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Drought Expects More Pests, Less Foliage in Central Texas

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Waco, Texas (KWTX) – Drought in the state is flooding central Texas with unwelcome visitors.

Experts say the stress on trees is expected to result in more pests and less foliage this year in central Texas.

“Drought has many negative effects on trees,” said Courtney Blevins, Regional Forester for the Texas A&M Forest Service. “When trees are stressed, bug and disease problems escalate.”

Much of central Texas is in a “severe” drought, with some areas exposed to “extreme” and “exceptional” droughts, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor on Monday, with signs of stress on trees. are seen…and insects such as beetles and aphids feed on that stress.

“Some of these pests have increased,” Blevins said. “Something we see a lot: things like pecans and crape myrtle that have aphid growth and all this sticky residue on the leaves and on the ground underneath. It’s the decay of these aphids. It’s a thing.”

And what comes to eat those aphids? Larger insects.

There are other potential effects besides insects. Central Texas isn’t known for having a traditional “fall” look like the East Coast, but it’s probably looking even less like fall this year.

“Even the best years of fall color never look like New England,” said Blevins. It may indicate that there is less color in the

Some trees are starting to drop their leaves early or have damaged yellow or brown leaves… others need cool weather to show their colors.

“Some of them are pretty obvious, some just have to wait and see. Some are damaged and already dormant. Clearly there’s no fading from them.” Blevin . “The question is, do you see the normal amount of red and purple? because it may not be trapped in the leaves that form the

He says it also depends on the species.

“Elms, for example, are usually yellow, regardless of weather conditions, as long as the leaves are still there,” Blevins said. “Other species, such as red oaks, are usually purple or red, so I think those will be the most effective species.”

Like 2011, the effects of the drought could persist for years to come, experts say.

“After the 2011 drought, there was a dramatic increase in a disease called hypoxylone over the next four to five years,” says Blevins. “Don’t think that everything will be normal next year once the drought is over. The trees will still be stressed.”

But Blevins says don’t give up. There are still things people in Central Texas can do to de-stress their trees, such as supplemental watering.

“And the other thing to do is, this is so huge, so simple and so cheap. If people are growing grass under trees … replace it with a two to three inch layer of mulch. You can use any kind of mulch if you can,” says Blevins. “This is a long-term problem and not something that can be fixed quickly. But what you’re trying to do is reduce the overall stress on the trees and reduce pests.”

You may be tempted to buy pesticides to get rid of the bugs, but save your money and wait until spring, says Blevins.

“The leaves are already damaged and we’re fixing them to fall off for the winter anyway, so you don’t want to do it this year. You’ll just be wasting your money,” Blevins said. If you want to spray, do it in the spring when the leaves are emerging.”

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