weeks a 2% application of neem oil (pure, not that distillate crap) when my borer traps indicate they are activate - their active laying period changes every year and as far as I can tell traps are really the only accurate way to monitor. This is only sprayed on the trunk/scaffolds and not on leaf tissue (leaf burn, leaf burn)and to the point of saturation - as in the run off is slightly pooling at the soil-line. If I find damage from one I dig it out with a sanitized spade bit from a drill. Depending on how invasive my surgery was and when in the season I operated - I may or may not apply a biodynamic plant paste.

As for painting - I coat my trunks with white latex paint in late fall because sun-scalded bark is a lot easier for borers to get into. Having strong healthy bark in the first place helps in preventing them from getting in in the first place.

As far as sealing or painting goes I'd say it is unnecessary unless the wound/s are still open late in the season - at that point any damaged areas I cover them with what is known as bio-dynamic plant paste.

It's equal parts compost, fresh-manure, kaolin clay, enough water to thin out, an ounce or two of neem oil and fish hydrolysate - it has the consistency of thick pancake batter - I slather it on and into the damaged bits (if they haven't healed by the time the season is coming to an end).

One year after some serious rabbit damage over winter - I covered most of the trunks and half the upper scaffolds with it. It helped quite a bit. I have serious problems here with perennial winter injury on my peaches and using this really fixed up the open wounds I had to prune or do surgery on in the prior spring - healing seemed to be faster on operated on wounds than on uncovered operated on wounds

The paste worked well in assisting healing and added in competing out bacterial issues. With how little borer damage on those trees that were painted... I'd say it certainly was unappealing to them and/or laying eggs in the paste proved to be inhospitable, but my trunks are also regularly saturated with neem during their active season.

I also should point out it is nowhere near as permanent as tree sealant - in about a season regular spraying/rain will wash it off. I think of it more as being like a permeable modern-age band-aid with the tree equivalent of triple-antibiotic in it. haha.

Another thing to consider is adding predatory nematodes to your soil but you've got to wait till the soil is the right temp and make sure you get the right strain of nematode for the type of borer you're having problems with.

Things to consider. Good luck!

Jordan - Organic/Holistic Orchardist

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 5:29PM
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jjstatz. What is a borer trap? Thanks, Mrs. G

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 6:57PM
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Basically a sticky card with the appropriate pheromone lure applied to it to attract the target insect - thus making it so you can monitor the amounts within your orchard, see if treatments are effective, etc

For example to control apple magot fly - I use red solo cups hung from every third tree that are coated with a mixture of vaseline and ammonium acetate crystals - they find it irresistible, get stuck to it, and die.

If you use a few it's more for monitoring purposes, to make sure sprays are working... When you start applying more it becomes a partial control method (they get stuck, they die)

Lesser borer lure


Here's some good information about using Millenium Nematode for borer control -;file=custom%2Fupload%2FFile-1385102477.pdf

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 12:51PM
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fish what??, what kind of manure, and where do you find that clay (and those other ingredients I've never heard of)?

I just posted in another thread about a couple of wounds in a new willow tree we just got today... your band aid sounds perfect. Thanks -

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 3:28PM
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I'm glad to see this thread re-emerge.

My reading about the flathead apple borer strongly suggests that it targets wounds in the bark for entry, starting with the graft scar on young trees. My Stella cherry, which will have to come out now, was apparently susceptible because I had cut it back the year before.

Other suggested controls are:

Painting the trunk

Wrapping the trunk

Spraying oil on the trunk

Spraying insecticide

Soil drench, such as imidacloprid

I'd be interested in seeing opinions on the likely efficacy of all/some of these methods.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 3:50PM
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The original poster's problem with the pear tree sounds to me like it was caused by southwest injury - a condition of sap flowing during the day and freezing the tree at night. The freezing sap splits the trunk. I would continue painting the trunks of your trees with a 50/50 mix of water and interior white latex paint before the onset of winter. Also use synthetic pyrethroids like permethrin or lambda-cyhalothrin according to label directions as a trunk spray during the months in your area that the borers are active. You will need to spray more than once because it does not last. Monthly is probably sufficient.

