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Carpenter Costin Blog

Recognizing Lace Bug Damage

Ever take a walk around your yard and marvel at the beauty of nature? The trees, leaves, flowers, and wildlife all work together in a complex ecosystem. Unfortunately, sometimes that ecosystem requires that critters feed off plants or bushes native to our area in order to survive. Lace Bugs are one such critter that could be feeding off your azaleas, rhododendrons, broadleaf evergreens or a range of deciduous trees. 


recognizing Lace Bug damage


Would you be able to recognize the damage on your plants in your yard and know what steps to take to treat your plantings? Carpenter Costin has years of experience identifying insects that could be damaging your plantings. 

Today, we are examining the Lace Bug, including what they are, how they got their unique name, the type of damage they can inflict, and how homeowners should proceed should they find that this bug is infesting their yard. 

What Are Lace Bugs & How Did They Get Their Name? 

Lace Bugs are fairly tiny insects (about ⅛ - ⅓ of an inch long at the adult phase). They have light colored bodies with wings that emerge from the thorax. 

The uncommon look of the Lace Bug will help you understand the origin of its name. The entire outer body of the Lace Bug is covered in cells or veins that resemble lace. The net-like pattern of this “lace” looks very delicate but can cause some damage to the leaves of your plantings, most specially azaleas and rhododendrons in our region. 

first signs of Lace Bug Damage

What Kind of Damage Can They Do? 

Most Lace Bug damage becomes clearly noticeable on the leaves of plantings by mid-to-late summer. The damage that most homeowners first notice includes white or yellow mottled spots

on the leaves caused by the adult or nymph Lace Bug inserting its needle-like mouthparts into it to feed. 

As a Lace Bug sucks the nutrients out of the leaves of the planting, it causes damage due to a loss of nutrients and damage to the underside of the leaf due to the piercing of the surface. If the feeding is heavy enough, it can lead to brown or yellow spots to appear and possibly early leaf drop. 

Over the course of a few years of Lace Bug damage, a planting can experience reduced plant growth or even progress to a point of being beyond rescue. 

How To Treat For Lace Bugs

When identified early, Lace Bugs can be controlled through systemic insecticide. We also recommend preventative measures for plantings that commonly become infested. 

  • Begin plant inspections in early spring to catch an infestation early. Be sure to check under the leaves for these small bugs. 
  • Use preventative treatments that can keep the bugs at bay on plantings that commonly become infested. 
  • Use a high power washer that can wash away the nymphs. Since nymphs do not have wings they will be unable to return to the planting to continue to feed and grow. 
  • Consider natural predators of LaceBugs that could keep them under control in your yard such as mites, spiders, and lady beetles. 

If you have a Lace Bug issue in your yard, request a free consultation and our team can inspect and come up with a proper and comprehensive course of treatment right for your property. 

Can Cabling & Bracing Save My Tree?

Here in the northeast we commonly experience heavy snow and ice in the winter, high winds during storms all year, and heavy foliage on our beautiful trees, especially in the summer and fall. While most hardy New Englanders can handle the shifts in the weather and the sometimes harsh storms, our precious trees sometimes need some help to remain structurally sound. That’s where cabling and bracing can help trees bear the brunt of these weather phenomena and remain healthy throughout the year. 


What is Cabling and Bracing? 

Cabling and bracing are two proactive and preventative techniques used to support a tree, or grouping of trees, that may have a weak or poor structure due to weather, disease, or environmental reasons. 

Certified arborists often use these techniques to help fix structural integrity when they diagnose a tree as being in crisis. These rescue methods can help a tree regain its health while averting a structural failure. 


Signs a Tree May Need Cabling or Bracing 

Trees across Massachusetts face a number of hazards throughout the year from drought, to severe weather to the growth of fungus and pests. These issues can cause a few situations where trees may need to be braced or cabled to provide much needed support. 

Some of signs that could cause structural failure and the need for cabling or bracing include: 

  • Split branches 
  • Poor root systems
  • Areas of decay or rot
  • Cracked limb structure
  • Signs of pest infestation
  • Improper pruning


Saving a Tree with Cabling & Bracing 

Each tree situation is different, but our certified arborists can evaluate the cause of the structural issue and determine the best course of action to help save your tree whether it is relieving the stress on the tree through baling and bracing or if complete removal is needed. 

The Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) explains that cabling and bracing is an extremely specific science that can add 10 to 15 years of healthy life to a tree. Tree care specialists and certified arborists can follow the national standards set forth by TCIA to help lengthen the life of a struggling tree through the use of these specialized tools. 

By properly placing cables between limbs, arborists can help redistribute the load of weight, allowing the limbs or trunks to support each other. Likewise, bracing rods are often used to support splitting limbs by bolting them together.  Both of these techniques are meant to provide supplemental support, especially during times of crisis such as wind storms, heavy snow, or hurricanes. 

Minimizing the movement of branches and limbs during a storm through these rescue methods can dramatically help stop the splitting and weakening of the tree as a whole. It can also stop weakened branches from falling and causing injury to people or damage to surrounding structures. Sadly, the process is not a full solution but rather an attempt to stop any further structural problems and shore up the structure to give the tree a fighting chance. 


Caring for Crabapple Trees

The colorful pink, red, and white blooming crabapple trees are a welcome sight every spring across the northeast. These beautiful ornamental trees dot our landscape with pops of color and practically scream, “Spring is finally here!” 

After the harsh winters we experience here in Massachusetts, the sight of these flowering trees can’t come soon enough for many of us anxious to get the planting season going. 

4 Seasons of Joy 

If your property happens to be lucky enough to have one of these deciduous trees, you know that they are enjoyable all year long. They begin their spring season with leaves that bud and bloom with fragrant flowers in colors ranging from startling white to soft pinks and deep reds. 

Once the flowers fade during the summer months, the small red and pink fruits that are produced attract birds of many species and squirrels looking to get their fill as well. 

During the fall months, like many other trees in our region, the crabapple tree puts on an equally spectacular show of color as do its cousins the Oak and Maple. 

During the early winter the crabapple tree will still have some bright fruits and they will stand in contrast to the white snow our region often gets, leaving homeowners to be in awe of its beauty year round. 


Caring for Your Crabapple Trees 

Given that these trees can add so much to your landscaping all year, it is a good idea to make sure that you are caring for the health and safety of your tree. 


While crabapple trees do not need extra watering and tend to be drought resistant, it is a good idea to water the tree at the base if your area is suffering a prolonged drought. Otherwise they can usually thrive with the regular rainfall in our region. Check out Gardening Know How for specific watering solutions.  

Access to Light 

As with all things living, your trees need access to light to survive. If your crabapple trees are under a canopy of taller trees, you may want to prune and trim those trees to give your crabapple tree adequate access to the light it so needs to thrive. 

Soil: Erosion & Fertilizer

Crabapple trees are pretty low maintenance trees but they do need care when it comes to making sure there is no erosion of the soil around the base of the tree. In addition, you will want to make sure the soil is healthy and has enough nutrients to nourish the tree throughout the year. Soil testing can help with this and fertilizer can also aid with growth. 

Pruning & Disease

Crabapple trees need very little pruning unless you see dead or damaged branches from storms or disease. Apple Scab is one such fungal disease that can negatively impact crabapple trees. 

Proper pruning, raking, and destroying infected leaves can help lessen the disease for the next year’s growth. We also recommend a topical fungicide to prevent spread of the disease. 

Enjoy four seasons of joy with these beautiful trees. Drop us a picture of your crabapple and tell us what you love about them. 

Should I Try Pruning My Own Trees or Call a Professional?

Tree trimming and pruning may not look that difficult, right? A snip here and a snip there and all should be good. Lumberjack equipment, tools (and of course the flannel shirts) may seem pretty fun, but you may want to weigh your options before you pick up your pruning shears, or worse yet, your chainsaw. Take a moment to consider why a professional may be your best option to keep your trees (and yourself) safe, healthy, and growing. 

Hector Nifty W Tree wide view-1

What is Tree Pruning? 

Tree pruning is a whole lot more than haphazardly cutting branches off a tree or shrub. In fact, our arborists carefully consider the shape, size, and health of the tree before ever taking a tool to a branch. We look at each part of the tree, determine what is healthy and what is not, examine the ultimate goal of the pruning and take actions to that end. We do this not only for the aesthetic and shape of the tree, but also to encourage healthy growth and to remove any damaged or diseased portions of the tree. 

