Common Tree Pests and Diseases in Eastern North Carolina

Trees are one of those natural objects that have an undaunted look but are highly vulnerable to pests and disease without proper care. People tend to give trees less attention compared to flowers probably because they look like they can withstand any attack. Hence, most times it is always too late to save these trees.

If you live in the North Carolina region, you will agree that there are different pest and disease-causing agents that affect the health status of trees. To effectively manage your tree’s health, you should educate yourself on the classification of the pests and diseases that affect trees and how to prevent the spread of pests and diseases.

Classification of the pests in North Carolina 

Pests that affect trees in North Carolina are usually classified according to the part of the plant they affect. Thus, there are bark beetles, borers, defoliators, carpophagous, and armyworms.

Bark beetles

These insects survive on the tree’s cambium. It is the inner tissue responsible for the tree’s growth. In the process, they shed the bark, which brings with it desiccation and exposure to pathogens.

How to recognize a bark beetle attack? 

bark beetle attack on tree

Several symptoms can put you on the alert: some twigs and branches dry out, the bark lifts in places, and small holes can be observed in the bark. Your doubts can be confirmed by scraping the bark of the tree: the bark beetles are then easily observable.

A healthy tree defends itself with resin or gum flows which hinder the progress of the insect. In a weakened tree, these defense mechanisms are absent and the bark beetles can, if they are numerous, kill the parasitized tree.


These are insects that consume or throw away the foliage, reducing the tree’s ability to photosynthesize, causing it to lose its vigor or even perish if the infestation is severe.

They are known as phyllophagous. Also, they are grinders, grazers, shredders, and scrapers.

How do you recognize the Defoliators’ attacks?

They attack roots, leaves, stems, twigs, buds, flowers, fruits, and seeds that are eaten, browsed, gnawed, or stripped.

In certain situations, the defoliation can be total and the young plants are irreparably destroyed. In the same way, the buds, the flower buds, or the fruit information are sometimes entirely consumed.


These organisms feed on wood, digging galleries in the trunk. Since logs are dead tissue, borers don’t usually do much damage, except when they have already consumed a lot of wood. 

This affects the conduction of water to the leaves, which then fall off. They can also weaken the trunk and topple the tree. However, the biggest threat from borers is that they are usually carriers of pathogenic organisms.

How to identify a Borers attack?

Butterflies or moths are perfect examples of borers. From the order of the Lepidoptera (butterflies), the Cossus cossus or otherwise called the “cossus wood spoiler” are xylophagous insects (sapwood devourers). 

By gnawing the wood, the larvae of this butterfly will cause a weakening of many species of trees, whether they are fruit trees (apple trees, cherry trees, plum trees, etc.), ornamental trees (oaks, maples, chestnut trees, etc.) or riparian trees. (willows, alders, etc.).

Young caterpillars with a brownish-red body will dig galleries in the wood with their sharp mandibles and will grow stronger until they measure about 10 centimeters. For two or three years, the larvae of the wood-spoiler will feed on their hosts, making them more fragile, more brittle, which can sometimes condemn them if the caterpillars are too numerous.


These insects feed on fruits, cones (pineapples), and seeds. Under these conditions, the forest is unable to regenerate.

How to identify a Carpophagous attack?

The adults come out of their cocoon at the end of April, and then lay eggs on the pear and apple trees. Also, the surrounding walnut trees ( “empty” nuts ), spread colonies of hungry larvae like wildfire. Left on the leaves and fruits, they quickly penetrate the fruit, usually through the top, near the peduncle. 

Fall Armyworms

They feed on the shoots, preventing the growth of the tree and causing it to grow misshapen. These disfigured trees have no commercial value.

How to identify a Fall Armyworms attack

The armyworm, in the state of a larva or caterpillar, is a veritable destruction machine. It nestles in the vegetation surrounding the ear and attacks it methodically, as evidenced by the shredded leaves and partly devoured ears.  


Not only insects cause damage. Parasitic plants can develop on trees, stealing nutrients from them and slowing down their growth. Because the most noxious species belong to the European mistletoe family, they are generally known by that name.

How to identify a mistletoe attack

It generally likes to invite itself on apple trees and poplars, it can also be found on weeping willows, lime trees, hawthorns, and almond trees. Two rarer subspecies of Viscum Album grow on firs and pines.

Mistletoe, a small ball-shaped bush clinging to the branches of trees, is easily recognizable. It is always green and has flowers in winter. Its flowers are yellow and its fruits white and translucent.

It is a hemiparasitic plant, that is to say partially parasitic. Thanks to the suckers that it pushes into the wood, the mistletoe uses the sap of the tree to supply itself with water and mineral salts. 

Mistletoe often nests in poorly maintained or diseased trees. While a ball of mistletoe alone isn’t going to kill a tree, it may exhaust the tree if it overgrows. It also limits the production of fruit trees.

Is pruning a tree disease control tool in North Carolina?

Trees are living beings; they can therefore be affected by diseases. Nowadays, botany and arboriculture can correctly recognize diseases affecting trees and propose care and prophylactic measures.

Remember that caring for a tree always gives it a better chance of fighting off diseases and insects. Therefore, pruning is not only a matter of aesthetics and safety. 

If you live in North Carolina and you need to prune your trees, you should contact a professional Arborist. By doing this, you are allowing the trees to benefit from growth cuts, structural cuts, or emergency cuts. Moreover, you make them stronger and more resistant to attacks from pests and diseases.

How to find a Professional Arborist in Eastern North Carolina

When looking for a professional arborist in Eastern North Carolina to hire, ensure you choose an ISA-certified arborist. This proves that they are well trained and are very knowledgeable when it comes to taking care of your tree’s health and other aspects of arboriculture.

Having great experience in eliminating the presence of pests and diseases in your location is an important factor to consider when looking for an arborist to hire. If you need a professional tree health assessment, the arborists at Godhans are professionally trained and certified arborists, capable of helping you handle any tree health issues and help to improve the health of your tree.

To learn more about common tree pests and diseases in Eastern North Carolina, kindly give us a call today at (618) 704-4861 or send us a message.

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