Practising Tree surgery as a Tree surgeon / Arborist in Bexley, Bromley and Orpington, I come across a wide range of horrendous looking spiders on a daily basis. At this time of year spiders come out of their lairs to mate so you will see more and more of them. Following a spider attack on my Nephew which left him with pus filled boils and noticing other similar attacks I decided it was worth drawing up a chart of the top ten most dangerous spiders to look out for in Bromley, Bexley and Orpington.

10: The Money spider

Money spider

 

 

 

 

Although supposedly lucky for anyone this little critter lands upon, it wasn't so lucky for the sewage workers who were reportedly attacked on mass causing redness and swelling.

 

Tree surgeon danger rating 1/10.

9: The Woodlouse Spider

Woodlouse spider

 

 

 

 

As a tree surgeon we often come across these nasty looking creatures hunting their namesake prey, Woodlouse. They rarely attack humans but should you get in their way they wont hesitate to give you a venomous bite. Powerful enough to pierce the armour of a woodlouse and liquefy their insides but only powerful enough to give humans pain ranging from a nettle sting to a bee sting.

 

Tree surgeon danger rating 2/10.

8: The Walnut Orb-weaver spider

Walnut orb-weaver spider

 

 

 

This is another spider tree surgeons regularly come across often hiding under bark but which also finds its way into your home. This although small in size packs a powerful punch. It has been reported that the bite from this creature is equivalent to an electric shock from finger to elbow, causing numbness for a few hours.

 

Tree surgeon danger rating 3/10

7: Black Lace weaver spider.

black lace weaver spider

 

 

 

This spider is not only monstrous in looks but also in action. This is a matriphagous spider, which means its young devour the mother after hatching, but not before mummy lays a second set of eggs for the young to devour then actively encouraging her off spring to devour her a few days later. The bite from this spider has been known to cause a white patch on the bite area, reddening, swelling for a number of days and nausea.

 

Tree surgeon danger rating 4/10

6: The tube web spider.

tube web spider

 

 

 

I've come across this frightening beast many times when carrying out tree surgery in Bromley and Bexley. It has green fangs and it hides in nooks and crevices ready to jump out and attack its prey. One plus to this monstrous creation is it hunts other spiders, including the false widow spider. Apparently it has a sharp and painful bite equivalent to a deep injection or bee sting, usually subsiding within 6 hours

 

Tree surgeon danger rating 5/10 

5: The wasp spider.

wasp spider

 

 

 

This spider was a fairly rare sight but due to warmer weather is much more common. The bite from this spider is sharp and causes immediate pain that can spread to the groin and that alone puts it high on the tree surgeon danger rating.

 

Tree surgeon danger rating 6/10

4. The Garden spider

garden-spider

 

 

 

Undoubtedly you will have seen this spider many times in your life. Your Mum probably told you they were totally harmless... not for on one lady who was bitten while in bed. Her "arm swelled badly for 3 days and she felt nauseous."  

 

Tree surgeon danger rating 7/10

3. The Mouse Spider

Mouse spider tree surgeons

 

 

This creature is a medium to large spider and pretty aggressive. It is unusual for one to attack a human unless provoked (you could move in your sleep). They are called mouse spiders due to the silver / grey hair that resembles mouse fur. They catch their prey by stalking and can be found mostly in outbuildings and under dead bark. Watch out as they move into the comfort of your nice warm home as the summer ends. If you are attacked then you can expect symptons similar to this report "Bitten on left hand. Looked like large pimple with pus-head surrounded by red inflammation. Wound burst and entire hand became septic. Wife also bitten: same painful wound for 7 days."

 

Tree surgeon danger rating 8/10

9. The Huntsman Spider

Huntsman spider

 

 

This massive eight eyed spider (all the better to see you with) is now commonly being found in the UK due to them stowing aboard shipments of fruit. They like to live in wooded areas hunting their prey. Although it is unusual for them to attack humans if you are near an egg sack then they wont hesitate to attack. The effects vary, including local swelling and pain, sometimes with nausea, headache, vomiting, irregular pulse rate, and heart palpitations, indicating some systemic neurological effects, especially when the bites were severe or repeated. Check your banana's!

