Termites, beetles, decay, oh my!

shakespearegril

New Member
Location
Livermore
Hi all!

I've been searching the internet to find a place that can help me help my tree! Quick background - bought our house 2 years ago, the tree has seemed to be relatively healthy the whole time. I know it to be a fruitless mulberry tree, and is at most approximately 68 years old (assuming it's as old as the house). Recently I had my annual pest inspection, which turned up subterranean termites and drywood termites not too far from the tree (structure in question is just barely out of frame on the left in the picture that shows the whole tree), and I had them look at my tree too. Though they said they weren't experts when it came to trees, they advised that I should have an arborist check it out because they thought it might have termites.

I've had 3 arborists out. The first said the tree shows "extensive decay" stemming from improper pruning low on the tree (ie, early on in its life), anything hanging from it must be removed, and the tree should be removed. The second said they saw signs of previous "bug entry," and said the tree probably has 5-15 years tops. The third said there's nothing at all wrong with it, if there was decay that long ago it would be quite deteriorated now, termites don't typically go for trees even if there are spots of dead wood, and fruitless mulberries live to be 150+ and I have nothing to worry about. Mind you, these are all certified arborists, so I would have expected their answers to be the same. But now I'm sat here totally at a loss, not sure if I should spend $5k+ to remove a tree that might actually be just fine. Granted, it'd be easier to landscape if the tree was gone (bye bye awkwardly raised lawn!), but it's a dream to have a house with a tree and a swing, so it'd be a little heartbreaking to say goodbye to her! Any advice at all is greatly appreciated!
 

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Reach

Well-Known Member
Location
Atglen, PA
Welcome, and thank you for the rather detailed post! There are others here with much more knowledge than I have, but I will share some thoughts.

First, I am limited as to what I can say authoritatively without seeing the tree in person. However, I can tell that this tree was “topped” at some point in the past, which always leads to bad results. You can learn a bit more about topping here: https://extension.psu.edu/dont-top-trees

I can’t see in your pictures anything that tells me there are or are not bugs, so I can’t speak to insect damage to the tree.

There is definitely considerable decay, which I would expect in a tree that has been topped. However, again, without seeing the tree in person I can’t tell if the tree is a hazard or not. At a minimum though I would recommend against using that swing for the time being.

A note on Certified Arborists: not all arborists are equal. Unfortunately, there are some with little knowledge, and there are also some with much knowledge. It’s hard to know which is which sometimes. To be a bit more sure of the qualifications of your arborist, look for a Board Certified Master Arborist; that certification requires much more work to get and much more to keep, therefore requiring a higher basic level of knowledge.
 

southsoundtree

Well-Known Member
Location
Olympia, WA
Did you pay for their consulting services?
Consider a BCMA or Registered Consulting Arborist.

ISA-CA is the the most basic arb cert, like a basic driver's license a 16-18 can get...way better than nothing...possibly extremely little diagnosis or evaluation experience, possibly never having consulted on your species.

I went to a podiatrist. Trained, licensed...very underwhelmed.




$5k...WTF???????
 

southsoundtree

Well-Known Member
Location
Olympia, WA
Any TRAQ? Tree risk assessment qualified?
Resistograph used?
Anything beyond a Visual Tree Assessment?

Was the $5k bid for real? That's a small, basic removal.
I'd have that on the ground in an hour, maybe 2, solo.
 

shakespearegril

New Member
Location
Livermore
No, no TRAQ or resistograph (unfortunately, I didn't know about those until you mentioned them!). Yes, the bid was for real - it's easily a 30-40 ft tree that's quite close to several of our neighbors, and our city requires a permit for residential tree removal :( It was $1k just to trim it last year (yikes!)
 

JD3000

Most well-known member
Location
Columbus
That's not a $5K removal.

From just a few pics, I say keep it and have it inspected in a couple years by the person who said keep it.
 

southsoundtree

Well-Known Member
Location
Olympia, WA
You are in a high cost of living area.

30-40' is small.


I did a 160' dead grand fir, solo. No big deal. Full disclosure I had to replace 2 fence boards on an old fence.

I'll come from WA and do yours for $3k.
Not really.
Well, maybe.
Not really.

