Natural History Black Willow

Insect pollinators include pollen collectors such as bumblebees, honeybees, and solitary ground nesting bees, and false darkling beetles (Asclera) and punctate leaf beetles (Orsodacne). In the north woods, buds and/or tender twigs are consumed by grosbeak, grouse, and ptarmigan. Beaver, deer, elk, hare, mice, moose, muskrat, rabbit, rat, and squirrel also eat twigs, foliage, and/or bark (MZN). Beaver seem to prefer this species. Sapsuckers may pit the stem seeking sap (EAS). Bugs eating poplar leaves often also eat willow, relatively immune to the salicylates. White, with brown spots, willow lacebugs (Corythucha salicilis) suck sap from the lower leaf surface. Adult beetles may eat the leaves, larvae stripping them; for example, imported willow or shining leaf beetle (Plagiodera versicolora) is metallic blue or green, the willow leaf beetles (Chrysomela interrupta) is yellow with black markings, and the spotted willow leaf beetle (Lina interrupta) is reddish with black markings. Also among the beetles consuming leaves are cottonwood leaf beetles (Chrysomela scripta), flea beetles, and flea weevils, not to mention the Japanese beetle. Long horn beetles may may drill weak trees; for example, the cottonwood borer may girdle leaf bases, in the process also transmitting the fungus willow scab or blight (Pollaccia saliciperda), which can cause leaves to blacken and die. Other fungal diseases include Cytospora shrysosperma, causing elongate cankers, and Phytophora cactorum, causing slimy weeping lesions on lower trunks. On dead or decaying willows, seek the yellowish, crown coral mushroom (Clavicorona pyxidata) (EAS). Many sphinx moth caterpillars eat willow; for example, big poplar or modest sphinx, one-eyed sphinx, and twin spotted sphinx. Tent moth caterpillars (Malacosoma disstria) and the gypsy moth are fairly common, along with several noctuiids. Among common butterfly caterpillars are mourning cloak, tortoise shells, and viceroy. Midges and sawflies may create leaf galls. Feeding en masse, willow sawfly larvae, resembling black and yellow caterpillars, may strip the plant of its leaves. Giant willow aphids may suck sap from twigs in summer. Then there are oystershell scale and willow scale (EAS).

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