Considering that they were one of the first terrestrial organisms on the planet, trees are obviously proficient adaptors. Over hundreds of millions of years, tree organisms have evolved to withstand the ever-changing planet, and scientists are still discovering the intricate and amazing biological functions that have helped them survive, and thrive, as an integral part of the earth’s ecosystem.

New research released in September suggests that trees that are under insect attack have a method for summoning their avian allies to battle. The study found that trees waft an odor into the air that attracts birds to eat the damaging insects.

Scientists placed apple trees – some infested with caterpillars, some not – in an aviary and then released birds inside. The birds flew more often to the infested trees. Researchers also found that the infested trees released different levels of airborne chemicals than the unaffected trees.

To test their theory that the birds followed their “noses” to the insects, the researchers conducted a blind test by placing an infested tree behind a fabric door, allowing the birds to smell it, but not see it. An unaffected tree was placed next to it behind a clear plastic door, allowing the birds to see, but not smell, it. The results? The birds visited the infested tree more often.

This fascinating discovery contradicts a long-held belief that birds rely solely on sight. Scientists have suggested that the results mean it may be possible to breed crops that attract more birds, allowing the tree to “self-treat” infestations, as opposed to using pesticides.

Charlotte or Bust!

In just a few short weeks, thousands of tree care pros will flock to North Carolina for TCI Expo 2013. You’ll want to pack this issue in your carry-on for a sneak peek of what awaits you in Charlotte. We’ve got seminar schedules, exhibitor previews and of course a handy booth directory to help you maximize your time on the trade show floor. See page 16 to plan your itinerary and get pumped for the big show. And most importantly, don’t forget to stop by booth #1540 to say hi to Tree Services magazine!

Katie Meyers