Don't slather anything into the injured area of the tree, especially not agents of rot like compost and manure! Just clean the rotted wood out of the area with a clean knife and let the tree heal itself.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 3:50PM
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alan haigh

If you are interested in using paint to control borers you are on a path illuminated by some affirmative research.

Here is a link that might be useful: Controlling borers with paint

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 7:53PM
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But be careful applying paint at full strength. The 50/50 interior latex paint and water mix can be sprayed on the tree with a backpack sprayer and is intended to reflect sunlight for prevention of southwest injury in winter. Full strength paint probably can only be brushed on, and may cause bark splitting on trees of any age, but particularly trees less than two years old that are rapidly growing. I am not sure that latex paint can be considered organic but the alternatives aren't much more effective and have considerable negatives.

Here is a link that might be useful: University of Tennessee - tree painting bulletin

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 9:25PM
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Then it's also possible to use both tree wraps or paint and an insecticide treatment.

We have the emerald ash borer here now [which is also a flathead borer but apparently it doesn't attack fruit trees, nor does the bronze birch borer, also active here] and the soil drench treatment definitely seems to be working.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 10:48PM
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alan haigh

I find the U. of Ten article very suspect- it is the creation of a single plant pathologist and it is difficult to know his/her sources of information about the potential of damage by using undiluted paint. University sources of information for home growers are generally not nearly as reliable as those provided for commercial growers- and even they often need to be taken with a grain of salt (as most any commercial grower will tell you).

First of all, I believe the problem with exterior paint is only if there are fungicides in the mixture to stop mildew and mold, which would presumably be on the label. I don't know why warnings about its use usually don't come with an explanation.

Also, if paint is used at half and not full strength it is not affective against borers, according to the Cornell study. Presumably they would have cautioned against its use on young trees if this was a generally accepted issue and an authentic danger.

According to an article I've provided a link for here, painting may also be a deterrent against rabbits. It also suggests painting at full strength- and by a commercial grower in Tennessee whose done so for years.

I have painted very young apricot trees with full strength paint without harm.

If someone can find a basis for this concern about full strength application based on research, I would be surprised and grateful. I love being proved wrong and it happens on a regular basis.

Here is a link that might be useful: painting fruit tree trunks.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 5:20AM
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The cornell study's time period did not allow for or report on the long term effects of the paint....only the effectiveness against borers during the growing season was noted.

My observation on my own trees is that undiluted paint has enough latex and binders in it that act as a constriction on the tree which results in fissures in the bark. Your results may vary.

The addition of the drywall compound like John Bunker of Fedco Trees suggests may help prevent this but I have never tried it.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 7:20AM
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I have personally seen borers penetrate tree sealer on peach trees, so I seriously doubt the efficacy of tree wrap or paint as borer protection.
The only time that I have used paint on a tree was at the suggestion of Tom Beckman, who is the fungal gummosis expert at the USDA Southeastern Fruit & Tree Nut Research Laboratory in Byron, Ga. According to his study and others cited by him, painting newly planted peach trees with full strength mildew resistant latex paint in the spring, followed by a second application to the trunk & scaffold limbs once visible cracks appear in the first coat. This is done for the first two seasons. This has proven to be effective in significantly reducing infection of fungal gummosis of the trunk & scaffold limbs during the first year or two after planting , when the bark is most suceptible to invasion through lenticels.
I painted the four new peach trees that I planted this year, as per his instruction. Although I'm still very early on in my personal experiment, the trees are the healthiest new peach trees I've ever had. That's not to say that painting the trees is the sole factor, but it has given the trees a one up preventing them from getting fungal gummosis.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 9:52AM
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alan haigh

Swampsnag, how do fissures indicate binding? What is the indication this is any way harmful? The Cornell study isn't something that they just did out of the blue- it is something that is done routinely to fruit trees and if it caused serious injury on young ones I think it would be widely known. There would have to be a reliable source of information on its actual damage in a commercial orchard somewhere on the internet.

Rayrose, it was flatheaded borers the paint is apparently affective for (the data is more convincing than a single observation to me) and just because borers went through sealant doesn't mean there isn't something in latex paint that repels even peach tree borers. Anyway, no product exists that is absolutely affective so the observation wouldn't carry much weight in any case, right?

