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Science and the Environment

Nixa Warns Residents To Watch For Insect That Can Kill Trees

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City of Nixa
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An armored insect pest has been found on trees in Nixa this summer.  Melanaspis tenebricosa or gloomy scale is a relatively new pest to Missouri, and, in particular, the Nixa area, according to the City of Nixa's certified arborist, Jordan Odem. 

It’s damaging trees, especially red maples, but it also is impacting elms, hackberry trees and sycamores.

"It causes defoliation, branch dieback and eventually will kill the trees," he said.

Gloomy scale feeds on the bark of trees and takes nutrients out of the wood.  When enough of the insects are present on a branch, that branch will die.  The pest spreads from tree to tree.

Signs of gloomy scale are loss of leaves and gray bumps or white dots on tree limbs.  In fact, it's common to find affected trees with nearly 100 percent of their main trunk and mid to lower canopy branches covered in scale, according to the City of Nixa.

If someone finds it on their trees, Odem said, they should contact a certified arborist to schedule a consultation.  One way to help trees combat the insect is to water them two to three times a month during dry periods.

The insect tends to attack trees in urban environments with a lot of pavement because of the warmer microclimates those provide.

"Those areas have a lack in soil moisture often, and that is what causes that pest to thrive," he said.

Treatment for gloomy scale includes applying a botanical herbicide.  Odem said certified arborists will be able to suggest the best ecologically-friendly practices. 

The International Society of Aboriculture has a website where you can search for local certified arborists, according to Odem.

The City of Nixa is treating trees on city property that are infected with gloomy scale.