My desert willow is under attack!

scatterbrain-dAugust 3, 2011

Hello all,

I recently bought a house with a beautiful desert willow out front. Over the past few weeks, I've noticed that something is stripping the leaves off. They don't appear to be eaten - they are instead left at the base of the tree in a pile, and from the pile is a trail of more leaves that goes about five feet before petering off.

The leaves each seem to be cut off near the base in a clean, straight line. I've briefly examined the worst areas in the morning, early afternoon, and early evening, but haven't found any conspicuous insects or other animals. The trail of leaves just leads toward the center of the yard, and I can't find any holes or nests nearby.

Any idea what this could be and what I could do about it? Roughly a third of the tree has already been completely defoliated. This tree is the jewel of my front yard and I don't want to lose it!

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ogrose_tx

I really don't have the slightest idea of what could be going on, but are you in a high heat area? I'm losing leaves on plants here in TX due to the heat, but so far the desert willow is okay.

If you find out, please let us know!

    Bookmark   August 3, 2011 at 9:24PM
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marti8a

Could it be kids? I remember when I was a kid, grabbing a hanging limb of a regular willow and pulling down hard to strip the leaves. Bad marti.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2011 at 11:16PM
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carrie751(z7/8 TX)

Have you seen any ants moving???

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 7:24AM
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scatterbrain-d

I'm in Austin. We are definitely having a hot, dry summer, but the leaves are cut - usually a bit of the base is left on the branch - and the ones on the ground are still green, although they dry out pretty quick.

It also just seems too neat and methodical to be kids (the leaves appear cut rather than torn), and some of the stripped parts are too high for anyone to reach without breaking some branches.

I think ants sounds intriguing - but I haven't seen any. I think I'll go out there well after dark tonight and see if I can see anything.

Thanks for the suggestions! Keep em coming!

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 10:06AM
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marti8a

Have you called a local nursery to see if they know anything?

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 10:55AM
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rock_oak_deer(8b TX)

A picture would help to see if the tree is under stress and losing leaves somehow.

Are there deer in the area? A buck can easily reach eight feet or more into a tree and it definitely looks like someone took scissors to it after they wander off without actually eating the leaves. That's a lot of leaves though and deer usually sample and drop unless they really like something.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 11:51AM
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rioritarae

Leaf cutter ants. They have stripped branches on my Mexican redbud, rose bush, evergreen sumac, yaupon holly, viburnum and now two chaste trees. You have to go out late, late at night to see them. Good luck. I've tried everything, but haven't had any luck long term. They just retreat for a while and then return.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 1:32PM
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kentuck_8b(__)

Sounds like cut ants. They are usually more active at night.

I used to use corn meal to kill them. Once you find their mounds, you need to put some down every hole and sprinkle a lot all around the mounds. It will take a few to several treatments to finish them off and it may take several days to weeks.

If you don't mind using chemicals, I was told to use Over and Out, which I did, but didn't think it would work, but it did...with only one treatment.

I used a whole bag on an area that had over 2 dozen mounds. I poured some granules down each hole and then spread the rest over the area where the mounds were concentrated which was about 30 feet in diameter.

I treated them early this Spring, and they have never come back yet.

Good Luck

Kt

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 10:46PM
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scatterbrain-d

I was just out there with a flashlight and the problem is indeed leafcutter ants. I only found one mound so far, but I soaked it with the hose to at least deter them for a while. I also put some duct tape sticky-side up around the two main trunks. They're balking at it for the moment, but I doubt it will hold them long.

I'd prefer to try a few alternative methods before resorting to chemicals. I'll try the cornmeal, and I found a sticky organic glue called Tanglefoot that I want to try around the base of the trunk. But I'll keep the Over N Out in mind if all else fails. Any other tips or experiences would be appreciated as well.

Thanks much for your help! This is a great community. :)

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 11:05PM
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marti8a

Ants are such a pain right now. I've never seen leaf cutter ants. Our window a/c in the garage quit working the other day; dh opened it and millions of carpenter ants were inside it.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 3:03AM
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