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 7:00PM
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Interior white latex paint is not labeled for horticultural use obviously. Each brand of paint contains a proprietary blend of chemicals, pigments, minerals, etc. designed to perform on the interior walls of a house. Perhaps it is the crystalline silica in the paint that the borers don't like to eat. And perhaps crystalline silica is not present in all interior latex paints. My point is that some paints will stretch with the growth of a tree, and some will not. The paints that do not stretch and that also adhere well to the bark will cause the bark to split. Also note that cornell did not list the brand of paint they used. Just read the ingredients on a few different brands of interior latex paint to see how different they can be.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 8:16PM
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alan haigh

Swamp, that seems like a logical point about all latex paints perhaps not being equal, but how is it useful? Where do you go with it? I take action over inaction and I think that fear of a paint damaging a young tree might make some folks reluctant to use a potential tool.

In order to get fruit I've tried many things that may not have been the best for the trees, but a healthy tree is hard to kill by accident and it is good to be willing to experiment, IMO. I've put tangle trap directly on the bark of trees to discourage squirrels from climbing them and I found out that young trees can be badly damaged by this stuff, so I began wrapping the trees with tree wrap (water resistant paper) and slopping the tangle trap over that. The damaged trees mostly recovered with perhaps a loss or two out of hundreds of trees that received this treatment at various sites.

Eventually I found out that birds are killed by the stuff and I stopped using it altogether- now I've developed a new system that is working well. The point is that I think it's worth it to take small risks to find out what works. If you are worried about the affect of latex paint on young trees, at least try it on one tree. It may change the look of the bark, but if the tree otherwise shows no symptoms and continues to grow well, no harm was done to the cambium. Borers eat cambium and girdle trees.

If one is concerned about the brand of paint they should contact Cornell via e-mail. I bet the effort would receive a rather prompt response.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 5:50AM
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Hman, the Byron study that I cited was not about borers, but fungal gummosis. My personal borer observation was on a single nectarine tree to which I had applied Spectricide tree sealer. The borers went right through it and I lost the tree. In my neck of the woods, growers rarely paint their trees anymore for any reason. They spray their peach trees for borers, usually in August, when borer activity is at its highest.
I can't personally attest as to the efficacy of painting trees in order to repel borers, but I know that using full strength latex paint will not harm young peach trees.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 8:51AM
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alan haigh

Rayrose, yeah, I use lorsban myself. One spray a year makes the borers disappear. Viva la organophosphates! I wouldn't rely on paint but for those going low toxic it's a viable option, I suppose.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 11:24AM
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I'm wondering about those rolls of crinkly brown paper wrap, compared to paint.

I can't get lorsban, but they sell the imadaclprid drench here, for the ash borers, which are related.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 12:54PM
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alan haigh

A lot of poisons kill peach borers, Lorsban is just the only one I know of that requires only an annual application. I'm still using a bag I bought about 20 years ago. Don't know what I will do when it runs out- by then it will be phased out entirely, even for commercial applicators.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 3:29PM
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Harvestman, Rayrose

I believe I am sold on using full strength interior latex paint for borer prevention.....I will give it a try. If I don't need to spray trunks anymore it may be worth the labor.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 3:56PM
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I'm wondering if exterior latex paint might be better.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 6:15PM
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I would use exterior also. Interior won't hold up to outdoor pressures.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 9:57AM
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I paint my trees always. I have never experienced any trouble whatsoever. It has long been practiced by many orchardists and is recommended by many. I began doing it a long time ago after watching a multi part YT video by UC Davis as a measure to prevent sunscald. They recommended latex flat white interior only. They never mentioned borer protection to my recollection, but I always wondered about it. I for the last few years have mixed in carbaryl, triazicide, and chlorothalonil with the thought that the encapsulated insecticide may offer some longer term protection from borers and other insects. It mixes just fine, in fact you can't even tell it's in there. I've never had a borer incident since I began doing this, but I also spray regularly in fact, probably excessively

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 10:00AM
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alan haigh

I use a latex based spreader sticker (Tactic) to provide extra rain fastness. It doesn't stop the pesticides from breaking down though. It would probably be illegal if it did.

