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The Oregon Bugs That Love Your Cherry Trees

Cherry trees are well known for their beautiful spring blooms. They line the Willamette River in downtown Portland and bloom just as spring arrives and the cold leaves us behind. It’s a favorite time of year for Portland residents, which is why they often add the tree to their own yards as well.

While the cherry tree is a wonderful sight to behold each spring, if you are an owner of such genus, then you know that there are Oregon bugs that love your trees as much as you do. So, which ones do you have to look out for and prevent against? Here, we’ll outline some of the competitors facing Cherry trees.

Apple-and-Thorn Skeletonizer: This reddish-colored moth can be identified by the irregular light and dark bands on its wings and gets its name as the larvae skeletonize and roll leaves. This Oregon bug thinks your tree is delicious. To know if it’s messing with yours look for skeletonizing, which looks like burned leaf tips. Unfortunately, there are no products registered to control this pest, so contact a local arborist to determine your options.

Black Cherry Aphid: This aphid is black in color and is the only black aphid that likes cherry trees, so it’s pretty easy to identify. These bugs cause leaves to curl, reduce growth, and can cause fatal damage, especially to young, delicate trees. It also deposits honeydew on cherries, which can be difficult to remove. 

While leaf curling is a clear indicator of an infestation, it’s easier to manage this pest early on so don’t wait for this sign. Instead, look early on for shoots before bud-break. While there are numerous pesticides to remove this pest, avoid broad-spectrum insecticides, as this will harm its natural enemies making its removal more challenging. 

The Oregon Bugs that Love Your Cherry TreesCherry Slug: This Oregon bug, also known as cherry sawfly, is a glossy black wasp that’s named for its resemblance to a slug in its larval stage. This bug attacks your tree on two fronts. As a larva it feeds on the tops of leaves, skeletonizing them. Secondarily, heavy feeding leads to significant leaf drop, particularly in young trees. Keep an eye out for these slug-looking larvae in August and September when their population tends to build up.Thankfully, this is less likely to occur in small Oregon backyards, but if you do spot them, the larvae can either be picked off or washed away with a strong stream of water.

Cutworm: This worm is brown, gray or greenish and most damaging to trees that have high weeds growing at the base. It causes it damage at night and can leave the buds and leaves of your Cherry tree with major damage. It is often controlled with dormant or delayed dormant sprays, but they can be difficult to control, so you may want to consult with an Oregon arborist.

Earwig: These long, flat, reddish-brown Oregon bugs are easily identified by the pincers on their abdomen. Sometimes they can fly; other times they are wingless. While they are not harmful to humans or animals, they may give you a small pinch, and even more likely, emit an unfortunate order. While these Oregon bugs are often beneficial as they eat small insects, they are known to chew small holes in the leaves and fruit of vegetable and ornamental trees, including the ever-popular Cherry tree. If you notice this bug, there are a number of chemicals you can use to rid them from your tree.

Eyespotted Bud Moth: This grayish moth has wide white bands on its forewing, but it’s really the larvae you have to look out for. The larvae, which are chocolate-brown with black heads, will feed on your blossoms as soon as they bloom. To catch these pests before they destroy your blooms, look for larvae in nests of leaves. There are available pesticides to remove these pests, but ensure they are safe for bees and do not use them when the tree is in bloom.

Fruittree Leafroller: Newly hatched larvae – greenish with a black head – are the most dangerous phase for your Cherry tree. They will damage blossoms and fruit and roll leaves. Look for larvae hiding in rolled leaves if you think this Oregon bug might be invading your tree. If they are present, use dormant-season spray. And, to avoid future infestation, remove rolled leaves, even the ones on the ground.

Leaf Crumpler and Mineola Moth: This insect is a threat to a wide range of plants that includes the Cherry tree. The pinkish larvae build tubes that attach to twigs on the tree, feed on growing leaves and buds, and burrow into cherries. If these affect your tree you will find nests in leaves on the tree. However, there is not much you can do. While there are commercial-use chemicals to remove the problem, there are no specific products to treat this infestation for home-use.

Redhumped Caterpillar: This is one of the most common caterpillars in all of North America and is identified by the white, dark red, and black lines that travel its entire body. This Oregon bug is one of the worst for your Cherry tree as it can defoliate entire branches, even an entire young tree, so watch out for feeding damage in early summer. Thankfully, there are a number of approved products to remove the pest.

Stink Bug: This bug is shaped like a shield with a triangle shape on its back and is so named for the odor it emits when alarmed. These bugs cause problems by sucking sap from buds, flower, or fruit, as well as causing deformities in cherries. Keep a close eye around May 1, as this is when they are most likely to strike. If you do notice a stink bug population, you can treat the tree with a variety of chemicals.

Western Cherry Fruit Fly: The adults are even smaller than your traditional housefly, but you have to worry about the western cherry fruit fly before then, as it’s the maggots that cause the damage. The maggots infest the cherries, making a hole. Sadly, there is really nothing you can do once the damage has occurred, which is why prevention is key. It’s recommended you grow early-maturing varieties of the cherry tree and pick the fruit within 8-9 days of spotting the first fly – before the eggs hatch. Also eliminate all future fruit as that is where the fly will reproduce, causing even more harm.

You can also use chemical sprays as part of your prevention technique. Spray in 7-10 day intervals starting around May 20 and continue through the harvest season.

Cherry trees are a beautiful addition to your landscape but have many predators. Know how to help your tree thrive, keep an extra eye on it in the spring, and consult with an arborist for assistance with insect identification and tree care.