Here you can find answers to frequently asked questions. Have a specific question? Click on the category link below and you may find your answer!
Can’t find your question here? Check out Purdue Extension-FNR’s Got Nature? blog! To have your question answered by our extension specialists please fill out the Ask an Expert form. Your email will automatically be added to our Got Nature? e-Newsletter, which all participants can unsubscribe at anytime.
Aquaponics is the use of both aquaculture (the practice of growing fish in tanks) and hydroponics (the practice of growing plants in a soilless environment) in order to create a cooperative living environment. The basic principle is that fish are raised in tanks, and part or all of the nutrient-rich wastewater is then circulated to the hydroponic plant production system. The plants take up the water and nutrients, thereby cleaning the water, which is then circulated back into the fish tanks.
View Purdue Extension – Forestry and Natural Resources program impacts for more information and contacts, Aquaponics Program. Also visit: Purdue Extension – The Education Store, search “aquaculture”, and visit the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant: Aquaponics.
The shortest answer to this question is: carefully and with proper planning. Weeds in a pond are linked to the total pond environment, taking up nutrients from the pond and surrounding area, creating oxygen and in some cases habitat for aquatic organisms. Any plan to control aquatic weeds should consider the following: weed identification and means of control, be it mechanical, biological or chemical. Lastly, some type of preventative measures should be taken to avoid any future problems.
For a more in-depth guide and resources view:
Aquatic Plant Management [PDF 4.2MB], The Education Store, Purdue Extension’s resource center
Control of Duckweed and Watermeal, The Education Store
Indiana Pond Management, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IN DNR), Fish & Pond Management
Missouri Pond Handbook, Missouri Department of Conservation
Category 5: Aquatic Pest Management, IN State Chemist
Indiana State Department of Health Lab, IN Department of Health
Water Testing Laboratories, Purdue Extension
Imidacloprid, the active ingredient works by killing adults when they feed in the summer before they lay eggs. It slowly kills the two youngest stages of grubs that feed beneath the bark. The later and larger two stages are not killed. Material applied in the fall does not start killing beetles til spring. It takes twice the dose in the fall to get the same effect as a spring application. Trees with a trunk diameter of >20 inches at 4.5 ft above the ground can’t be controlled with imidacloprid.
So if your trees are starting to die I would suggest you skip the fall application of imidacloprid and switch to a professional injection of emamectin benzoate. See Protecting Ash Trees with Insecticides (pdf), Purdue Extension Emerald Ash Borer, for more information.
Cliff Sadof, Coordinator of Extension
Purdue University Department of Entomology
Instructions for making and using a tree measuring stick are available from publication FNR-4: How to Make and Use the Tree Measuring Stick. Those instructions call for blueprint paper, which can be requested from the Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources (FNR) Office, 195 Marsteller Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907, or by calling (765) 494-3583 or emailing email@example.com.
The Department of Forestry and Natural Resources maintains about 25 properties throughout Indiana, totaling over 4,000 forested acres. Almost 5,000 additional acres adjacent to these forested lands are also managed by Purdue, some of which are reserved for future tree plantings. Several of these properties were gifted to the Department by private individuals or corporations. The majority of our experimental or demonstration tree plantings are targeted to our properties because the direct oversight allows for efficient management and ensures the long-term stability of our planting projects. Therefore, we generally are not in need of additional properties for tree plantings at present. Should you be interested in a possible gift of land to our department, we would be pleased to discuss the opportunity with you.
There are several insects, diseases and environmental conditions that can cause ash tree mortality. Some of the signs of Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) infestation include tree limb dieback followed by re-sprouting from the larger branches and trunk, small distinctly “D” shaped holes in the bark, woodpecker feeding activity and “S” shaped feeding galleries under the bark. Check to see if you notice some of these conditions before assuming it is EAB. Information for EAB in Indiana is available on the Emerald Ash Borer, Purdue Extension-Entomology website. If, after checking the tree symptoms, you believe you have Emerald Ash Borer, call 1-866-NO-EXOTIC (1-866-663-9684).
