Pest description and damage Cherry bark tortrix (CBT) occurs in Eurasia, Africa, and North America. CBT was first discovered in North America in British Columbia in 1989. By 1998, CBT was found in the Pacific Northwest as far south as Centralia, WA. CBT is slowly moving southward. Eastern movement has not been seen-possibly due to the Cascade Mountain range. Conditions in eastern Washington may not be favorable for CBT to survive except in protected riparian areas. CBT is a pest of most woody ornamental trees and shrubs in the family Rosaceae. The larvae are 0.33 to 0.4 inch long, pale gray to flesh-color with small, pale gray spines scattered on the surface, with a yellowish-brown head. Larvae feed directly on the cambium under the bark of the tree and may cause death of the tree. Otherwise, the feeding activity decreases the supply of nutrients to the tree and increases susceptibility to disease, insect attack, and environmental stress, including cold injury. The first indication of attack is the exuding of reddish-brown gum-like resin, which often is mixed with fecal pellets and silk. The trunk and larger limbs of bearing fruit trees are affected, usually at pruning wounds.
Biology and life history CBT larvae overwinter under bark. During spring, they resume feeding and eventually pupate in a silken tube that protrudes beyond the bark surface where they were feeding. Adults fly from late April to September and are most active in the early morning; some may be attracted to lights at night. Eggs are laid on tree bark, in crevices, or under loose bark, primarily at wounds (mechanical or old infestations). Eggs are placed singly or in overlapping groups of two or three and hatch in 2 or 3 weeks. Hatching larvae penetrate the bark through openings (natural and mechanical wounds) and feed on the living tissue of the tree's bark. Graft unions of ornamental trees are preferred sites for attack. Larvae do not penetrate the hardwood of the tree. During feeding, CBT larvae construct a frass tube consisting of fecal pellets and webbing. The tubes are about 0.25 inch long and look soft, as if they are made from sawdust. The frass tubes of the larvae and pupae are usually concentrated around the base of the trunk, where a branch and trunk meet and at graft unions.
Scouting and thresholds Frass tubes are an excellent indication of CBT infestations, and susceptible trees should be monitored regularly. Since other insects can cause similar damage, inspection of the larvae is required for confirmation.
Although some wasp species parasitize the larvae, effective biological control does not occur at present. Avoid sprays that will disrupt whatever control does occur.
Avoid unnecessary pruning cuts or injuries to the tree. Like most wood-boring insects, CBT is attracted to stressed trees. Keep trees as healthy as possible with appropriate watering, fertilizer applications, and pruning. Remove heavily infested branches or trees.
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For more information
Beers, E. H., M.W. Klaus and E. LaGasa. 1993. Cherry bark tortrix (https://treefruit.wsu.edu/crop-protection/opm/cherry-bark-tortrix/)
Tanigoshi, L.K., B. S Gerde, and T. A. Murray, T. 2015. Pest watch: Cherry bark tortrix. WSU Extension FS155E. (https://research.libraries.wsu.edu)