The Q&A Archives: spikes on top of maple leaves

Question: We have noticed our maple tree(approx 40 yrs old) has been dropping leaves which have turned brown. Also some of the green leaves attached to the tree have some type of spikey things on the top side of them, almost looks like tips of toothpicks. The trunk has a few spots where some of the bark is dropping and lighter bark in a few places. Looking up some limbs look dead. Have had cold nites.

Answer: The spikes you've noticed on the leaves of your tree are the result of maple bladder gall mites. These little insects feed on the surface of leaves in the spring and leave reddish colored bumps which grow throughout the season and later turn brown or black. The insects feed in the spring, which is when they are susceptible to control. This kind of damage may look unsightly, but it won't hurt your tree, and control isn't generally necessary. The dead limbs should be removed - they probably suffered physical damage, perhaps during a winter ice storm. Maple bladder gall mites remain on leaves and will not infect or destroy branches or limbs.

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