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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Friday - August 08, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests, Trees
Title: Possible webbing bark lice on oak tree
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

We live near the Center and have a large live oak tree in our yard. Recently the lower trunk has been covered with thin, white weblike material (not sure if spider web). What could this be and is it dangerous to the tree? Should I brush off with broom or try another solution? Thanks!

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants thinks that your oak tree may be infested with webbing bark lice (Archipsocus nomas). Do not be alarmed. It looks rather nasty, but isn't harmful to the tree. The bark lice, which aren't really lice, are feeding on fungi, lichens and other debris on the trunk of the tree. In other words, they are cleaning your tree and, thus, are probably beneficial to it. They produce the web to protect themselves from wind, rain and predators. Here is more information Auburn University, Texas A&M and North Carolina State University. Another related species of bark iice, Cerastipsocus venosus, also commonly occurs in Texas. Here are photos of Cerastipsocus venosus. So, let them be and thank them for the cleaning service!

 

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