 

Tree surgeon danger rating - 9/10

10. The False Widow

False widow spider

 

With a skull shape marking on its back, this little monster could be straight out of hell. Thought to have come across in the 1870s from the Canary Islands to Torquay this spider is the UK's most venomous spider. Although the pain from a bite is said to be equivalent to a bee or wasp sting, 10-11 people a year die from wasp / bee stings. The NHS recommends to avoid being bitten by a spider, you should avoid spiders. Not that helpful when you are unconscious, asleep and one comes out of the darkness.

 

Tree surgeon danger rating - 10/10

Ash dieback disease found in Nottingham

Ash Dieback

40,000-50,000 trees in Nottingham could be affected by Ash dieback disease in the next 3-5 years after the disease was found along the Colwick Loop Road. The County Council is seeking to obtain  £500,000 from the transport and highways committee to tackle the problem.

Ash dieback or Chalara,  as it is also known, causes leaf loss, crown dieback and bark lesions in infected trees. Once a tree is infected the disease is usually fatal, this can be directly, or indirectly as the tree is weakened making it vulnerable to other pests or pathogens, in particular Armillaria fungi, or honey fungus.

It is expected that 80 per cent of trees on the A612 will be felled, around 5,000 in order to hopefully combat the spread in some way. The disease is airborne and carried by spores and can travel tens of miles by wind. It can also be spread over longer distances through the movement of diseased ash plants. Movement of logs from infected trees might also be a pathway for the disease, although this is considered to be a low risk.

The agent which causes Chalara dieback of ash is treated as a quarantine organism under national emergency measures and any suspected sighting must be reported.

 

The Baobab trees of Madagascar

Baobab tree madagascar

The Baobab trees are some of the oldest and strangest trees in the world. Some trees have been shown to be over 2,000 years old. Legend has it that the devil pulled the tree out and stuck it back in upside down, leaving the trees roots sticking up in the air. It is a drought tolerant tree, storing huge amounts of water in its huge trunk.

 

Swamp Cypresses, Caddo lake

Swamp Cypress

The Taxodium distichum or Swamp Cypress is a deciduous conifer that, unusually for conifers, sheds its leaves. The oldest known specimen is located in Carolina, USA and is 1,620 years old, making it one of the oldest plants in eastern north America. The odorless wood of bald cypress has long been valued for its water resistance, thus is called ‘wood eternal’. Still-usable prehistoric wood is often found in swamps. In 2012 Scuba divers discovered an underwater forest several miles off the coast of Mobile, AL in 60 feet of water. The forest contains trees that could not be dated with radiocarbon methods since they are older than 50,000 years old, thus most likely lived in the early glacial interval of the last ice age. The forest contains trees so well-preserved that when they are cut, they still smell like fresh cypress.

Bristlecone Pines, Western United States

bristlecone pine, some of the oldest trees on earthThese amazing trees are among the longest lived life forms on earth. The oldest known is the Pinus longaeva which is 5,000 years old, making it the oldest known individual of any species. The wood is very dense and resinous, and thus resistant to invasion by insects, fungi, and other potential pests. The tree’s longevity is due in part to the wood’s extreme durability. While other species of trees that grow nearby suffer rot, bare bristlecone pines can endure, even after death, often still standing on their roots, for many centuries. Rather than rot, exposed wood on living and dead trees erodes like stone due to wind, rain, and freezing, which creates unusual forms and shapes.

Dragon Tree, Africa

Dragon Tree

The name of this beautiful tree has mythical origins: for his 11th labour, Hercules had to bring back three golden apples from the garden of the Hespérides, which is guarded by Landon, the hundred-headed dragon. Hercules killed Landon and his blood flowed out over the land, which began to sprout ‘dragon’ trees. The tree exudes ‘dragon’s blood’ – a red sap – when cut. It is native to the Socotra archipelago off the horn of Africa and is a slow growing tree and it is used in medicine, dyes, varnish and incense to this day.

