Brown branches on arborvitae

This time of year arborvitae plants may get a little shabby. Many branches get short brown

Damaged tip from arborvitae leaf miner. Photo: SD Frank

Damaged tip from arborvitae leaf miner. Photo: SD Frank

tips. Other branches may turn brown and just hang on the plant. Arborvitae leaf miners, Argyresthia spp., are tiny moths responsible for brown tips. Moths lay eggs on new growth which is why the tips of plants are damaged. Larvae burrow into leaf scales and mine foliage as they feed and develop.

Larvae overwinter in the mines and resume feeding in spring. Damage is most evident in winter and early spring so the damage you see now is likely from mines initiated last year. Mines can be differentiated from other damage by looking for exit holes and by opening damaged tips to look for larvae.

If you have larger brown branches that are hanging, barely attached to the tree, you

Flagging branch from bark beetle feeding. Photo: SD Frank

Flagging branch from bark beetle feeding. Photo: SD Frank

probably have damage from Phloeosinus spp. bark beetles. Commonly called cypress bark beetles, eastern species attack arborvitae. These beetles chew branches 15-30 cm from the tip making a groove or short tunnel that weakens the branch. The branch then breaks easily in the wind and turns brown, a condition called flagging. You can look for the hollowed end of branches you suspect were damaged by these beetles.

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