Pruning during different seasons can bring about different results. For instance, pruning in the spring can help encourage stronger blooms the next year. Pruning during the winter can help remove damaged branches that may have been injured during a snow or wind storm. Our timetable can help you determine when the best time might be to consider pruning the variety of trees in your yard. 

Why You Should Call a Professional Arborist

There are several reasons why calling a professional to trim and prune your trees is a smart idea. From safety for life and limb, to having the right equipment and knowledge for the job at hand, hiring a professional can save you time, effort, and possibly a trip to the hospital. 

Safety First 

As always, we advocate safety first. More often than not, trees need to be trimmed or pruned from a height above your reach. As professionals, we not only have the experience to wield heavy equipment from a height, but also have the proper safety harnesses and tools to reach tree limbs above our reach. 

We take into account how to keep our climbers and our crew on the ground safe, as well as the best way to protect your home and other structures on your property from falling limbs or branches. 

According to the Tree Care Industry Association, “being struck by a falling branch when pruning is a leading cause of death for homeowners who attempt their own tree removal or pruning.”

In addition to having safety training and experience in trees of all shapes, sizes, and heights, our arborists are fully insured. 

Proper Equipment 

Not many homeowners have the right equipment necessary to access all areas of trees for trimming and pruning. Our climbers and crane handlers are experts in their field and know how to accurately and safely use our professional grade equipment and tools to access even the most difficult trees. Tight areas and diseased trees are no match for our crew. 

Expertise & Experience

It takes years to learn to identify all the ways a tree can be damaged or diseased. Our crew has years of experience and specialized training to know exactly how to prune and trim your trees to promote growth and deter disease and damage from harming the overall health of a tree. 

Before you crank up your chainsaw, consider the safety, experience, and access to proper equipment that a professional could bring to your pruning project. Call our team today for a free estimate and get started on making your trees safer and healthier. 

Invasive Beetle Alert: Emerald Ash Borer

The small invasive beetle known as the Emerald Ash Borer is devastating Ash tree species across Middlesex, Essex and 9 other Massachusetts counties this spring. Homeowners should be aware of the potential pest and know their options when it comes to treatment or ways to help prevent the spread of this beetle. 


What Is the Emerald Ash Borer? 

The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is a small, metallic green beetle that was initially identified in the United States in the area surrounding Detroit, Michigan in the summer of 2002. Since that time it has spread violently across the nation and can be found in 35 states as well as five provinces in Canada. 

Since its discovery, the EAB has killed hundreds and millions of Ash trees across the country. In response, the USDA enforced a quarantine on Ash tree firewood and mulch. The goal of this quarantine (which has been lifted in Massachusetts as of January 2021,) is to slow the spread of this pest and give the Ash trees a fighting chance. 

What’s the Danger of the Emerald Ash Borer? 

How dangerous can a small beetle be, you ask? 

Extremely dangerous, according to the Massachuestts state site dedicated to the identification, prevention, and treatment of the EAB. 

In the course of just a few years (between 3-5 years) an Ash tree can go from showing small signs of an infestation in the form of dieback on the upper canopy of leaves to full mortality with the disruption of the tree’s nutrient movement. 

Invasive species experts explain that the adult beetles do little damage to the Ash foliage, that the real problem occurs during the larvae or immature stage of development. The larvae feed on the inner bark of ash trees, disrupting the tree's ability to transport water and nutrients. (Source: US Dept of Agriculture

emerald-ash-borer-1447682_1920-jpgSigns of Damage 

The Emerald Ash Borer is hard to spot with an untrained eye. Sadly, most infestations are several years old by the time they are noticed by homeowners. At that point the life of the tree is in jeopardy. 

However, most entomologists know the signs to be aware of to treat and stop the spread of this highly invasive pest. These include: 


  • Defoliation in the upper canopy
  • Branch death in the upper canopy
  • Growth of new branches where they can get nutrients such as at the base of the tree (epicormic sprouting) 
  • Signs of woodpecker damage since woodpeckers seek out EAB larvae
  • D-shaped exit holes in the bark may indicate adult EAB 
  • S-shaped galleries in the areas beneath the bark (indicates larvae feeding) 
  • Vertically split bark which can indicate galleries of larvae underneath

What Can Be Done About EAB? 