Bottle trees, Socotra Island, Yemen

Bottle trees Socotra

 This tree is of the Cucurbuitaceae Plant family and the only plant in that genus to grow as a tree. That genus also includes Squash, Pumpkin, Zucchini, Watermelon, Melons and Cucumber hence it is also know as the Cucumber tree. A recent molecular phylogenetic analysis of the family Cucurbitaceae showed that the lineage of the tree is twice as old as the island it is native to. So it seems that it is an island relic of a tree that went extinct on the mainland of Yemen.

Tree care: If you require tree work from professional tree surgeons in Bromley, covering all surrounding areas including south east London and North Kent, please click on the contact page above for free, no obligation advice and quotes from your local tree expert.

 

A sure sign your Birch tree is on the way out.

 

dead-birch-tree-with-squirrel

One way to tell if your birch is dead is if it is laying on the floor and has two beady eyes peering out at you. Presuming this is not the case, another sure fire way to tell if it is dead, dying or dangerous, is the identification of a fungus that grows almost exclusively on Birch trees, Piptoporus betulinus or as it is more commonly known birch polypore, birch bracket, or razor strop.

Whilst doing a few tree removals for a client in Swanley, removing various trees, we had to remove an obviously dead Birch tree. This particular Birch was easy to identify as dead, due to it being void of the tangled mass of twigs known commonly as ‘witches broom’ as well as any sign of leaves or catkins. If there are twigs, but no leaves in summer, this is another obvious sign the tree is dead.

Dead birch tree void of twigs (witches broom) or leaves
Dead birch tree void of twigs (witches broom) or leaves

 

If you look closely at the photo you will notice some bulges coming out from the stem. This is the sign you can look for on living trees to identify the decay of a tree or branch. This is the Birch Bracket fungus Piptoporus betulinus. It is important for tree owners and tree surgeons (who are climbing the tree) to look out for this fungus as it indicates a dangerous decaying tree / branch.

 

 

 

 

Once the tree was down, I took some close up photos for this article to help you identify the fungus:

Piptoporus Betulinus

A good way to identify wood that has been rotted by this fungus is that the rotting wood will often smell distinctively like green apples. This particular fungus is a necrotrophic parasite on weakened birches. It will cause brown rot and eventually death. It is thought that the birch bracket fungus makes its way into the tree through small wounds, but is suppressed by the trees own immune system until something occurs to damage or weaken the tree. Strong winds, a large fracture in the main trunk, fire or even suppression by other trees can be the culprit.

Prevention or cure?

The tree bracket fungus is a disease that attacks the hardwood. By the time the fruiting bodies appear there is usually a significant amount of interior damage leading to brown rot. The only remedy might be to remove the affected branch. If not the branch will eventually fall, along with the tree. In a woodland area this is merely an inconvenience, close to a property this can be extremely dangerous and removal of the tree by a professional tree surgeon is strongly recommended.

You might be able to remove the brackets, which will stop the dispersal of spores infecting other trees, but generally the fungus attacks old or weak trees.

