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Woodpecker or insect? Something's tearing up Kingman's trees

Damage to an almond tree in downtown Kingman might be the work of woodpeckers or a type of boring insect. (EVE HANNA/Miner)

KINGMAN - It seems inconceivable that a woodpecker could cause the kind of damage that's been done to some trees in downtown Kingman, but that may be the case if "Bug Man" Carl Olson is correct.

"Looks like something a woodpecker might do," said Olson, who is with the University of Arizona's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Entomology in Tucson.

But a nearby homeowner who's outside nearly every day reported no recent woodpecker activity, and other fruit trees are suffering the same damage and dying.

Master gardener Mark Driscoll said shot hole borers might be to blame.

"We're seeing damaged trees nearly identical to this in other areas of town," he said. "It may be peach tree borers or some other species of borer - there are many."

According to Driscoll, once the infestation is severe, it's best to remove the tree and burn it.

Burning the wood is necessary to kill any larva or adult insects that may be living under the bark and prevent them from moving on and infecting other trees.

"Some people have tried to save their trees by spraying them with Bacillus Thuricide," he said. "It's a bacteria that controls caterpillars without harming the fruit or beneficial insects such as bees. I used it last year on tomato hornworms with good results, but it's hard to reach borers once they're inside the tree."

Driscoll said prevention is key for growing healthy trees and that it's important to keep them well watered - even in winter - so they don't get stressed and become easy targets for pests.

Other preventative measures were discussed on Saturday during a hands-on pruning workshop held in Golden Valley by master gardeners with the Mohave County Cooperative Extension Service.

Spraying trees with Dormant Spray, an organic horticultural Neem oil, prior to pruning is said to reduce the risk of disease and pest infestation.

Also, keep pruning shears and tools sharp to make clean cuts and avoid crushing limbs, and use a mixture of bleach and water or a disinfectant to clean tools between use on individual trees.


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