Homeowners should have regular inspections of the trees in their yard. Most Emerald Ash Borers will not be recognizable without keeping a close eye on the growth of the problem. Often if the problem has gone on too long the tree may be unsalvageable.

Professional arborists are able to use spray and injectable treatments to keep your trees safe but need to do so before the infestation has gotten too far. Once detected, often the goal is to stop the spread to other trees in the area. 

Environmental methods such as using natural enemies of the EAB could help. For instance, woodpeckers and wasps could help along with professional treatments by trained arborists. 

The state of Massachusetts in partnership with the Forest Health Program has implemented a trapping program to continue emerald ash borer detections in the state. The trapping program allows state foresters to find new infestations, map the progression and spread of known populations, and determine sites suitable for biocontrol releases.

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6 Common Signs of Tree Damage

The smell of spring is in the air. The crocuses are poking their heads out of the soil. Daffodils are making an appearance in long dormant flower beds. And trees are showing their buds with the promise of blooming any day now. The signs of spring are all around us!

Unfortunately, along with these hopeful signs come some signs of tree damage suffered through the winter or due to disease or pests. Are your trees sending you a sign they are damaged? 

All is not lost if your tree is showing some signs that it is sick. Our arborists can evaluate your trees and determine if the tree can be saved through pruning, treatment, cabling or bracing. Read on to find out what signs you should be looking for this spring as you start to get outside to enjoy this beautiful weather.  

#1 Dead Branches 

As you are evaluating the trees on your property, you may find that some of them have branches that appear to be dead wood. While many trees have dead branches, especially in the spring, it is important to take care of these since wind storms could cause them to fall and damage homes or property. 

Since fewer branches means less nutrients needed, a tree that is shedding its branches is a survival method. Have an arborist examine your trees that are showing signs of dead branches to evaluate its health and what steps can be taken to maintain healthy growth. 

#2 A Discernible Lean to One Side 

Some trees naturally grow at an angle due to the surrounding environment. Sadly, some trees develop a tilt due to weakness or structural issues with the roots. If you notice a tree in your yard that has a questionable tilt, contact our team to evaluate the health of the tree and determine if it needs removal or some TLC. 

#3 Visible Signs of Pests 

As you evaluate your property this spring, pay close attention to trees that may have an overabundance of beetles or ants that are on the bark or leaves. Pests tend to flock to dead, weakened, or dying wood to set up their colonies or nests. While every tree is bound to have some ants or beetles crawling around, look for damage caused by these pests that could indicate the health of the tree is struggling. 

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#4 Visible Signs of Fungal Growth 

Growth of fungus can look a little different on every tree. Look for discoloration on the leaves, wilting, or scabs on the bark. There could also be mushrooms growing at the base of the tree or even on the tree itself. 

#5 Exposed Roots & Root Damage

Determining root damage is not always an easy task as roots are not often visible. If your tree has a shallow or partially exposed root system, it is possible that it can suffer damage from every day actions such as mowing the grass, lawn care, and even foot traffic. Common signs of root damage include: dead branches, poor yearly growth, and wilting leaves during the growing season. 

#6 Bark Issues 

When a tree is diseased or dying it can show signs that it is vulnerable. Loose bark, missing bark, cracks in the bark, and cankers all signal a problem within the tree. Each of these conditions can weaken a tree and cause a potentially dangerous situation during the next wind storm. 

Excessive Drought Damages Evergreen Trees

There is a defoliation problem with evergreen trees which started last year. Fertilization and added soil inoculants can help, but the effects of multiple years of environmental stress (drought) are taking its toll. The problem is region-wide and is serious. Please see the following report from my alma mater, UMass, that goes into great detail concerning this matter.

