Alberta Spruce

(Question)

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Hi
I’m in Toronto (Birchmount/Danforth area). I have 3 largish Alberta spruce (the decorator kind, not trees) which were here when I took the property over nearly 5 years ago. They are at the back, north side of my property a few feet from the wall of the next house and near the fence dividing the 2 properties.

Up until this year they’ve been healthy, good colour, etc. this year I’m noticing they are going brown and dryish from the inside out.

Originally thought it might be moths, then spider mites. Have been “washing” them with strong jets of water all over the outsides, as much inside as possible, and where the trunks enter the soil.

I’ve already “installed” nematodes all over the gardens, grass, etc. for this year.

I cannot see what is eating away at/affecting these spruces, but this morning (Sun June 5) I noticed a few little snails crawling on the tips of the branches of one of them. I took a couple off but I can’t do that all over if that’s what the problem is.

So, any ideas? I don’t think Safer’s End All will do it; I don’t think insecticidal soap will do it. I’m not familiar with snails/slugs feasting on Alberta spruce, so not sure if putting down slug pellets would do it either.

Any ideas etc. would be great. I’d like to save these guys ‘cos they’re lovely to have.

I’ve looked around on your site but can’t really see anything that answers my questions

Blasts of water at the base, all around the insides and outsides of these guys doesn’t seem to have done the trick. Don’t know what else to do.

Thanks (and I left a message on the phone line too….this is to attach the photo and the description again).

(Answer)

Thank you for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners.

We did receive both your email and phone requests, thank you.

If your Alberta Spruce is indeed infested chances are it is spider mites. I am finding no information about snails being an issue for Spruce. The only other possibility is the trees being stressed by a change in their environment or from the freeze thaws we experienced this winter. If that were the case I would expect damaged to be more localized than it is.

The easiest way to test for spider mites is to hold a white piece of paper under a branch and hit the branch. The spider mites will fall on the paper so you can see them. They are very tiny. You may also notice small strands like a spider web. Spider mites prefer to eat older leaves so do work from inside and move outward. From the pictures it looks like the new growth in indeed intact. Spider mites do love moisture so blasting with water sometimes has the opposite effect.

Getting rid of spider mites can be tricky. Combinations of insecticidal soaps can work but it sounds like your issue is too big for that to be effective. I am not seeing any connections between using nematodes and spider mites. Your best bet is to go to a local nursery and discuss with them possible products that may work in your situation.  Master Gardeners of Toronto does not give out specific product information.

I am including some links below for you to look at for further information.

Good Luck.

https://web.extension.illinois.edu/dmp/palette/080629.html

https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/spruce-spider-mite

You may wish to contact a certified arborist to look at your tree. Here is the wesite which lists arborists in your area : www.isaontario.com/content/public