Invasive fungus killing oak trees in western Pennsylvania; here’s how to avoid it

PITTSBURGH — An invasive fungus is wreaking havoc on local oak trees. Oak wilt disease is fast-moving, killing some trees in less than a year.

Local experts showed Channel 11′s Lisa Sylvester what to watch out for and how you can save your own trees.

Beetles are attracted to the sap of an oak tree and can infect oaks with the fungal disease.

After a tree is infected, oak wilt can quickly spread to nearby oak trees, through its root system.

“Once a tree dies on your property you want to hurry up and remove it,” Luke Werner with Davey Tree Expert Company explained.

In the summer, the trees stand out because they’ve lost their leaves.

But you can also still notice it in the fall, the oak tree that has shed its leaves long before the others.

Oak wilt is showing up in places around western Pennsylvania.

Hartwood Acres has a sign informing people about the disease, and the Audubon Society is also keeping a close watch for it.

“It happens very quickly and unfortunately, there’s no treatment for it,” said Jim Bonner, the executive director of the Audobon Society. “Once a tree has been infected there’s not really anything you can do to save it.”

The best way to protect your trees is to keep the disease from spreading in the first place.

If your oak trees need pruning, you want to do it in the colder months instead of over the summer, because the fresh sap from the trees can attract those beetles and spread it.

“The fluids in the tree are not moving as much now as they are in the grow season. When you make a cut on your oak trees now it’s not going to excrete the sap from the tree. Beetles also are less active this time,” Werner said.

You can also protect healthier trees that are nearby by injecting them with a fungicide and having a certified arborist create a trench to contain the infected tree roots.

Taking steps now will ensure a healthy growing season in the spring.

“You trench, then you inject and then you remove,” Werner said.

Hartwood Acres advises people not to remove wood from an infected area because it can spread the beetles and impact a new area.

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