Based on my own experience, the UMass research, and several discussions with fellow arborist - I summarize the problem as follows:

1. Several years of drought have greatly affected trees with low energy reserves by weakening their defense systems to the point of exposing them to secondary pathogens that never cause the demise of healthy, well hydrated trees. Unfortunately, Darwin's theory of 'survival of the fittest' is at play here and you may expect the loss of some trees as they are just too weak to survive. There is no magic potion that would have prevented the death of these trees (rain would have helped) and to blindly blast them with poisonous fungicides would be irresponsible. [More information from the UMass Extension Plant Diagnostics Lab]

2. Excessive layering of mulch is also a contributing factor to the weakening of these trees. Please see the attached report from Rutgers University that explains in detail the problems associated with mulching. My biggest concern is the stripping away of needles (spring and fall clean up) that the trees produce to counterbalance the effects of drought. Trees know when they are stressed and the defoliation is the tree's way of increasing the amount of organic matter in the soil to sustain specific microbial vitality. 'Air spading' in the fall/early winter of to can help reverse the effects of excessive mulching. [More information from the Rutgers NJAES]

3. SALT - There was a time when sand/salt mix was an acceptable winter roadway application. About 10 years ago, this changed and now we are collectively addicted to salt in the greater route 128 belt. This has a negative impact on trees and in my opinion is a leading cause to the decline of trees that line our roadways. Please see the attached fact sheet from UMass regarding the negative effects of salt. Aside from the obvious problem with salt wicking moisture from living cells, my biggest concern is the binding up of the soil on a molecular level, otherwise known as 'cation exchange'. This will result in neutralizing the soil to extent that the trees are not able to absorb nutrients. [More information from UMass]

Hopefully this information based on science will bring greater awareness to the challenges that trees are now facing. If you are experiencing defoliation in your evergreens, or any other symptoms that indicate your trees are damaged, please take advantage of a free consultation with a Certified Arborist.


Have Your Trees Inspected for Winter Damage

It's been a long, cold winter and it feels a little like there's no end in sight. This is the time to stay positive, enjoy any sunshine we get (even if it's accompanied by bitter cold wind), and hope the thaw comes soon.

This is also the time to have your trees inspected for winter damage. With record-breaking snowfall this year many properties are suffering damage from fallen trees or broken limbs and evergreens have been crushed from the weight of the snow. You may not even realize the severity of some of your tree damage until an expert inspects it.  

Carpenter Costin offers a no obligation tree inspection and property review. Let one of our certified arborists inspect the condition of your trees. While broken branches must be removed, bent branches can sometimes be saved by cabling. If your tree needs to be removed, we'll take it down carefully and safely. 

Let us evaluate your trees and assess any winter damage. We'll present you with all options available to keep them safe, beautiful and healthy! 

Call 877-308-8733 to schedule a free consultation or click below

Request a Free Consultation


Spring Has Sprung! Assess Winter Damage

It's officially Spring, although the temperatures only grazed the 50s this weekend. Still, after a long, snowy and freezing cold winter it feels absolutely wonderful to leave the house in something other than a glorified sleeping bag with arms! Soon we'll be soaking up the warmth of the sun and enjoying the bursts of color and greenery.

Before we celebrate the flowers blooming, though, it's important to remember that this is the time to appraise and repair the damage done to our trees, shrubs and lawn. 

With record snowfall this year many properties suffered damage from fallen trees or broken limbs and evergreens and shrubs have been crushed from the weight of the snow.  

Carpenter Costin offers a no obligation tree inspection and property review. Let one of our certfied arborists inspect the condition of your trees. While broken branches must be removed, bent branches can sometimes be saved by cabling them straight. If your tree or shrub needs to be removed, we will take it down carefully and safely. 

Let us evaluate your trees and shrubs and assess any winter damage. We'll present you with all options available to keep them safe, beautiful and healthy! 

Call 877-308-8733 to schedule a free consultation or click below

Request a Free Consultation




What Causes Trees to Split?

describe the imageBetween wind and rain, Mother Nature can take a toll on your trees and put your homes, cars, and family at risk! A couple of weeks ago we got a call about an Oak tree in Swampscott that started to split on a calm day. During the month of July we had five calls for similar issues; trees or branches failing for seemingly no apparent reason. 
It's hard to remember now that we're enjoying the summer heat, but we had two significant storms this winter. Those hurricane force winds have damaged our trees, and now that the added weight of water and leaves are in the tree canopies, we're seeing the flaws manifest. 
This reminder reinforces the need to have a free arborist evaluation. A professional eye will see what you may not before you end up with a tree on your roof!
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