5/20/09: Candling, sawfly

Cutting back the new growth on my white pines makes them fuller and not so leggy.

A white pine is a fast grower and can be a nice looking tree but sometimes they can take off and start to look leggy and overrun their area. To keep our white pines compact, denser and help to maintain the shape, I like to pinch or snip two thirds to one half of the new growth which is called the candle each spring. The procedure is called candling. It does a nice job to keep the branches from growing too fast and tightens up the needle and branch spacing.

Watch for a caterpillar that will devour your pines.

Every spring I have to watch for this green caterpillar around the time the Bridal Wreath (Spirea vanhoutei) are in bloom because it will defoliate certain pines in the yard.

The culprit is the Larvae of the Sawfly Wasp. The larvae are gray-green looking about 1 inch long. They love Mugo, Scotch, Red, Jack, Eastern White, Austrian, and Ponderosa pines. They eat the previous season needles, so they won’t kill the tree, but sure make it look like heck. It seems like they can munch a good size tree in a day or two.

I’m sorry to say this but this is one of the few times I will use a pesticide. I use Sevin sprayed just on the larvae, it kills them almost instantly and they drop off. If you have patience you can knock them off by hand or with a stream of water, but they may find their way back and I want to finish the deal, just don’t go crazy with the Sevin. Follow the directions on the package carefully.

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