Help the Red Oak Family

Help the Red Oak Family

Attention all ambitious yard and landscape cleaners: don’t touch your oak trees!

Oak wilt is serious disease that has been wreaking havoc on oaks within the Red Oak family throughout the county. Oak trees like to “hold hands” beneath the soil surface (i.e. their roots) which is really sweet and nice, but spreads the oak wilt disease much easier. The disease also spreads due to fungus spores that are then carried by beetles. The above ground spread of oak wilt is where you can help most.

Picnic beetles are very small, less than a 1/2 inch long, and feed on decaying fruits and sap from open oak wounds.

An oak tree that died last year from Oak Wilt will produce fungus spores this year. You won’t be able to see them or smell them the way the picnic beetle can. These little beetles will find oak wounds and carry fungus spores from a diseased wound to a fresh, un-diseased wound. Oak trees are “wounded” in many ways: strong winds break limbs, logging operations break branches and cut trees down, and homeowners prune branches. It doesn’t matter how the tree is wounded. If it is pruned/wounded between April 1 and July 15, it is at risk of becoming diseased from Oak Wilt. If dead oak trees were cut last year, they will still produce the fungus and the beetles will still be attracted. Covering the wood with heavy plastic and sealing it in at ground level will prevent the beetles from getting to or from the diseased wood.


Unfortunately, the Lake City area is a hot spot for Oak Wilt, especially the areas around the lakes. How do you know if you have oak trees in the Red Oak family or in the (seemingly) non-susceptible White Oak family?

You can use the graphic to help you identify your oaks. You can also contact the Forester who will not only help identify the trees, but can also identify if the trees have the disease or if they are at risk, and identify options for treatment.

  • Don’t prune oak trees between April 1 and July 15
  • If you buy firewood, ask questions. Is it oak, did it have oak wilt or come from a tree that died last year?
  • Don’t move firewood–when you go camping, buy firewood from a local vendor.
  • Talk to your neighbors. If they have oak trees that died, your oaks may be next if you don’t take steps to protect them.

Oak Wilt is a disease that can be slowed or even contained, but the trees need our help!

Larry Czelusta (pronounced sa-les-ta) is the Missaukee-Wexford Conservation District Forester with decades of forestry experience and a drive to help landowners manage their forests and problem solve their forest and landscape tree issues. Contact Larry at 231.839.7193 or email him at No problem or concern is too small. Larry enjoys trekking around the woods; leave a message and he can plan to meet at your property.

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