Dogwood Borer: A Hidden Menace to Ornamental Trees

Dogwood trees are prized for their stunning flowers and graceful branches, adding both beauty and value to landscapes. However, they can fall victim to a formidable enemy – the Dogwood Borer (Synanthedon scitula). This insect, part of the clearwing moth family, is a significant pest of dogwoods and other hardwood trees. In this comprehensive blog post, we’ll explore what the Dogwood Borer is, the damage it causes, and the strategies for managing this hidden menace.

Understanding the Dogwood Borer

Biology and Life Cycle

The adult Dogwood Borer is a small, blue-black moth with clear wings, often mistaken for a wasp. Their life cycle includes four stages:

  1. Eggs: Laid near wounds or cracks in the bark.
  2. Larvae: The real culprits behind the damage, burrowing into the bark and feeding on the tree.
  3. Pupae: Transforming stage before emerging as adults.
  4. Adults: Moths that mate and lay eggs, repeating the cycle.

The larvae are the damaging stage, feeding on the tree’s cambium layer and creating tunnels that can girdle branches or even the entire trunk.

Host Trees

Though they are most commonly associated with dogwoods, these borers can also attack other hardwood trees like apple, elm, and oak.

Recognizing the Damage

Damage from Dogwood Borer can often go unnoticed until it’s severe, so recognizing early signs is vital:

  • Frass: This mixture of sawdust and excrement often appears near cracks, wounds, or the base of the tree.
  • Wilted or Dead Branches: As larvae feed, they can cut off the nutrient flow to branches, causing dieback.
  • Swollen Areas or Cracks: These can appear on the trunk or branches, where larvae have entered.
  • Adult Moths: Though less common, seeing adult moths near dogwoods can be a sign of infestation.

Management Strategies


Prevention is often the best way to manage Dogwood Borer, and it begins with proper tree care:

  • Avoid Tree Injury: Wounds from pruning, lawn equipment, or improper planting can invite Dogwood Borer.
  • Proper Mulching: Avoid piling mulch against the trunk, which can create a favorable environment for the borer.
  • Plant Resistant Varieties: Some dogwood varieties are less susceptible to borer attack.

Monitoring and Early Intervention

  • Regular Inspection: Look for signs of frass, cracks, or other symptoms.
  • Use Pheromone Traps: These can attract and trap adult moths, helping to monitor and reduce their population.


  • Prune Infested Branches: Cutting off affected branches can limit the spread of the borer.
  • Chemical Control: Insecticides may be applied to the trunk to kill larvae. It’s often best to consult a professional, as the timing and choice of product are crucial for effectiveness.


The Dogwood Borer is a hidden but significant threat to the beauty and health of dogwood trees and other hardwood species. Understanding this pest, recognizing its signs, and implementing an integrated management strategy can protect these valuable landscape assets.

Whether you are a homeowner with a beloved dogwood in your yard or a landscaper responsible for a grove of ornamental trees, the information and strategies outlined here provide the tools you need to face the challenge of Dogwood Borer.

The fight against this pest is not just about preserving individual trees but sustaining the grace and beauty that dogwoods bring to our surroundings. As guardians of our green spaces, our informed actions can make a meaningful impact on preserving the elegance of nature’s masterpieces.