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Insects can cause extensive damage to your trees and plants. From complete defoliation to the stripping of bark, it is important to be able to spot insect damage before it’s too late. Regular plant health care by certified arborists can catch damage early, but homeowners are often the first to notice changes to their trees and plants. By learning what to look for, you can help keep your landscape healthy and beautiful.

Common Insects that Attack Plants and Trees

Every year, trees and plants are killed and damaged due to insects. Below are common insects that damage the health of trees and plants, particularly in the Midwest of the United States.

Gypsy Moth

The Gypsy Moth is one of the most destructive insects to invade trees and plants in the Midwest. According to Purdue University, gypsy moth caterpillars can eat the foliage of 500 species of trees and plants. Although some trees recover and regrow leaves after destruction, repeated annual defoliation by this invasive species can cause the tree to die in 2-4 years. In order to prevent extensive insect damage and even death, one must know the signs of gypsy moths in their trees:

  • Branches defoliated
  • Tree bark stripped
  • Weakened branches and limbs

In order to slow the spread, keep trees well hydrated, especially in the summer. Mulch the base of the tree each summer to help strengthen the trunk.

Tent Caterpillar

Tent caterpillars also eat leaves, causing serious damage to trees. They prefer flowering trees, and typically appear in early spring right when the buds appear. Fortunately, their nests are easy to spot, as they form thick white webs where the limbs meet. If you identify these nests in your trees try the following:

  • Remove them by hand using gloves
  • Submerge the nest in warm soapy water
  • Dispose carefully

While these insects typically won’t cause your tree to die, they do damage the leaves and can leave the trees susceptible to further damage in the winter.

Emerald Ash Borer

The Emerald ash borer has devastated the ash population in the Midwest for years, forcing thousands of homeowners to cut down their trees to prevent destruction to their home. If you notice the following, your ash might be impacted:

Because this insect moves fast, it is important to call a tree care professional immediately if your ash trees show any of the above symptoms.


Aphids are a common resident in Midwest gardens, getting their nutrients from sap and liquids of trees and plants. In large groups, aphids can significantly weaken plants, harming flowers and fruit. These insects are often invisible to the naked eye, so it is important to know the signs of aphid destruction so you can take action.

If your plants exhibit these symptoms, call a certified arborist to maintain the structure and health of your floral friends.

Why a Plant Health Care Professional?

If you spot any of the above symptoms on your tree or plant, it is important that you call a plant health care professional. They can accurately identify hazardous insects and recommend the best course of action to protect the health of the plant or tree. If left untreated, insects can cause extensive damage to your tree or plant that might lead to it having to be completely removed. This can be a costly expense down the road.

The professionals at Townsend Residential will be able to suggest remedies and develop a plan of action to help your trees recover and flourish. With safety as our top priority, you can have peace of mind knowing our crews will take care of you and ensure your home stays safe during the process.

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