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Extension > Garden > Diagnose a problem > What's wrong with my plant? > Evergreen Trees and Shrubs > Spruce > Missing or chewed needles

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Spruce > Needles > Missing or chewed needles

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  • Image: Rhizosphaera needle cast 1
  • Image: Rhizosphaera needle cast 2
  • Image: Rhizosphaera needle cast 3

Rhizosphaera needle cast
Rhizosphaera kalkhoffii

  • Infected needles turn brown or purplish brown late in winter or early spring
  • Needles at the branch tips remain green, while older needles closer to the trunk of the tree become discolored
  • Tiny black dots can be seen with a hand lens on infected needles
  • Discolored needles fall off mid summer; tree looks thin and bare
  • Damage typically starts on the lower branches and moves up the tree
  • Most common on young Colorado blue spruce, but infects all spruces
  • More information on Rhizosphaera needle cast
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  • Image: Yellowheaded spruce sawfly 1
  • Image: Yellowheaded spruce sawfly 2
  • Image: Yellowheaded spruce sawfly 3

Yellowheaded spruce sawfly
Pikonema alaskensis

  • Needles are partially or completely consumed
  • New growth is eaten first, then old growth
  • Larva first appear from late May to mid June and feed until late June to late July
  • Has reddish brown head, light and dark green longitudinal stripes, grows up to 3/4 inch long
  • More information on Yellowheaded spruce sawfly
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  • Image: Spruce budworm 1
  • Image: Spruce budworm 2
  • Image: Spruce budworm 3

Spruce budworm
Choristoneura fumiferana

  • Branch tips or branches defoliated
  • Needles webbed together in clumps and attached to twig, turning reddish brown by July
  • Larva has black head, light brown to gray brown with small spots, up to 1 inch long
  • More information on Spruce budworm
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  • Image: Spruce needle rust 1
  • Image: Spruce needle rust 2
  • Image: Spruce needle rust 3

Spruce needle rust
Chrysomyxa spp.

  • Needles at the tips of the branches (current year needles) turn yellow
  • Pale orange to white tube like projections appear on infected needles in July or Aug and release powdery orange spores
  • Severely infected trees may have a tan to pinkish cast
  • Infected needles fall off in September
  • Some species of rust can cause witches’ brooms, a clump of small weak branches arising from one point on a large branch
  • More information on Spruce needle rust

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