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Opinion
Ormond Beach Observer Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012 5 years ago

Letters 11.22

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Safety tips for your pets this holiday season; and a scientific look at tree disease.

Holiday pet protection

Dear Editor,

As a pet lover, and the owner of Heaven Scent Pet Sitting, I wanted to share with you a couple of safety tips to keep in mind throughout the holidays.

Most all of us will probably put up some sort of Christmas tree. If you do decide upon a real tree, please be aware of the water that is in the stand — preservatives, pesticides and fertilizers are commonly used to keep the tree fresh. These may be harmful or deadly if your dog or cat drinks the water.

Stagnant tree water can also be a breeding ground for bacteria, so it’s a good idea to cover the bottom of your tree. Also, popcorn strands and tinsel can cause serious internal injuries if they are eaten.  And always remember to anchor your tree to prevent it from falling on your pet.

Most all of us love the looks and smell of a lily plant, but many varieties of these plants can be toxic to both cats and dogs if eaten — the same goes with holly and mistletoe.

And who doesn't like chocolate?!  While it has been said that a little chocolate can be good for our health, it can be toxic and even fatal to your pet (because of the theobromine and caffeine it contains).  If your pet eats chocolate, it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, panting, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death in severe cases.  And if you are baking, watch the unsweetened chocolate — it contains eight to 10 times the amount of theobromine as milk chocolate!  So if you pet has a sweet tooth, look for treats that contain carob instead.

So if you have a pet as a member of the family, these are a few things that you can do to make sure they have a happy holiday season!

Sincerely,

Cathy Bullock

Ormond Beach

The scoop on laurel wilt

Dear Editor,

I am a plant pathologist and certified municipal arborist who has been doing research on laurel wilt tree disease at the Univesity of Florida. I also recently worked with the city of Ormond Beach to write a summary piece about the disease. Here are some highlights.

The disease is called “laurel wilt” and it affects all members in the lauraceae plant family, which includes swampbay, scrubbay, redbay and avocado. Laurel wilt is currently found in most Florida counties, with the exception of the western panhandle and southwest Florida. It is also found in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Laurel wilt is spread by a very small beetle, approximately 1/16 inches long, called the redbay ambrosia beetle. The beetle carries a fungus with it which it feeds on once it bores into a tree. A redbay tree can die within a week after being attacked. Nothing can stop the spread of the beetle, so the city does not recommend that insecticides be used to control the beetle.

Fungicide injections have worked for some trees; however, it does not provide a 100% guarantee in saving trees, and the fungicide must be injected into the tree before it is attacked by the beetle and infected with the fungus. In experimental trials, the fungicide treatment has lasted up to three years; but, for the first few years of exposure, injections should be repeated every year for at least two years. The cost of the fungicide treatment is based on the size of the tree which could make this an expensive option.

In removing trees that have died from the disease, the only restriction is that untreated wood products cannot be moved more than 50 miles.

There is always the chance a tree may go undetected by the beetle so it is important, if at all possible, to reduce the number of standing dead trees. The best way to reduce the number of beetles is to chip dead trees as soon as they are detected. The wood chips produced should be covered with a tarp for a week and then could be used with no risk of contaminating healthy trees.

It seems reasonable that burning the dead trees would work, but no experiments have been conducted to test its effectiveness.

Dead redbay trees can become a hazard to people and property after a few months of dying because redbay wood breaks down more quickly than hardwoods such as oak or hickory. The reason we are advocating immediate removal of dead trees is because a standing dead redbay tree will be a hazard to people and because the beetle and fungus will use it for its breeding grounds for at least a year.

Sincerely,

Don Spence

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