RIP Avocado

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A couple of months ago the bee hive in our avocado went silent. The hive, located in a cavity, was there when we moved into this house in 1998. We made a few attempts to rid the tree of the hive, fearing that people might get stung coming to the front door. I called companies that move hives but no one would take this on. We sprayed the hive with poison several times and covered the entrance first with plastic screen, which the bees ate through, and then metal screen, which the bees ate through. Finally, we called detente, and the bees came and went freely, while I enjoyed watching their activity from my upstairs office window.

Beehive in avocado covered with screen.
Beehive in avocado is covered with screen that bees covered to create a front door.

One day this summer the bees disappeared. I didn’t see them go, they were just gone. The tree was quiet for a short while, and then the next tenants moved in, ants. Thousands of ants crawled up and down the tree munching away at the wood. Piles of what looked like¬†saw dust¬†accumulated at the base of the tree. We could no longer ignore the condition this tree was in.

Debris dropped by ants in avocado tree
Debris dropped by ants chewing up wood in rotted cavity of avocado tree

I don’t think that the bees kept the tree healthy. They did, however, keep the decomposers at bay. The tree had lost much of its canopy during the windstorm of 2011. And before that, the old avocado had a significant amount of rot. Nevertheless, the storm’s effect on the tree was clearly very detrimental. And had we removed it following the storm, instead of trying to save it, we would have saved ourselves lots of money and aggravation with the city. You see, the city lifted all tree pruning and removal regulations at that time: no permits, no inspections, no tree replacements. But we tried to save the tree and that very act cost us, both financially and emotionally as we tried to navigate through the city rules.

Large branches fell during storm of 2011.
Large branches fell in windstorm of Nov 30 – Dec 1, 2011.
Tree crew cleaning up broken branches after storm.
Rather than taking down the tree we tried to save it, only to be penalized later for our efforts! (Dec 2011)
Tree damage during 2011 windstorm.
Tree damage during 2011 windstorm.
Avocado tree in 2009
Avocado tree in May 2009, not great but it has a decent canopy and casts important shade on house.
Avocado tree in 2011 after the storm.
Avocado tree in 2011 after the storm shows signficant loss of canopy. (March 2012)

Two weeks ago we had the tree inspected by an arborist who specializes in heritage (OLD) trees. The news wasn’t good. The tree was not just declining, it was a hazard and had to come down, and so last week it was removed. Although losing an old tree is sad, the skill of those who took it down was amazing to watch.

The tree is gone and a new opportunity has opened up. When I give classes on gardening with native plants I try to encourage those attending to have courage and dive right in. Now, I feel their uncertainty. It is daunting, but the front yard will change, as gardens always do.

Frontyard with the avocado gone.
The avocado is gone. This weekend the temps reached nearly 100 degrees and we could feel the loss of the tree in the upstairs bedrooms.

3 thoughts on “RIP Avocado

  1. Rob J

    Be bold, plant another tree…?<br /><br />Rob J<br />in San Jose

  2. Anonymous

    Hi Barbara,<br /><br />If I&#39;m not mistaken, ants don&#39;t eat wood, but will chew through it to make galleries for their nests. The by-product of this is sawdust rather than frass because the wood isn&#39;t digested. If the residue at the base of the tree was actually frass (a digested product), then perhaps termites were the culprit. Were you able to look at any cut sections of wood when

  3. I think these may have been carpenter ants – though, actually, they didn&#39;t seem big enough. The important thing was that they were all over this large old tree and they were removing dead wood. We were told they could set up colonies in our house. Nevertheless, we wouldn&#39;t have removed the tree due to ants. The roots were compromised and there was significant rot in large limbs and the

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