The ants are taking advantage of the soft, decayed wood that is already present in the tree. A previous injury to the bark, trunk, branches or roots has allowed disease and decay to exist in the tree. Control of the ants will not do anything to improve the health of the tree. You may wish to consult with a Certified Arborist who has completed training and certification in the care of trees. You can find one in your area by clicking on the link above.
For more information: Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
This fungal disease is spread by a small twig beetle, eventually leading to the death of infected trees. Thousand cankers disease has been found in many western states. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Entomology and Plant Pathology, activated Indiana’s Emergency Rule for Thousand Cankers Disease (TCD) of Black Walnut, effective August 30, 2010. TCD disease, endemic in the western U.S., was recently identified in Tennessee. A number of factors suggest that this disease could establish in eastern forests: the widespread distribution of eastern black walnut, the susceptibility of this tree species to the disease and the capacity of the fungus and beetle to invade new areas and survive under a wide range of climatic conditions in the West.
Things we can do to help prevent this disease: check your black walnut trees for signs of this disease: report any dead or declining walnut trees to 1-866-NO-EXOTIC (1-866-663-9684); don’t move firewood of any kind as it spreads insects and diseases; and don’t move walnut material from a known infested area.
For more information, please visit the Thousand Cankers Disease website.
Trees removed from a wooded area for home or building construction can be high quality and well worth processing if they are relatively free of defects, living and of sufficient size. These trees are essentially woods-grown trees.
Many trees planted for shade are open grown and have fast growth. They are often not the most desirable lumber species and may contain metal. They may be damaged around the base by lawn mowers and weed whips and may have wounds on the trunk caused by improper pruning. This damage usually results in localized decay and discoloration of the wood. Because of these problems, careful economic consideration should be given before attempting to process these trees into high-value wood products.
Sawyers can be difficult to locate. They are small businesses and often do not advertise. Check with equipment manufacturers; some keep a list of individuals who do custom sawing. Check with local foresters, district foresters, extension educators and others associated with the growing and management of timber about purchasing timber or other wood uses. They will usually know who can help.
The Department of Forestry and Natural Resources has many publications related to planting, maintaining and harvesting forest trees. These publications can be found at The Education Store. Field days, workshops and a series of forest management classes are held throughout the year. These are posted on the FNR Extension Calendar with contact information.
Fire blight infects ornamental fruit trees such as this callery pear, a popular landscape tree. Symptoms include cankers on branches, wilted shoots and blacked leaves, which give trees a “scorched” appearance. Homeowners can get reputable advice or service from an International Society of Arboriculture certified arborist. A directory of certified arborists is available on the Indiana Arborist Association website or contact the IAA office at (765) 494-3625.
Before pruning a tree themselves, homeowners should review steps outlined in Fruit Diseases: Fire Blight on Fruit Trees in the Home Orchard, a free download available through Purdue Extension authored by Dr. Janna Beckerman with the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology. Improper pruning can further damage trees or spread the disease. For other Purdue Extension publications, visit The Education Store.
Death of a tree from a lightning strike is not easily diagnosed. Some trees die immediately from small external damage while others with serious scars may live on for many years. If the tree does not appear to have structural damage from the strike, give it plenty of water and wait to see if it recovers.
Vines growing to the top of the tree and covering the leaves cut off the photosynthetic process that is vital to the tree. Photosynthesis creates carbohydrates that travel throughout the tree and to the roots. Without this, trees will weaken and die. Vines that cover the bark of the tree block lenticels through which gaseous exchange takes place. Without this exchange, cells in the area will die and weaken. Excessive vines around your tree could also be covering up decay, disease or insect infestations.
Starting trees from seed requires knowing the germination requirements for the species you wish to grow. Most native tree seeds require treatments to break seed dormancy before the seed will germinate. These are done naturally by weather cycles, moisture, sunlight and wildlife in the forest environment. When we collect seeds, we will have to simulate these natural events to germinate the seeds successfully. The Woody Plant Seed Manual, a U.S. Forest Service publication, gives detailed germination and nursery culture instructions by genus and species of trees.
