Wildlife And Your Trees: The Good And The Bad

At Birch Tree Care we love all flora and fauna, but there is no denying that some wildlife helps tree and some wildlife hurts trees. On the job we have seen some very cute, cuddly-looking animals cause some serious tree damage that is not only aesthetically undesirable, but can cause hazards for humans and other trees.

WILDLIFE HELPS TREES

Let’s start with the positives. Let’s look at just a couple animals you may run into in Minnesota that are helping your trees and shrubs flourish.

ANTS

Ants love trees and trees love ants; famous American biologist Edward Osborne Wilson discovered 200 species of ants on a single tree in Gorongosa National Park!

Here in Minnesota, ants help trees in a variety of ways:

  • Stir up the soil: When ants dig tunnels, they aerate the soil and recycle nutrients. They are so effective at maintaining healthy soil that they can reduce the need for fertilizer and irrigation.
  • Transporting seeds: While many animals transport seed for trees, ants really go the extra mile; they bring the seeds into their nutrient-rich nests, which not only provides a great growing location, but the underground location protects the seeds from hungry herbivores.
  • Eating pests: While some people consider ants pests, they actually protect us from many worse insects. Ants eat fly, flea and bed bug eggs, larvae and nymphs.

FROGS

Many people don’t associate frogs with trees, but they have a very important role in tree health; frogs act as bio-indicators, meaning they show indications of the health of the ecosystem.  Substances present in the environment are absorbed within the frogs’ fatty tissues and because of this, frogs are often the first animals to react to biological hazards; they act as a sign for us to take action before the hazard reaches the trees or other wildlife.

WILDLIFE HURTS TREES

We don’t want to discredit the following animals’ importance in the ecosystem, but they do need to be watched in our yards and neighborhoods because they have the potential to damage our trees.

BEAVERS

These buck-toothed beauties can do a lot of damage. The most obvious issue is that they cut down trees. While this in itself is not a huge problem, the side effects of fallen trees are problematic.

Flooding is the biggest problem associated with beavers. When beavers chew down trees, they land in precarious ways that lead to flooding after heavy rains. In Minnesota, where we all have basements, flooding in our yards often leads to flooding in our homes. The Humane Society offers some great, beaver-friendly ways to protect your trees from these rodents. 

TERMITES

While most termites only attack dead wood and thus don’t hurt the health of your trees, they do turn your trees into hazards.

When termites infest trees, the eat until the tree can no longer stand, which can result in a tree harming your home or your family. wikiHow has step-by-step instructions (with photos) to help you track down an infestation and prevent it from causing damage.

Of course, if you ever notice anything unusual about your trees, give us a call. We can come out and check to see if your local wildlife is helping or hurting your trees.