Capitol Corridor
University of California
Capitol Corridor

Posts Tagged: Pest Management/Diseases

After shothole borer invasion, UC Irvine becomes ‘perfect testing ground’

This sycamore tree, a preferred species of the polyphagous shothole borer, shows signs of a severe infestation. Photo by Randall Oliver, UC IPM

Results help inform best practices for managing the disease-causing beetle

The University of California, Irvine campus is home to a vast urban forest consisting of approximately 30,000 trees located in a mix of landscape, riparian and open space settings. In the mid-2010s, that forest came under threat from an invasive species of beetle that arborists and pest researchers were just learning about – the polyphagous shothole borer.

The tiny beetles, which may have arrived in California from their native Southeast Asia via infested shipping materials, tunnel into trees and introduce a fungus that serves as food for adult beetles and their larva.

As the fungus grows, it colonizes the tree's vascular system, blocking transport of water and nutrients. This causes a disease called Fusarium dieback that can kill branches or entire trees.

An adult female polyphagous shothole borer. Photo by Akif Eskalen, UC Davis
Shothole borers attack more than 100 species of trees and can live and reproduce in more than 65 tree species found in California. However, they seem to prefer box elders, sycamores and willows.

One reason the beetles were such a threat at UCI was the high number of sycamores on campus, especially in Aldrich Park at the campus center. Hundreds of cottonwoods, native willows, golden rain and coral trees also were affected. In total, the beetles attacked more than 2,000 trees, including 75 different tree species.

A variety of approaches to controlling beetle

To better understand and tackle this problem, UCI's Facilities Management department and Office of Environmental Planning and Sustainability collaborated with researchers affiliated with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and UC Cooperative Extension. In addition, pesticide-manufacturing companies, pest control advisers and arborists provided materials and labor to help offset the cost of research.

“UCI was the perfect testing ground to determine integrated pest management strategies for this beetle/disease complex,” said John Kabashima, UCCE environmental horticulture advisor emeritus. “Our research was multifaceted, delving into early detection, monitoring and sampling, and cultural and chemical management.”

The invasive beetle causes a disease called Fusarium dieback, which can kill branches or entire trees. Photo by Randall Oliver, UC IPM

Kabashima said UCI provided the researchers with “a lot of freedom” to try a variety of approaches and study the results over time.

“We could cut down and sample trees or leave selected infested trees alone; we explored a variety of pesticide/fungicide combinations and application techniques,” he said. “That freedom resulted in many of the management solutions that are used today to effectively control this pest.”

UCI and the researchers also established a full inventory of affected trees on campus, evaluating severity of infestation by the number of entry/exit holes and signs of dieback. One important key to management is getting rid of “amplifiers” – heavily infested trees that are both hazardous and a source of beetles to spread to other trees.

“Typically, shothole borer infestations begin with just a few trees that for some reason are highly attractive to the beetles – perhaps based on tree species, tree spacing, irrigation conditions or other factors,” Kabashima said. “Over time, the beetles and fungus multiply largely undetected in those few trees. When the beetle population reaches a critical point and the trees begin to die, the female beetles fly to adjacent trees in a secondary invasion, eventually infesting many trees over a large area.”

An opportunity to diversify UCI's urban forest

At UCI, that initial invasion took place in landscaped areas containing many large, majestic sycamores that were planted when the campus began operations in the mid-1960s.

Over several years, UCI removed 700 heavily infested trees, including many of those historic sycamores, and replaced them with other tree species.

UC Irvine's campus now features a diversity of tree species. Photo by Randall Oliver, UC IPM
“We tip-toed into tree diversity, looking for other tree species that might be less susceptible to attack; we looked at 300 tree species that could be suitable for creating a more diverse tree forest as opposed to a street tree approach.” said Matthew Deines, senior planner with UCI Campus Physical & Environmental Planning. “We also planned for some redundancy in how we planted: If we had space, we would plant two trees of a single species and then plant backups with other species – what we did not want was a monoculture.”

Today, the forest at UCI is very different than it was in 2015. While shothole borers have not been eliminated completely, their presence is reduced significantly, and UCI now has the tools to manage them effectively. Reforestation efforts resulted in a diverse treescape that is not only more sustainable but also beautiful.

