Protect Your Trees and Shrubs From These Common Pests

Trees and shrubs are the decorative ornaments of our landscapes. They are windows into our past. They provide us with the air we breathe, shade, fruit, and are a sanctuary to the wildlife around us. Most of us enjoy the comfort they give us. But most of us are not aware that like our lawn, trees and shrubs need proper care and maintenance. There are many harmful insects and diseases that are waiting to make our beautiful monuments their next lunch. The best way to protect your valuable shrubbery is through an effective tree and shrub care program like the one the professionals at Coastal Turf provide. The second way is to be aware of the pests that exist and recognize when they are becoming a nuisance.

Common Pests that Invade Our South Carolina Tree and Shrubs

aphids chewing leaf


Aphids are a sap-sucking and leaf-eating insect. These little guys leave behind large amounts of a sticky substance called honeydew. The name of it sounds yummy but it quickly turns black due to a nasty sooty mold that thrives and collects on the underside of damp leaves. Aphids are green or yellow, and their antennae are just slightly shorter than their body. While a small number of aphids will not generally hurt a healthy tree, large infestations of aphids can be deadly and stunt the growth of both the trees and leaves. Keep an eye out for the following symptoms:

Aphids deplete the plant’s fluids and nutrients, stop the growth of leaves, and can transmit the disease from one tree to another. The presence of honeydew can increase the chance of fungi growth and attract other insects such as ladybugs.


One of the most common tree pests in South Carolina can be found on over 120 different types of trees and ornamental plants. They are dark brown caterpillars and approximately one inch in length. They probably got their name from their incredible bag making skills. When they feed, they create a silken case, that looks much like a bag and cover it with the leaves of the host tree. They provide and construct their pouches for about three months. When mature, they fix their bag to a branch binding it with silk. After a male visits the female’s pouch to mate, she lays up to 1,000 eggs within her bag and then dies. This may sound harmless enough, but on deciduous trees, bagworms chew small holes in the leaves and cause the leaves to strip away.

If you can stop and eliminate the bagworms, the deciduous tree typically bounces back. Evergreens, on the other hand, are not as lucky. Bagworms eat the tree’s buds and foliage, which causes the branch tips to turn brown and die.

Emerald Ash Borer

close up of emerald ash borer

The Emerald Ash Borer is a non-native invasive wood-boring beetle that is an exotic green color. This tiny critter is responsible for the death and destruction of tens of millions of ash trees in 30 states, including here in South Carolina. Native to Asia, it was first discovered in Detroit in 2002 and slowly spread throughout the United States. Adult females lay their eggs from mid to late May. Once hatched the larvae of the beetle feed on tissues beneath the bark. Doing so disrupts the tree’s ability to deliver water and nutrients to its roots. The leaves start to discolor, the bark splits open and within three to five years, the tree dies.

Symptoms of Emerald Ash Borer include:


  • Yellow, thick, or wilted foliage
  • Thinning and drying of twigs toward the tree’s upper canopy
  • Unusual woodpecker presence and pecking holes
  • Exit holes shaped like a D-shaped beetle
  • Stems growing from the roots or a tree’s trunk


Eastern and Western Tent Caterpillars

The eastern tent caterpillar attacks several species of trees and shrubs. They are black and gold with blue markings, somewhat hairy, and have a white stripe down their backs. They can grow to be up to two inches long. These insightful creatures lay their eggs in masses around twigs and cover them with a foamy secretion that dries into a firm, brown, covering. The following spring, when the young hatch, they crawl down from the trees and search for a space to spin their unsightly webs. In the process, they also feed on new leaves. Most often, these webs can be found in the crotch of small limbs. Damage usually occurs because the caterpillars feed in groups and cause massive amounts of destruction to the leaves.

What is the Best Way to Protect My Trees and Shrubs?

The best way to protect your trees and shrubs is by maintaining their health and supplying them with the nutrients they need to remain vibrant and healthy. A robust tree is much more able to fight off disease than one that is weak and fragile. At Coastal Turf, we provide a comprehensive, customized tree and shrub care program designed to fit your needs. Our program includes a custom-blend fertilizer combined with insect and disease control to keep your tree and shrubs protected year-round. Request a free estimate and contact Coastal Turf to find out more about our tree and shrub care program.