Two Ways To Tell If A Tree Is Dead

If you think that you may have a dead tree on your property, then it is wise to remove the tree. Dead trees can attract pests, cause damage from falling branches, and they can make your property look generally unappealing. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to tell if a tree is actually dead or not. Consider the following tips and hints to help you investigate the state of your trees.

Knock On The Tree

Live trees spread out roots into the earth so that water and other nutrients can be absorbed by the tree tissue. The tree tissue that actively absorbs and transports water are called xylem tissue. The tissue contains small vessels that move water to the branches and the leaves. Both the heartwood and sapwood parts of the trunk contain these tissues, and a single tree can absorb 1,400 liters of water a day. This water is retained consistently, and around 50% of the weight of a tree comes from the water that is absorbed. 

All of the water in a tree makes it extremely dense and solid. However, when a tree dies, it no longer absorbs any water. The water within the tissue also starts to evaporate and this leaves the tissue dry and brittle. The lack of water is one reason why a dead tree will crack and break if too much pressure is applied from the wind or another source. 

If you want to see if a tree is dead, dry, and in need of removal, try knocking on the wood. Dry wood will create a sharper and more resonate sound. Wet wood will make a dull and low thunking sound when it is hit by an object. If you hear a dull sound when hitting the wood, it may not necessarily mean it is alive, however. The tree may be dead at this point, but the tissue may not have had an opportunity to dry out yet. Wait another month or two and try knocking on the tree again to see if the sound has changed. 

Look For Pests

If you inspect a tree closely for pests, you may see signs that the tree is dead. While there are some pests that will actually feed on the tissue of a live tree, like wood boring beetles, most insects will only feed on dead tree tissue. You can look for these insects across exposed areas of a tree to see if it is fully or partially dead. Termites are among the most famous of the wood eating insects, and these pests are about one-quarter to one inch long and either yellow or brown in color. The pests also may have wings. Termites are sometimes confused for carpenter ants, but they are larger than these insects. If you see black or dark brown creatures, then you have likely found carpenter ants. These ants also eat dead wood and they have wings like termites. Carpenter ants can be identified by their heart-shaped heads in many cases.

Carpenter bees will bore into dead wood as well to create nests in the tissue. These bees look similar to regular honey bees, but they are much bigger. There are a wide variety of black or reddish brown beetles that will eat dead wood too, so look for their presence when inspecting your wood.

If you do not immediately see any pests along a tree that you think may be dead, you should also look for signs that pests were present. Most wood-boring insects will create small bits of sawdust when they start to consume the tree tissue. look for the sawdust at the base of the tree. Also, you will likely see small holes around the tree trunk. If carpenter bees are living in the tree, then the holes will be bigger in size and about the circumference of a pencil eraser.

If you do have a dead tree, contact a local tree removalist for more info on getting it removed.