“Managing a 1,500-acre campus with 30,000 trees is a never-ending process,” said Richard Demerjian, UCI's assistant vice chancellor, Campus Physical & Environmental Planning. “Our forest continues to evolve, with an ongoing focus on increasing diversity and plant health.”

Demerjian also noted that UCI is now starting to consider planting new sycamore trees on a limited basis.

A primer on effective shothole borer management

Check trees for beetle entry holes, as seen here on this avocado branch. Photo by Akif Eskalen, UC Davis

Whether managing a forest of thousands of trees or just a few trees, landscape managers and residents can apply many of the lessons learned at UCI to control invasive shothole borers and other tree pests.

  • Avoid monocultures. Tree diversity provides beauty and resiliency.
  • Keep trees healthy. Proper irrigation and maintenance will keep trees strong and help protect them from shothole borers and other pests.
  • Check trees. Look for the common signs and symptoms of infestation such as beetle entry/exit holes. Regular monitoring ensures that infestations are managed early, before they cause dieback or tree death.
  • Confirm suspected infestations. Use the detection tool at
  • Review management options. For trees with low infestation, prune the infested branches and monitor the tree's health over time. In non-riparian, urban settings, consider treating low and moderately infested trees with pesticides/fungicides demonstrated to be effective against the pest-disease complex (A licensed professional will be needed to apply the treatments). Severely infested trees may require removal.
  • Call in a professional. A certified arborist or pest control professional would be able to provide recommendations based on the tree's condition. The local county Agricultural Commissioner's Office and UC Cooperative Extension office may have additional knowledge about current shothole borer monitoring and management programs in your area.
  • Take care of green waste. The beetles can survive in cut wood for weeks or even months. Proper disposal of green waste includes chipping infested wood, followed by solarizing or composting the chips.
  • Replant wisely. Begin planting new trees only after removing all amplifiers and establishing an ongoing monitoring program. Consider the current concentration of tree species when deciding what type of trees to plant.
Posted on Wednesday, June 8, 2022 at 1:07 PM
  • Author: Randall Oliver
Focus Area Tags: Natural Resources, Pest Management, Yard & Garden

Check out the Revised Almond and Walnut Pest Management Guideline

Writer/editor Cheryl Reynolds at UC Integrated Pest Management, just published this fantastic blog on the Revised Almond and Walnut Pest Management...

Posted on Friday, December 22, 2017 at 12:54 PM

Top 10 pests in gardens and landscapes and how to control them

Download the free booklet at the bottom of the page!

1. Ants

Most people deal with ants around their home at some point. Because most ants live outdoors, focus efforts on keeping ants from entering buildings by caulking entryways. Follow good sanitation practices to make your home less attractive to ants. Spraying ants inside the home will not prevent more ants from entering. Use baits to control the ant colony. Pesticide baits work by attracting worker ants who then take the poison back to the nest where the entire colony, including queens, can be killed. In the landscape, ants protect honeydew-producing pest insects from predators, so use sticky barriers or insecticide baits to keep ants out of trees and shrubs.


2. Aphids

Aphids can curl leaves and produce sticky honeydew, but they rarely kill plants and you usually can wash them off with water. When aphid numbers get high, natural enemies such as lady beetles (lady bugs), lacewings, syrphid fly larvae, soldier beetles and others frequently feed on them, eliminating the need for pesticides. Protect these good bugs by avoiding the use of insecticides that can be toxic to a broad variety of insects. Ants protect aphids from these natural enemies, so keep ants away from your garden as well. When pesticides are necessary, use less toxic products such as insecticidal soaps and oils.


3. Asian citrus psyllid and Huanglongbing disease

The Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) and the deadly bacterial disease it spreads, Huanglongbing (HLB), threaten citrus trees in backyards and on farms. There is no cure or effective control method for HLB disease.  All types of citrus—including oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and mandarins—are affected as well as a few closely related ornamentals. ACP and HLB have already devastated the Florida citrus industry, and now that it is in the Western U.S. it is threatening the California citrus industry as well.