Cycle of life

It is always sad to lose a tree, especially a beautiful tree like the birch, with its open canopy allowing lots of light to reach the ground, it gives rise to a multitude of mosses and flowering plants which are a common sight adorning a birch wood floor. This in turn gives rise to beetles and a myriad of insects attracting various different species of birds. In fact a whole eco-system is created. Various parts of the tree are also used for medicinal purposes, reportedly useful in the treatment of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, gout, kidney stones, nephritis, cystitis, digestive disturbances, respiratory diseases, reduce inflammations and infections of the skin such as eczema and psoriasis. These are just a few other reasons to love the birch. It is still worth remembering not to demonise the fungus though, the birch tree itself would not have the mass of twigs known as ‘witches broom’ if it were not for the fungus Taphrina Betulina and it also has a mutualistic relationship with another fungus Amanita muscaria. In the same way a cold is known to be a highly efficient way for a human to get rid of a large amount of dead cells. I believe the birch bracket fungus acts in a similar way in the grand scheme of things, allowing a faster transition from old and weak, to new and young. The fungus itself was found to harbour a large number of species of insects that depend on it for food and as breeding sites. In a large-scale study of over 2600 fruit bodies collected in eastern Canada, 257 species of arthropods, including 172 insects and 59 mites, were found. The fungus is also eaten by the caterpillar of the Fungus moth and is also edible for humans, with a mushroom type odour and bitter taste. The fungus also has medicinal properties, it has anti-inflammatory compounds and antibacterial properties. Compounds found in the fruit body of the fungus particularly polyporenic acid, are poisonous to the parasitic whipworm.

 

What does this have to do with the 5,000 year old mummy, Ötzi the Iceman?

 

otzi the iceman       oetzi_medizin

 

In 1991 two German tourists were hiking in the Alps when they found the 5,000 year old mummified remains of a person, now known as Ötzi the Iceman. On his person were found implements which included two hide strips, on to each of which a round lump of material had been threaded. The strips were attached to Ötzi’s clothing. Analysis showed that these lumps consisted of the fruiting body of the birch polypore fungus. Why was he in possession of this fungus? Perhaps he was eating them!? On analysis of his stomach it was found that he had consumed food two hours previous to his death and this did not include the fungus. You may have noticed another name for the fungus, razor strop. A traditional use of the fungus was to sharpen razors, but as he had a beard and died before the invention of metals used in razors, we can rule this one out as well. Further analysis of Ötzi then enlightened us to the real reason for his possession of the birch bracket fungus…… he had the parasite whipworm and was using the bracket fungus to treat it.

So maybe the fungus isn’t so bad after all, just another part of the infinitely complex processes of this thing we call life.

Tree Care: If you suspect your tree is dead or dying please contact us, your local tree surgeon,
for free, no obligation advice and in the event that tree surgery is required, whether it is tree
removal, limb removal or any other tree service we provide free quotes.

Asian-Hornet-killing-bee

Asian Hornet, Vespa velutina.

We need everyone to be on the look out for this invasive species that was somehow introduced to France and is now spreading rapidly. There are major concerns and a high possibility that it could come to the UK in soil, plants, imported trees, fruit, flowers, in freight containers or even in peoples vehicles. A mated queen can spawn an army extremely quickly so it is essential that any sightings are reported immediately with a photo if possible to alert_nonnative@ceh.ac.uk before the species can get established. Look out for its distinctive almost entirely dark abdomen and ‘bee’ (sorry couldn’t resist) careful.

Threat to British honey Bees

One of the biggest threats that the Asian Hornet poses is its ability to kill our honey bees. A single Asian Hornet has the ability to kill 40-50 bees a minute and a group of them can kill tens of thousands in hours. In Asia the native bees have developed a clever strategy for dealing with the hornets. They allow a hornet scout into the hive giving it a false sense of security. They then surround the hornet in a ball and vibrate their flight muscles, which raises the temperature and carbon dioxide levels within the ball of bees to levels the bee can withstand but just above those that the hornet is able to.

The hornet dies, most of the bees survive and of course the hornet is not able to go back to its own hive and notify the other hornets of the bees location.

Asian Hornet size comparison

Humans are not safe either, the Asian hornets are far more aggressive than their European cousins and their 6mm stinger injects a potent venom (made up of 8 chemicals) into its victim. They can sting multiple times and the venom can cause death swiftly by Anaphylactic Shock.

Result of an Asian Hornet attack
Result of an Asian Hornet attack

See below video of Asian Hornet attack on Bee hive and the bees revenge

 

Tree care: If you require tree work from professional tree surgeons  based in Bromley, covering all surrounding areas including south east London and North Kent, please click on the contact page above for free, no obligation advice and quotes from your local tree expert.