Check out this general germination guide for some common tree species.
One possible answer is the “pine cones” may actually be bagworm cocoons suspended from the tree twigs or foliage. Bagworms build a cocoon made of foliage and twigs from the tree they are feeding on. The defoliation and associated cocoons can begin to show up in June or July but may not be obvious until later in the summer when significant defoliation has occurred, and the cocoons are quite large and numerous. See control recommendations by viewing Bagworms, The Education Store publications.
The cause of tree decline and death is often complex. Environmental stress may predispose the tree to be attacked by insects or diseases or kill the tree outright in events like drought or flooding. Exposure to herbicides or road salts can also cause damage or stress. Trees planted on sites that are unsuitable for their long-term growth needs may eventually show signs of decline and may die. Exotic pests or diseases can quickly kill trees that do not have natural resistance. Sometimes we may misinterpret natural cycles in a tree’s life for disease or death. White pine will often have many yellowing pine needles rapidly dropping in the fall. These needles are generally on the interior parts of the branches, and the color change and dropping is a natural occurrence. If you have health problems with your trees check out these resources: Phomopsis Dieback of Spruce, and Blue Spruce Update both publications from the Purdue Landscape Report, White Pine Decline in Indiana, The Education Store publication and how to contact a Certified Arborist.
The best time for planting trees is dependent on what type of tree is being planted. Most conservation tree plantings in Indiana are done with bare-root seedlings that may only be one or two years old. These seedlings should be planted in the spring. Depending on weather conditions, March to mid-May is the ideal time. Containerized seedlings can be planted in either spring or fall for most species.
Check out our Purdue Extension-FNR YouTube playlist for Urban Forestry and view Planting Your Tree Part 1 & 2.
For videos in our Woodland Management Moment YouTube playlist to learn about direct seeding.
The Department of Forestry and Natural Resources (FNR) and the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology have several resources available to aid in the identification of invasive plant species. For information on this new invasive plant along with other plant information, view the Purdue University Plant and Pest Diagnostic Laboratory website. New sightings of lesser celandine and other invasive plants can be reported to the Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System (EDDMapS) Midwest (formerly the Great Lakes Early Detection Network). Be sure to include photos of diagnostic features to assist with verification of your report. For more publications on invasive plant species along with any Ag-related topics, visit The Education Store which includes these great resources: Shrubs of Indiana and Woody Vines of Indiana and the Midwest.
The best source of up-to-date information is the National Timber Tax website. Timber income is always taxable, but it usually qualifies as a long-term capital gain taxed at a lower rate than ordinary income like wages and salary. You may also be able to offset part of your revenue with a depletion allowance.
Starting trees from seed requires knowing the germination requirements for the species you wish to grow. Most native tree seeds require treatments to break seed dormancy before the seed will germinate. These are done naturally by weather cycles, moisture, sunlight and wildlife in the forest environment. When we collect seeds, we will have to simulate these natural events to germinate the seeds successfully.
The Woody Plant Seed Manual (pdf), a U.S. Forest Service publication, gives detailed germination and nursery culture instructions by genus and species of trees.
Some trees with fast growth rates on good sites that might provide saleable products in 30 years include poplars and cottonwoods, tulip tree, silver maple, sycamore, ash, black locust, river birch and possibly black cherry. Value of these trees will vary widely based on demand, wood quality and volume. Most of these species are available from state or private nurseries.
However, harvesting trees for high value products in 30 years is not very likely at this time in Indiana. Some tree species growing on good sites with consistent management have the potential to produce small logs in 30 years, but the volume and value of the logs may not make this an attractive investment. A rapid increase in both volume and value of wood may occur if the trees are allowed to grow for 10 to 20 more years.
As an example, walnut trees in a well-managed plantation on a productive site might average 0.4 inches of diameter growth each year. After 30 years, the trees remaining after the thinnings required to maintain the growth rate would be 12 inches in diameter and might average one 12 foot log with 20 to 25 board feet of lumber per tree. This size of tree is not generally attractive to log buyers. After 40 years, the trees are now 16 inches in diameter and may average one 16 foot log with 70 board feet per tree. After 50 years, the trees are now 20 inches in diameter. If the average log length is still one 16 foot log, the tree volume is now 130 board feet, or nearly double the volume of only 10 years ago and over five times the volume at year 30.