When I first got in this business my main Cornell info source used to complain that they'd taken DDT off the market. So much easier to grow fruit profitably in NY with this one in the arsenal. Truly a "once and done" insecticide. Done spraying for the season, anyway. The DDT was never quite done making mischief.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 11:16AM
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Some of the mischief it made was pushing the American Eagle to the endangered species list from egg thinning. I wish too there were better insecticides, but DDT is something I can live without.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 12:05AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

I've painted trees w/ full strength latex and not noticed any problems. I have seen fissures in the paint, but I've not noticed any problems from it. I quit painting trees several years ago. We don't get cold or snowy enough winters to experience SW injury. I do get some sun scald on the tops of scaffolds if I open the trees up to much during the hot summer.

I've found vigor will heal anything but the most severe bark injury in my area. We had a terrible hail storm this spring which chewed up the bark badly. Most of the trees already have the wounds closed up.

Re:DDT I can live without it, but it really wasn't responsible for decimating the American Eagle. Eagle population was dangerously low before widespread use of DDT. Eagles and other large predatory birds were considered pests in the early 1900s. Farmers/ranchers would shoot them on sight. DDT did destroy their eggs, but people hunting them was their biggest blight.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 11:09AM
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It wasn't totally responsible olpea, but it played a big part and in that, nobody really argues. It is also linked to I think diabetes and for sure cancer in humans. It had bad effects on a lot of creatures.
Also there were other birds (not all birds of prey) whose numbers were not in decline before DDT that also suffered and also from egg thinning.
What made DDT so good was the same thing that made it so bad and that thing was it's persistence. In some cases up to 30 years in soil.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 2:19AM
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alan haigh

Olpea, I watched the rebound of pelicans in CA after DDT was taken off the market. Bald eagles have made a remarkable comeback as well and I don't see any other factors that have turned to their advantage.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 5:24AM
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I live in an area with flatheaded borers, and plenty of 'wild' host trees nearby in hedgerows and woods keeping the population of the pests constant. I've followed Fedco's recipe for borer repellant, and it has worked for me. Mix the cheapest interior flat white latex paint(no fungicides) with joint compound to a thick mud consistency, and slather/paint from base to first scaffold in early summer. Another nice thing about the paint is that it makes frass much easier to see, if there's already borer larvae in the wood- which hasn't been the case since I started painting. But the poster's original case does sound like SW winter injury to me, and painting helps with that too!

    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 6:15AM
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I might try this Jesse..thanks. I do think I'll continue with the addition of pesticides though, even if it's just for my own piece of mind. I cannot imagine how it could not improve results, even if the benefit is too small to warrant it.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 1:22AM
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Jesse - flathead borers have taken out two of my trees in two years. In your experience, is this normal? Is an infestation invariably fatal? What do you do to treat them if the borers get into the tree?

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 8:27AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

"Bald eagles have made a remarkable comeback as well and I don't see any other factors that have turned to their advantage."


I agree. DDT most surely kept bald eagles (and other raptors) from rebounding.

My point was that DDT wasn't responsible for decimating the American eagle, not that it didn't hamper their recovery. The American eagle population was already decimated before the introduction of DDT.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, "In 1940, noting that the species was âÂÂthreatened with extinction,â Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act, which prohibited killing, selling, or possessing the species."

As you know, DDT wasn't introduced as an insecticide until the early to mid 40s.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 9:33AM
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alan haigh

Olpea, I just wanted to make sure other readers understood that DDT was culpable. I knew you knew what I stated.

My Dad was the regional organizer for Audobon bird counts in my area. He actually took me on camping trips to try to spot Bald Eagles and CA. condors.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 10:28AM
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I wonder if London Purple and Paris Green had begun the damage to raptors etc before the introduction of DDT and DDT simply continued with the carnage. After all, both the older insecticides were basically arsnic. I would suspect a lot of secondary poisoning was going on back then. I have a hard time believing that shooting by ranchers etc could have decimated their numbers to such a degree. Although I guess it could have, just like wolves, coyotes etc.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 2:03PM
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alan haigh

Don't blame the rangers, it is the hunters that are most likely to hate the competition of other predators.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2014 at 3:05PM
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