Maple Leaf Drop


Maple Petiole Borer

Finding large numbers of green leaves littering the ground beneath maple trees wouldn't be a surprise given the recent high winds and heavy rains over much of Ohio. However, you should take a second look at this time of the year for short petioles on the shed leaves and broken petioles remaining attached to the tree. Both are tell-tale symptoms of the maple petiole borer (Caulocampus acericaulis).

Maple Petiole Borer

This non-native sawfly was introduced into the United States from Europe. Although sugar maples are generally preferred, other maples may occasionally be infested.Fortunately, while the leaf drop may appear dramatic, the actual impact on the overall health of affected trees is minimal, so controls are not necessary.

The sawfly spends the winter in the pupal stage buried 2 - 3" in the soil beneath the affected tree. Adults emerge in the spring. After mating, the females use their saw-like ovipositors to insert a single egg into the petiole near the leaf blade. The resulting grub-like sawfly larva feeds by boring down the center of the petiole.

Maple Petiole Borer

Maple Petiole Borer

The larval feeding damage causes the petiole to break near the base. However, the larva remains in the portion of the petiole that remains attached to the tree. Eventually, this portion of the petiole will also detach and drop to the ground where the larva crawls into the soil to pupate. There is one generation per year.

Maple Petiole Borer

The initial symptoms of a maple petiole borer infestation are highly variable. Some leaves may become "scorched" and wilted while still attached to the tree with the petioles collapsing and turning brown just prior to leaf drop. Other infested leaves show no outward symptoms and appear perfectly healthy when they drop from the tree. However, all of the fallen leaves will retain only a very small portion of the hollowed-out petiole. Since larvae stay inside the portion of the petiole that remains attached to the tree, raking and destroying fallen leaves will not reduce the sawfly population. 

Maple Petiole Borer

Maple Petiole Borer

Maple Petiole Borer

Authored By: Joe Boggs

55KRC · THE Talk Station in Cincinnati

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