Maybe a cable and brace rod(s), and some restoration pruning around the topping-resprouts.
Smother the grass with wood chip mulch.
 

shakespearegril

New Member
Location
Livermore
My next question would be - in regards to it being topped and possibly having decay, would it then be advisable to remove? I'd rather plant a tree that could be big and healthy (and well maintained!) in 15 years vs this tree dying in 15 years. This is our forever home, so as much as I do love the tree, and hate the price of removal, I'm trying to be thoughtful in regards to the future!
 
You must be in Livermore CA to have access to more than one BCMA!
As a BCMA and TRAQ myself I would recommend you do whatever you want. It’s your home and tree. It will most likely take more than 15 years to grow a tree of that size but you could make a superior species choice. It may be a good opportunity to plant a more climate adapted species and have quality structural pruning performed. Or better yet teach yourself the basics, you are already on treebuzz. Never to late to become an Arborist... As mentioned above shop around on that removal price. Even for they Bay Area that seems a bit excessive.

If you want to keep the tree it could probably limp along for awhile with no intervention or alternately don’t use the area under it. A tree only poses a risk when you place an object or human in the area around it.
Good luck! And welcome to TreeBuzz!
 

shakespearegril

New Member
Location
Livermore
ConeCollector - thank you! I'm trying my best to educate myself about house and yard care, so I'll definitely think about planting a more climate adapted species. In the end, it may be best to go that route, just to have the peace of mind that I'm planning smart for our home :)

southsoundtree - So sorry that was my mistake, I meant that the maximum it could possibly be is 68 years, but I highly doubt it's quite that old! With the advisement not to have anything on or around it, I'm leaning towards replacing it. To my mind, a tree is meant to be enjoyed, and I'd rather replace it than let it die a slow death!

Thank you everyone so much for all the advice so far, it is greatly appreciated! I've had a much more in depth discussion with all you than with any of the BCMAs I had out! I'm feeling much better about making a decision now for sure!
 

southsoundtree

Well-Known Member
Location
Olympia, WA
P.S.

I am looking in a small screen so can't see great detail.


If you and another adult can't break off the branch, a kid on the swing won't.

Did the BCMAs offer a (vested-interest) removal bid? Tree care bid? Just out for a paid consultation?
 

shakespearegril

New Member
Location
Livermore
ConeCollector - thank you for the info! We were thinking of an oak if we had to replace it, seemed a safe bet for being less prone to diseases and pests.

southsoundtree - I must confess that I'm the swing user haha. It seemed stable enough to me, but BCMA 1 & 2 gave me pause!

The BCMAs didn't mention any sort of paid consultation that they might offer, or any services beyond a "look and see," although I did ask. BCMA 1 and 2 both offered to come back out for bids on removal, with 2 throwing out the ~5k estimate. BCMA 3 said the trim we did (from another company) seemed good, and to stick with their service and get it pruned every couple of years.
 

arborcareman

Active Member
Location
ILLinois
ConeCollector - thank you for the info! We were thinking of an oak if we had to replace it, seemed a safe bet for being less prone to diseases and pests.

southsoundtree - I must confess that I'm the swing user haha. It seemed stable enough to me, but BCMA 1 & 2 gave me pause!

The BCMAs didn't mention any sort of paid consultation that they might offer, or any services beyond a "look and see," although I did ask. BCMA 1 and 2 both offered to come back out for bids on removal, with 2 throwing out the ~5k estimate. BCMA 3 said the trim we did (from another company) seemed good, and to stick with their service and get it pruned every couple of years.

Wow...
Being in this industry for over 35 years, it would seem the BCMA who came out may just have been Sales Arborist.
Number 3 is more of a bozo thinking the topped “pruning” was acceptable.

Unless there’s something missing that would justify that tree being a 5k removal-that’s just nuts..!

Not having actual eyes on it...However not an awesome species, topped, some amount of decay and whatever other potential issues....it’s just not worth keeping long term.
Now just find a removal company that’s not out to gouge you on cost and then plant a new tree that can be properly maintained.

Best wishes


Sent from my little tree world
Colossians 2:6-7
 

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