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Twig Girdlers are Not a Tree’s Best Friend

Sunday, October 22, 2023

‘Tis the season for homeowners to find fallen leaves in the landscape; however, it’s also the time of year to find small branches and twigs scattered about as well. If homeowners are finding an abundance of these small branches on the ground, this is a good indicator that there are visitors in the tree known as twig girdlers.


A twig girdler is a type of longhorned beetle found in Oklahoma, as well as various parts of the United States, and has just one generation per growing season. While commonly associated with pecan trees, twig girdlers can also infest other hardwoods such as hickory, oak and persimmon.


How can a homeowner know the twigs on the ground are due to twig girdlers? Look for the presence of clean-cut or dangling branch tips in the tree. These damage-causing pests chew a V-shaped groove around a small twig, girdling it. The female then will lay an egg underneath the bark on the girdled limb. This portion of the limb dies quickly and falls to the ground or hangs in the tree with the larva inside.


The small larva will overwinter in the fallen twig. In the spring, the larva resumes feeding and consumes most of the wood. As it grows, it bores further down into the twig and fills the tunnel with wood shavings and waste. Pupations occurs in a cavity within the twig. The adults emerge in late summer and early fall and continue the cycle.


Twig girdlers do have a few natural predators, including woodpeckers, that can help control the population of this pest, but there are other ways to help keep their numbers under control.


Pruning and removing infested twigs can help reduce the impact on trees. Homeowners should collect and destroy infested twigs and branches they find on the ground throughout the fall and on through early spring. If possible, burn the twigs. This will help eliminate the overwintering larvae. Sanitation is an economically and environmentally friendly way to manage tree girdlers, especially for small plantings. Removing the fallen twigs goes a long way toward ridding the area of this pest.


Insecticides can be used in severe infestations, but proper identification and timing are crucial for effective control.

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