4. Gophers

Gophers are small burrowing rodents that feed on roots of many types of plants. A single gopher can ruin a garden in a short time, and gopher gnawing can damage irrigation lines and sprinkler systems. In lawns, their mounds are unsightly and interfere with mowing. Early detection is critical to prevent damage. Use both traps and underground fencing to manage gopher problems. Toxic baits are available but can pose threats to wildlife, pets, and children, especially in backyard situations.


5. Leaf-feeding caterpillars

Caterpillars, which are the larvae of butterflies and moths, damage plants by chewing on leaves, flowers, shoots, and fruit. Caterpillars in fruit or wood can be difficult to manage because they are hidden most of their life and can cause serious damage even when numbers are low. However, many plants, especially perennials, can tolerate substantial leaf damage, so a few leaf-feeding caterpillars often aren't a concern. Handpicking and beneficial predators and parasites often provide sufficient control. Look for feeding holes, excrement, webbed or rolled leaves, caterpillars, eggs, and good bugs.


6. Peach leaf curl

Peach leaf curl is a fungal disease that affects only peach and nectarine trees. Distorted, reddened foliage in the spring is a distinctive symptom. New leaves and shoots thicken and pucker and later may die and fall off. An infection that continues untreated for several years can lead to a tree's decline. To prevent peach leaf curl, treat peach and nectarine trees with a copper fungicide every year after leaves fall. After symptoms appear in the spring, any treatment will not be effective. When planting new trees, consider buying peach tree varieties that are resistant to the disease.


7. Rats

Rats eat and contaminate food, garden produce, and fruit, and transmit diseases to humans and pets. Manage rats by removing food and shelter, eliminating entryways into buildings, and trapping. Snap traps are the safest, most effective, and most economical way to trap rats. For Norway rats, place traps close to walls, behind objects, in dark corners, and in places where you have found rat droppings. For roof rats, place traps in off-the-ground locations such as ledges, shelves, branches, fences, pipes, or overhead beams. Ensure traps are out of reach of children and pets.


8. Scales

Scale insects suck plant juices and are pests of many trees and shrubs. Infestations can cause yellowing or premature dropping of leaves, sticky honeydew, and blackish sooty mold. Plant parts can distort or die back, depending on the species and abundance of scales. Most plants tolerate low to moderate numbers of scales. Provide plants with proper cultural care, especially irrigation. Encourage scale predators such as lady beetles or lacewings and look for parasite emergence holes in scale covers. Use sticky barriers or insecticide baits to selectively control scale-tending ants. Consider replacing problem-prone plants because most scales are highly specific to certain plants.


9. Snails and slugs

These slimy mollusks emerge from hiding at night and chew holes in leaves and flowers of many succulent garden plants and fruit. Management requires a vigilant and integrated approach that includes eliminating moisture and hiding spots, trapping, setting up barriers, and handpicking. Regularly remove snails from shelters you can't eliminate such as low ledges on fences, undersides of decks, and meter boxes. Place traps in your garden and dispose of trapped snails and slugs daily. Reduce moist surfaces by switching to drip irrigation or watering in the morning rather than later in the day. Consider snail-proof plants such as impatiens, geraniums, begonias, lantana, nasturtiums, and many plants with stiff leaves and highly scented foliage such as sage, rosemary, and lavender.


10. Weeds in landscapes

Prevent weed invasions in new beds with good site preparation. Keep weeds out with an integrated program that includes competitive plants, mulches, and hand removal. Be particularly vigilant about removing aggressive perennial weeds. You rarely should need herbicides in established landscape plantings. Mulches prevent weed seed germination by blocking sunlight. Remove small weeds by hand before they flower and set seed. Use shallow cultivation or hoeing to remove annual weeds from ornamental plantings. Only use herbicides for special-problem situations before establishing new plantings or for difficult-to-control perennial weeds.


To see all of the University of California's Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program's information on home, garden, and landscape pests, visit

For other short pest “Quick Tips” like the ten above, see

 To read even more in-depth, peer-reviewed information on many other common home and landscape pests in California, see the Pest Notes series at

Download your free UC IPM Quick Tips Booklet of the Top Ten Pests in Gardens and Landscapes and How to Control Them with the link below! 

Posted on Friday, June 10, 2016 at 12:30 PM
  • Author: Tyler Ash

Read more

Webmaster Email: