Oak Wilt Spreading in Fredericksburg Texas

Oak Wilt
Credit: Jared Davidson

Oak Wilt is a fungal infection that affects Live Oak and Red Oak trees.  My family has been visiting a the Red Stone Ranch just outside of Fredericksburg Texas for over 30 years.  In the last 10 years we have watched Oak Wilt move into this beautiful area and kill the trees.  Very little can be done once a tree in infected.  In fact you can not treat Oak Wilt.  The best way to save your Oak trees is to prevent Oak Wilt spread.

How to Prevent Oak Wilt

There are only two methods that currently work to prevent this fungal infection.  Neither method are fool proof.  This disease is spread by two ways.  It spreads through the root systems and it also spreads from tiny beetles.  To prevent beetles from spread it, you need to treat any open wounds on trees.  If a tree gets damaged you need to paint over the wound to prevent sap from leaking.  The beetle that spread Oak Wilt fungus is the Nitidulid beetle.   Nitidulid beetle are only millimeters in size.   Nitidulid beetles feed on the sap of Live Oak and Red Oaks and this is where transmission occurs.

Once a tree is infected it can spread by the root system.  The most common method to stop further damage is to trench around the tree.  Trenching is done by a special tool that cuts deep into the ground between 3 and 5 feet.  The trenching tool will severe all roots and stop further damage to other trees.  Trenching is very expensive.  On average trenching will cost between 5000 and 10000 dollars.  For larger trenching areas the cost could reach 25000 dollars.  The cost is also affected greatly by the shape of the land.  Extremely rock or uneven ground is harder to work with and in turn cost more.

I watched this horrible disease infect almost all of the trees in our area.  We paid over 15000 dollars to try to prevent more damage.  In the end the damage was already done.  It has spread outside our property to neighboring land.  Our land is next to the Pedernales River and it is sad to see the destruction these little beetles have caused.  If you drive along Highway 290 through Hye towards Fredericksburg you will see an incredible amount of destruction.  Most of the trees around LBJ ranch have died or at least been infected.