Check out the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ Tree Seedling Nurseries.
Professional foresters can provide estimates of the market value of timber trees and assist you with managing and marketing your timber. Listings of Private Consulting Foresters and Industry Foresters are available from the Indiana Woodland Steward, or you can contact your IDNR District Forester for a referral to a local forester.
Check out the resources in the Purdue Extension resource center, The Education Store. Place timber in the search field and find several free downloadable publications.
Selling a small number of trees may only be possible if the trees are very valuable or the sale of your trees can be combined with more trees from another ownership nearby. In either case, your best course of action is to contact a professional forester to help you evaluate the situation. Your IDNR District Forester can direct you to private professional foresters who can assist you, or you can see a listing of private foresters from the Indiana Woodland Steward.
Some companies claim to sell black walnut tree clones developed at Purdue University; however, Purdue University no longer holds patent rights to these trees and cannot endorse the claims made for the genetic character or performance of these trees.
Purdue has supplied seed from our black walnut seed orchards to the Indiana Division of Forestry for their “Select” black walnut seedlings. Some of the parent trees in these orchards are historically patented black walnut as well as other black walnuts selected for good tree form and vigorous growth. These seedlings are available through the state nursery tree sales program. Order forms are available online or from local district foresters, Purdue Extension and U.S. Department of Agriculture offices beginning in August or September.
Access the state nursery tree order form online.
For resources regarding grafting and planting walnut trees view Budding, Grafting & Planting Walnut Trees, University of California-Davis, Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
For more information regarding growing walnut trees and other fine hardwoods view Walnut Council website.
Your Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) District Forester will have listings of timber buyers active in your area. The IDNR Division of Forestry has a complete listing of Licensed Timber Buyers for Indiana. The District Forester’s contact information and the list of timber buyers can both be accessed through the IDNR website.
The value of trees as timber varies by species, quality, size, accessibility and current market conditions. Values can change significantly as market conditions change. Individual trees also vary greatly in terms of their quality for the production of lumber or veneer. It is not possible to appraise timber without using a professional forester who inspects your timber and estimates its market value. These professionals can also assist you with managing and marketing your timber. Listings of Private Consulting Foresters and Industry Foresters are available from the Indiana Woodland Steward, or you can contact your IDNR District Forester for a referral to a local forester. Prices paid for delivered logs, not trees, are available at Indiana Forest Products Price Report and Trend Analysis. This report will give you an idea of the wide variation in prices by species and log quality.
Purdue Extension resource center, The Education Store. Place “timber” in the search field and find several free downloadable publications.
For more information regarding selling timber and much more visit the Purdue Extension-FNR Woodland Management Moment and Webinars YouTube Playlist.
People can be taken aback by the sight of squirrels missing hair. Sightings of partially furred squirrels is not unusual with warmer temperatures experienced through the winter. Like many wildlife issues, the cause of hair loss in squirrels is not easy to answer and often results in more questions than answers. In most situations, hair loss does not impact populations of squirrels. However, individuals may be impacted during winter.
Most people assume, often incorrectly, that hair loss in squirrels is the result of mange, a disease caused by microscopic mites that burrow into the skin and are unseen by the naked eye. Hair loss attributed to the squirrel mange mite, Notoedres douglasi, has been reported in both fox and gray squirrels. Notoedric mange is different from sarcoptic mange. The latter, caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei, occurs primarily among red foxes and coyotes. Questions exist regarding the host specificity of mange mites. In light of new evidence, some pathologists now believe that sarcoptic mange mites are not as host-specific as previously thought. However, notoedric mange mites appear to be more host-specific, and don’t colonize non-hosts (like humans), although a few bites may occur. Transmission of notoedric mange to species other than squirrels has not been documented, including to canine and feline pets.
