Barberries in Massachusetts, what's killing them?

Does anyone have any idea what is killing barberries in Massachusetts? I live in a suburb west of Boston, and I just noticed yesterday that there are some totally dead branches on one of our barberries that had looked wonderfully healthy before that. I was sort-of wondering whether the neighbor had poisoned them, but when driving around this area, I see others that are totally defunct or seemingly headed in that direction. If there is anything I can do about this, I obviously want to. Thanks.
--
Jean B.


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Jean, I think it was just the horrible winter we had. They're saying it the worst since 1888. Wind burn is doing them in, I think. We have blueberry bushes up in Maine that were hit hard, too. My roses here were decimated.
--
Ann, Gardening in zone 6a
Just south of Boston, MA
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Ann wrote:

out so wonderfully and then just die? I dunno. I will say my dogwoods both look like they have anthracnose now, and I suspect the bad winter and very rainy spring weakened them.
Thanks!
--
Jean B.


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Jean,
I just read in the paper that there is a new caterpillar in E. Mass that is decimating leaves and that is on top of the worst year for other caterpillars ever. One possibility is that the intense cold killed the wasps or beetles that prey on the larvae.
The caterpillars are overwhelming us here in W. Mass. Gypsy moths, tent caterpillars, and a whole bunch of little ones we have no idea what they are. They've chomped my Chionoides rhododendrons down to the stem and when I went to the garden center this week I saw that theirs had big holes in them too.
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Jenny wrote:

Hmmm. I haven't seen anything on them, so tomorrow I will look closer. I did notice that my nishiki willow looked nice one day and half naked the next day, and closer inspection revealed caterpillars. If there are, indeed, caterpillars, can one spray or something? Is there some non-chemical solution that would work? Of course, there are some problems even if the answer is yes. First, it would impossible to get to the inner parts of the barberries--and these are huge. Second, I have a very bad relationship with the neighbor, who wants the barberries gone, so I am sure I would not have access to them from his side of them.
Maybe I should look more closely at my dogwoods too, to see if they have any critters on them. I have seen a lot of devastation of many types of plants here this spring. :-(
--
Jean B.


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We have a new pest, the winter moth, and the caterpillars are voracious eaters, like the canker worm. Remember last November all those little white moths in your headlights? That's the buggers.
I have problems with the canker worms, so I spray every spring, starting with leafout, with a BT spray on my cherries and flowering almond. You have to start when they're young, they measure them by instars or somesuch, when they're more than a half-inch long I think they're too big for the BT to overcome them. Unfortunately at this point I think only sevin will kill them, but you know all else that will kill! If this is the first year of your infestation then the trees and shrubs will releaf and recover. Next spring be sure to hit them early and hard with the BT spray. Hose-end sprayers are cheap and they spray 30' or so, so it isn't a problem to use them on ornamental trees. Unfortunately the same can't be said of the oaks, they've taken a hard hit, too, but they're too tall for me to spray :o(
--
Ann, Gardening in zone 6a
Just south of Boston, MA
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Ann wrote:

Do you think this could be the case, even when they leaves have not been munched? Rather, they are TOTALLY dried up. I'm going to go out to inspect the things more closely now. Maybe I'll have more observations.
Re the oaks--eeeek! I'll have to go out and gaze up at the ones at the far end out our property. At least, if one does see some devastation, it would be a relief to know it is something other than sudden oak death.
Thanks again,
--
Jean B.


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Ann wrote:

gnawing--and nothing different about the one that has these dead branches compared to its neighbors on each side which have none. Yet. And the odd (to me) thing is the rapidity with which this is happening--and the fact that the whole branches are dying at the same time. I'm going to try to peer down the property line. I will say that right before I noticed this, I was in the area of the barberries and I noticed an odd smell--like some herbicide or something.... And the neighbor HATES these bushes. (Mind you, they were there before either of us moved in!) He wants that area to be totally open, while my daughter and I crave privacy. Well, if they die, the fence will be extended with no lag between taking the bushes out and putting up the fence. Not one day's worth.
While I was out, I did see that my river birches' leaves are quite gnawed--and I saw little green caterpillars, practically invisible, glued to the leaf edges, so that is no mystery. :-(
--
Jean B.


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