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City Survey Shows Roughly A Third Of LB's Magnolia Trees Show Some Impact Of Tulip Tree Scale, Weakening Them/Potentially Dooming Some Of Them, Dropping Sticky Goo On Sidewalks, Streets And Parked Vehicles


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(Feb. 7, 2020, 7:15 p.m.) -- LBREPORT.com has learned that city staff has found that nearly 2/3 of LB's 6,400 magnolia trees show "no signs" of Tulip scale infestation...but roughly 2,200 magnolia trees do show different stages of the impact from an insect that weaken and can kill magnolia trees, secreting a block sooty, sticky mold that coats the trees and anything beneath (sidewalks, streets and parked vehicles.)

LB's Public Works Dept. conducted a survey of LB's magnolia trees at the Oct. 8, 2019 voted direction (8-0) of the City Council (item agendized by Councilman Uranga joined by Councilmembers Pearce, Price and Vice Mayor Andrews) The Council's vote also allocated $100,000 to begin the study and start remediation.

In a Feb. 7, 2020 email responding to an inquiry from Tom Stout (co-founder of the LB Taxpayers Ass'n and part of s grassroots "Magnolia Scale Taskforce" comprised of Carlos Ovalle (Exec. Dir. "People of Long Beach"), 2nd dist. resident Robert Fox and 8th dist. resident Juan Ovalle), Mr.Beck indicated that data collection is completed and his department is preparing a report for City Council presentation in the coming weeks. Mr. Beck indicated that Public Works plans to initiate removals of the most severely infected trees this month [Feb. 2020] and start outreach to property owners targeted for treatment. His email also candidly acknowledged that he anticipates the full cost of remediation will be "significantly higher" than the $100,000 initially allocated for the survey and to start remediation.

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The Oct 8,2019 Council agenda item was accompanied by a 2018 monograph by four area horticulturists/arborists: Donald Hodel (USC horticulture advisor), Jerry Rowland (City of LB Certified Arborist/Street Maintenance Supervisor); Eliud Aguirre (City of LB certified Arborist/Street Tree Supervisor) and Michael Wallich (USC Campus Arborist/Landscape Specialist.) Their paper described tulip tree scale (Toumeyella liriodendri) as "a serious and damaging pest affecting tulip trees, magnolia trees (and members of the Magnoliaceae family) and even some non-magnolia hosts. "Its gregarious nature and heavy feeding remove plant sap, reduce plant vigor, cause shoot dieback and defoliation, distort growth, and can even lead to [tree] death. To add insult to injury, this pest produces copious amounts of honeydew, which promotes the growth of black sooty mold on leaves and stems, and "coats portions of the tree and everything beneath its canopy in a severely annoying, sticky, dark to amber-colored, glossy, lacquer-like finish, making the tuliptree scale a particularly vile and nasty pest "

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Their paper -- which includes multiple photos in and around Long Beach -- said "once established, tuliptree scales are difficult to control and a combination of measures will likely work best" (including Plant Selection and Cultivation, Exclusion and Sanitation, Ant Control, Natural Enemies and Chemical Control.

Written testimony submitted by the grassroots "Magnolia Scale Taskforce" for the Oct. 8 Council item, and podium testimony by Juan Ovalle, urged the City to trim and remove trees with active Scale; combat ant infestations [that worsen the tulip scale infestation] by placing a compound barrier around the trees; educate the community on the need to treat LB's urban forest as an asset ("particularly critical in the western half of the city"); clean sidewalks and streets of the excreted buildup, cooperate with neighboring cities experiencing the same infestation and budget sufficient sums for these tasks and hire an Urban Forester to promote and safeguard LB's urban forest.

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The Oct. 8, 2019 agendizing memo on the letterhead of Councilman Uranga stated in pertinent part:

In late 2017, constituents throughout the Seventh District began reporting magnolia trees on their parkways had been secreting large amounts of sap. After further investigation, the Public Works Department determined that the secretion was due to an infestation by a pest insect called Tulip Tree Scale. As many of the infected trees were originally found in the Wrigley neighborhood, Vice Mayor Dee Andrews and Councilmember Roberto Uranga coordinated with the Public Works Department and the City Arborist to determine a means of treatment while preserving our City's urban forest.

Throughout the month of June 2018, the City contracted with a company to treat a sample of the infected magnolia trees, by applying a specialized insecticide to the tree and root system of 20 infected tree sites. The Public Works Department and City Arborist have continued to treat and monitor the status of tree treatment and reports of new Tulip Tree Scale cases. In October of 2018, our office received a list of the trees infected in the Seventh District, which identified that 142 magnolia trees were infected.

Starting in May 2019, our office received an increase in requests regarding Tulip Tree Scale in magnolia trees, many of which had undergone previous treatment efforts. My office staff has also received reports that the scale has spread into other districts, including Districts 1,2,3 and 8.

It is now clear that this is a problem that is affecting the quality of life for many residents across the City of Long Beach. To best serve our neighborhoods, we must collectively take action to solve this ongoing problem.

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The agenda item requested, and the Council approved, requesting that city management work with Public Works and "return to Council with a To/From/For memorandum and a receive and file presentation, with the following information within 90 days:

How many magnolia trees are within the City limits?

  • How many magnolia trees with active Tulip Tree Scale infestations are there within the City limits? Within each Council District?
  • What efforts has [sic] the Public Works Department's made to combat the Tulip Tree Scale (natural solutions, soil injection, watering process, etc.)?
  • What is the community education process for requesting treatment?
  • What is the community outreach process during treatment?
  • What are the costs of the tree treatment process compared to the costs of tree removal?
  • How many infested trees were treated in the last round of testing? How many recovered? How many are still undergoing treatment?
  • What does recovery look like (lack of sap, removal of scale, etc.)?
  • How many infested trees have been removed?

    In addition, request the City Manager, or his designee to:

    • Provide recommendations to improve the current policies/processes surrounding tree infestations;
    • Provide a cost estimate for the removal and replanting of all affected magnolia trees within the City's boundaries;
    • Provide a cost estimate for water blasting all affected sidewalks to remove the Tulip Tree Scale secretions.

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