Symptoms of notoedric mange in squirrels includes loss of hair and dry, thickened and dark skin. Crust does not form on the skin in notoedric mange in squirrels like it does in sarcoptic mange in red fox. Mange is most commonly spread by direct animal to animal contact. Treatment of adult squirrels with mange is generally not recommended because reinfection from their nest is likely. An adult squirrel can survive mange if in otherwise good condition. While mange can be fatal to squirrels as a result of exposure during the winter, full recovery is often observed in squirrels.
For full article view Purdue Extension-FNR blog post, Question: I saw a squirrel with no fur on its neck, both backside and underneath. What is this?
Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory
Orphaned Wildlife, Got Nature? blog, Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources
Orphaned & Injured Animals, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)
Bovine tuberculosis (bovine Tb) is a disease found in mammals caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis). In North America, bovine Tb is most commonly found in domestic cattle and captive and wild cervids (white-tailed deer, elk, etc.) and less commonly in other mammals such as raccoon, opossums, coyotes, and wild boars.
Bovine Tb has been greatly reduced in the cattle industry since the National Cooperative State-Federal Bovine Tuberculosis eradication program began in 1917. Currently, most states are accredited as “Bovine Tuberculosis-Free” by the United States Department of Agriculture, however, sporadic outbreaks do still occur throughout the United States.
For more information and resources view Bovine Tuberculosis in Wild White-Tailed Deer: Background and Frequently Asked Questions, Purdue Extension-FNR.
Properly planned management can still encourage wanted wildlife species while minimizing nuisance wildlife problems. There is no standard answer for all wildlife problems; solutions vary on a case-by-case basis. Successful plans, however, include taking steps to prevent damage before the damage occurs, monitoring for signs of new damage and minimizing further damage through a combination of approved techniques. You will rarely be able to eliminate all wildlife conflicts, and minimizing nuisance wildlife can be an ongoing process. The following sources are
Bark stripping is a common practice among many species of tree squirrels. Squirrels don’t actually eat the bark; they strip away the top layer to get to the sweet, phloem tissue underneath. Bark stripping occurs most frequently in early summer. It can kill trees outright or make them susceptible to insect infestation or fungal pathogens. Squirrels prefer to strip bark from small trees (less than 2.4 inches). Even if trees aren’t killed outright, bark stripping can stunt a tree’s growth or lead to malformation of the wood. (Source: R. W. Thorington, Jr., and K. Ferrell. 2006. Squirrels: The Animal Answer Guide. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 183 pp.) Also see FNR 203: Why Do Animals Eat the Bark and Wood of Trees and Shrubs?
There are several contagious diseases that can be passed among birds that come to bird feeders. This is especially true if the feeders are the style where the birds can stand in the food itself (like a tray feeder or seed spread on the ground). First, take down the feeder for a week or more and wash it in a 10% bleach solution. Second, let it dry and then put it back up in a somewhat different place (if the problem is food accumulating on the ground under the feeder). Moving it by even 10 feet is enough to shift the birds away from the accumulated material.
The diseases that birds can get at feeders have scary names (like avian salmonella), but they are not the same strains that humans get. It is NOT “avian flu.” In spite of dire government warnings, avian flu has not been detected anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, much less in Indiana.
In Indiana, wildlife rehabilitators have necessary state and federal permits to house and care for sick or injured wild animals. No federal or state agencies will provide care for sick and injured animals. Since wild animals can carry diseases that are dangerous to people, direct contact with wildlife is discouraged. In some cases, a veterinarian or wildlife biologist may want to diagnose a particular disease. The Purdue University Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (765-494-7440) offers testing of wild animals for a fee. They will provide directions on how to prepare and send samples.
The following are links related to sick and injured wildlife:
You can make your backyard more attractive to wildlife regardless of your yard’s size and location. Making minor adjustments in your plant selection and placement is a great start. The key is to have sufficient quantities of the proper food, cover and water to meet species’ basic needs. Arrangement of these requirements is also important. Planning for backyard wildlife habitat is unique in that you need to supply these basic requirements, but it must conform and integrate with your landscape design. Homeowners living in more rural habitats surrounded by woodlands, wetlands or meadows will be able to attract many wildlife species. Homeowners with smaller lots in urban areas, however, can still attract wildlife including chipmunks, tree squirrels and some songbirds.
