thousand cankers disease on walnut tree

Walnut leaves that have collapsed and wilted, Photo Curtis Utley, Colorado State University Extension,

Updated: February 22, 2023

Thousand cankers disease was detected in Baltimore City and County in 2019.

The Maryland Department of Agriculture enacted a quarantine that makes it illegal for anyone to move any walnut material and hardwood firewood out of a 185 square mile area that covers Baltimore City and parts of Baltimore County.

In early 2015, thousand cankers disease was found in Cecil Co. infecting black walnut trees in a small localized area. 

Originally found only in western states, a recent report from Knoxville Tennessee confirmed that thousand cankers disease of walnut has become established in that area. This new finding suggests that the walnut twig beetle was introduced and established in Tennessee a very long time ago. How it got there is still a mystery, but hopes of keeping this disease confined to western states is now not possible. Infested wood may have been transported out of Tennessee to other eastern states for years. Alerts are being sent out and several states are now considering initiating surveys for initial symptoms. 

walnut flea beetle
Relative size of a Walnut twig beetle compared to a cat flea (flea top photo), Photo: D. L. Clement, UME, Home and Garden

The walnut twig beetle is reddish-brown and 1.5 to 1.9 millimeters long. The disease is spread by this beetle when it makes galleries under the bark. The fungus causes the tissue to die disrupting the trees’ ability to take up water. The beetles' entrance holes into the black walnut aren’t much bigger than a pinhole. While it’s unlikely you will see the insect, its damage is more obvious. To scout for symptoms look first in black walnut trees with existing crown dieback. Then look for individual branches that show flagging with either yellowing leaves remaining attached or leaves that have collapsed and wilted (see photo above). The latter is a somewhat stronger possible symptom. Then try to collect a dead or dying limb and look for the minute exit holes.

Walnut twig beetle galleries
Walnut twig beetle galleries under the bark of an infested tree. Photo Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University

Additional resources

Maryland Invasive Species Council - Invader of the Month (August 2019)

Thousand Cankers

Maryland Department of Agriculture walnut twig beetle and thousand cankers disease  

Video: Cornell University Signs and Symptoms of Thousand Cankers Disease