Q: What could cause this much damage to my elm tree? This was my first year in my house in Winterville so I don’t have another summer to compare the infestation with, but it seemed extensive.
A: University of Georgia insect experts Nancy Hinkle and Will Hudson concur that the damage was caused by the larger elm leaf beetle. It is not common every year but damage sometimes can be severe. The large brown larvae of this beetle feed on leaves, leaving a skeleton of veins. Like yours, trees appear “burned” and brown.
In fall, the larvae crawl down tree trunks to pupate and spend the winter in soil. One way to control them is to spray landscape insecticide on the trunk so larvae die on the way down.
Apparently, parasites normally keep populations of elm leaf beetle down to non-economic levels.
See Elm Leaf Beetle