A basic tenet of attracting wildlife is diversity. Maximize the number of plant species in your yard. Favor a mixture of plants with varying timing of blooms and fruit, height and structure. Intersperse wildlife-friendly trees with other habitat components like shrubs, wildflowers, vines and water sources.
There are a variety of bird, mammal, amphibian, reptile and insect species that may want to call your backyard home. While each species has specific food requirements, providing an abundance of common food categories, including insects, seeds, green vegetation, fruits, nuts and nectar, will appeal to the broadest array of wildlife species. All animals need some source of water near the place they call home. If a permanent water supply is not present near your yard, the addition of a backyard pond or birdbath can provide this needed feature to your landscape. Favor large trees with cavities in your yard; nest boxes may supplement natural cavities. Tall shrubs and conifer trees around your home will provide nesting habitat and winter cover for many songbirds.
Putting a Little Wildlife in Your Backyard, The Education Store, Purdue Extension’s resource center
Attracting Butterflies to Your Yard , The Education Store
Attracting Hummingbirds to Your Yard, The Education Store
Size Does Matter – Nest Boxes for Wildlife, The Education Store
Attracting Hummingbirds Video and more info, Got Nature? Blog, Purdue Extension-FNR
Only six of the 45 snake species found in the Midwest are venomous; four are found in Indiana, three of which are very rare. Venomous snakes of the Midwest include copperhead, cottonmouth and four rattlesnakes (timber, massasauga, pigmy, prairie). All of these species belong to the pit viper family (Viperidae). Several characteristics can be used to distinguish pit vipers from harmless snakes: all pit vipers have 1) elliptical, cat-like eye pupils; 2) broad, spade-shaped heads; and 3) heat sensory pits between the nostrils and eyes. Of course, rattlesnakes will also have a tail rattle. Be careful, this distinction does not hold true everywhere in the country. For example, the venomous coral snake found in the southeastern United States is not a member of the pit viper family, and thus, lacks these characteristics.
More people die of lightning strikes than venomous snakebites in the U.S. every year. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (2002), about 7,000 to 8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes in the U.S. each year, and about five of them die. For more information about snake identification and more, see the publication listed below.
Snakes and Lizards of Indiana, The Education Store, Purdue Extension’s resource center
A Moment in the Wild Snake Identification Videos, Purdue Extension-FNR YouTube Playlist
Ask an Expert: Turtles and Snakes, Purdue Extension-FNR YouTube Playlist
Options for testing your water include sending it to the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) laboratory or to a commercial lab, buying a home test kit, or participating in a testing program offered by various groups.
What comes to mind when you think of Purdue Extension? Agriculture and natural resources? Maybe Indiana 4-H? Right on both counts, but perhaps you don’t know how #PurdueExtension helps build health coalitions statewide. Or how we’re revitalizing economic opportunity in Indiana’s rural regions, helping immigrants acclimate to life in our state, or offering parents programs that build confidence and strengthen families. Learn about all of this and more in the Purdue Extension Annual Report!
Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources is a part of a larger group, the Cooperative Extension Service (CES), one of the nation’s largest and best-researched providers of science-based information and education. The Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources is a great resource and reaches out not only to the state of Indiana but world wide. We provide resources for aquaculture, fish management, urban and forestry management, natural resource planning, wildlife, and sustainable biomaterials. We encourage you to browse, download free publications, view workshops on the Purdue Extension-FNR Calendar, ask an expert, view Purdue Extension Annual Report and visit other sites that have been added as helpful links.
Can’t find your question here? Check out Purdue Extension-FNR’s Got Nature? blog! To have your question answered by our extension specialists please fill out the Ask an Expert form. Your email will automatically be added to our Got Nature? e-Newsletter, which all participants can unsubscribe at anytime.