Attack of the skeletonizer!

- Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development

Why are birch trees along Highway 16 near McBride and Dunster turning brown? It’s the result of the birch leaf skeletonizer.

Submitted photo
Submitted photo
Submitted photo
Submitted photo

As the name implies, this insect will chew leaves so only the “skeleton” of the leaf remains. They naturally occur in North American forests.

The infestation along Highway 16 began this year and the insect population will likely increase for one to five years before returning to normal levels.

Submitted photo
Submitted photo

This insect only attacks birch trees and won’t spread to coniferous trees.

While the insect defoliates birch trees, it generally doesn’t cause widespread mortality.

Ministry staff will carefully monitor the size of the infestation area.

Property owners who may wish to protect a tree on their property can collect the leaf litter that accumulates at the base of their tree and burn it in their firepit – if there are no burning restrictions in place. This will destroy overwintering pupae and help reduce the spread.

Submitted photo
Submitted photo