What is Beech Bark Disease?

Beech bark disease is a huge threat to the American Beech and is widespread in the northeastern part of the United States. It is created by two invasive species: a fungus and the beech scale insect.  In 1890, the beech scale was first brought to Nova Scotia.  

Later, it spread throughout much of the U.S., causing beech bark disease to extend in many of these areas. The disease happens when the bark of a tree is first attacked by the beech scale insect and is eventually destroyed by the fungus.

Beech Bark Disease Stages

Beech bark infestation can take up to six years to progress after beech scale attacks the forest.  The disease progresses in three stages: the aftermath zone, the advancing front, and the killing front. In the advancing front, the tree gets infested by the beech scale insect. In this stage, the beech scale destroys the tree’s bark.

The stage afterward is known as the killing front, which happens when a fungus contaminates trees within the scale insect’s damaged bark. This usually happens sometimes while after the insects enter the woods. Lastly, the aftermath zone happens when trees die. Big trees may stay in the forest if they are resistant to the beech scale and the fungus.

Visual Signs

There are many obvious indicators that the beech disease is in the forest. White blotches covering a tree’s trunk might denote the infestation of the beech scale insect. After the beech scale gets established, beech bark disease is almost unavoidable.

Later indicators of infection include brown and red spots on the bark of a tree. During the aftermath zone, trees might be broken by harsh winds. This is referred to as beech snap. Call an arborist with Harrisburg Tree Service if you believe your tree is infested. You may need to consider tree removal from your landscaping.

Impacts on the Ecosystem

This disease highly impacts the ecosystems of forests. A horde of animals and birds depend on the American Beech species for habitat and food. Chipmunks, turkeys, black bears, grey squirrels, and deer are just a couple of examples of animals that feed on beechnuts. Besides, numerous species of raptors and hawks nest in beech trees.


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