Pandora's Pests

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Highbush Cranberry (not a true cranberry)

Viburnum opulus var. americanum L. Ait (formerly known as Viburnum trilobum)

Quick Links:FAQs Plant Description Insect Pests Pruning

Some Other Common Names: American cranberrybush, guelder rose, dog rowan, *European cranberry tree, marsh alder, rose elder, red elder, water elder, dog elder, gatten tree, whitten tree, ople tree, snowball tree, crampbark


The highbush cranberry is actually not a cranberry at all, though its fruit, or ‘drupes’ as they are known taxonomically, strongly resemble cranberries in both appearance and taste. They also mature in the fall, as cranberries do. The two plants are quite different, however. Both are native to North America, but the highbush cranberry is a Viburnum, a member of the Caprifoliaceae, or Honeysuckle family, in contrast to the ‘true,’ or lowbush cranberry, which is a Vaccinium, a member of the Ericaceae—Heather or Heath—family. The Honeysuckle family is comprised of about 400 species, with 11 tree species—and numerous shrub species—that are native to North America. They are located mostly in north temperate regions and in tropical mountains. In North America, the highbush cranberry stretches from British Columbia east to Newfoundland, south to Washington state and east to northern Virginia, with an isolated population in New Mexico. According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the highbush cranberry is listed as ‘endangered’ in Indiana, ‘threatened’ in Ohio, and ‘rare’ in Pennsylvania.

Plant Description

Grows in hardiness Zones 2 through 7. Considered a large and hardy deciduous shrub with a moderate growth rate of up to 3 ft. per year, the plant is typically 8 to 15 feet tall by 8 to 10 feet wide, with arching stems and a very dense, rounded form, making it a popular landscaping choice for use as a screening hedge [For a solid screen, plants should be spaced 2 to 3 ft. apart.]. It is noted for attracting wildlife, especially birds which benefit from the fruit, which can remain on the branches well into mid winter. It is tolerant of frost, likes sun or semi-shade, and is successful in most soil types but does best in well-drained, moist soil that is rich and loamy. Established plants can tolerate drought, but they are helped by supplemental watering during such periods.

Leaves: Opposite, simple, 3-lobed and 2 to 4 inches long. They are superficially similar to many maple leaves, but have a somewhat wrinkled surface and impressed venation. They are glossy dark green in the summer but often change to yellow-red or red-purple in the fall. The petiole is grooved and has round, raised glands near the base.

Flowers: It produces flat-top clusters of showy white flowers in June. The clusters are 2 to 3 inches across, with an outer ring of larger, sterile flowers. The flowers are hermaphrodite (having both male and female organs) and are therefore self-fertile, meaning that an individual plant’s flowers can pollinate one another, so there is no need for a second type (or even a second individual plant) to provide pollen and produce fruit. The flowers are pollinated by both wind and insects.

Fruit: Nearly round drupe (drupe: a fleshy fruit with a central stonelike core containing one or more seeds) about 1/3 inch diameter with a single large seed, bright red, juicy and quite acid, like a cranberry. The seeds ripen from August to September. It does not begin to produce fruit until approximately five years of age.

Edible Qualities: The fruits/drupes can be eaten raw (though not very tasty that way) or cooked, and like cranberries, they are rich in vitamin C and so have a tart, acid taste (the taste is best after a frost and when picked slightly under-ripe). They are an excellent substitute for cranberries and are likewise used in preserves, jams/jellies, sauces, etc., which make delicious condiments for meat and game. The jam reportedly has a very pleasant flavor. ‘Wentworth’, ‘Andrews’, and ‘Hahs’ are three varieties that are examples of the better-tasting, American form (americanum) versus the European form (see note below). And, how does a glass of juice made with highbush cranberries sound to you? Check out this delicious-sounding recipe courtesy of

*Please Note: There is also a European form (species or possibly subspecies) of highbush cranberry (Viburnum opulus) that is described as having inedible/bitter fruit. If you wish to eat the fruit, make sure you plant the true North American species, Viburnum opulus var. americanum. You will often see “highbush cranberry” listed for sale under its old name, Viburnum trilobum, so many people have had the unfortunate experience of discovering that what they purchased was the European form when they were hoping for the American form. It may also be worth noting that the European form (opulus) is widely naturalized in central Maine, and a trusted source has written to say that he finds that one–at least in central Maine–more often than he finds the native (americanum) form! If you are wondering whether or not there is a way to tell the difference between the two types (without the need to taste the fruit), then check out the 3rd bullet in the FAQs section below.

Insect Pests: Reported to have very few insect problems overalll, but one insect in particular—the Viburnum Leaf Beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni P.)—is capable of completely defoliating highbush cranberry stands (complete defoliation has been seen before in Maine–see photos below). Both the larvae and adults of the beetle feed on the leaves, severely skeletonizing them. The trees can survive this injury, however, and can go on to leaf out normally again the following year. Severe damage inflicted yearly, however, will kill the tree. The Viburnum leaf beetle was introduced from Europe, and in fact the first North American populations of the beetle were discovered on European highbush cranberry plantings in the Ottawa/Hull region of Canada. There are several fact sheets about the Viburnum leaf beetle on the web, including these two by Cornell Cooperative Extension and UMass Extension:

  • Viburnum Leaf Beetle Fact Sheet (pdf) (Cornell)
  • Viburnum Leaf Beetle Fact Sheet (UMass)

Above Photos: Highbush cranberry shrubs in central Maine defoliated by Viburnum leaf beetle larvae. Rightmost image shows four Viburnum leaf beetle larvae feeding on one of the branches. With all of the leaves already consumed, these larvae were feeding on the bark and inner branch layers!

FAQs About Highbush Cranberry:

Here is a list of some very good questions we have received over the years, with answers provided from UMaine Extension Specialist in Ornamental Horticulture and retired Professor of Sustainable Agriculture, Dr. Lois Berg Stack.

  • Where can I purchase highbush cranberry plants?
    Answer: Highbush cranberry has long been a popular landscape plant, and it is widely available at local nurseries and garden centers. Look for it in displays of native plants, hedge plants, flowering shrubs and edible landscape plants. Also, since this plant is a viburnum, be sure to look in the viburnum collection.
  • If Highbush Cranberry is a cross-pollinating plant, does it need two or more separate plants planted together (same species or not) to produce fruit?
    Answer: No. Viburnums tend to be self-fruitful. That is, an individual plant’s flowers can pollinate each other, and there is no need for a second type (or even a second individual plant) to provide pollen. And, if you are planting native plants, every one is genetically different from another. In terms of cross-pollination, planting two individual native plants would be the same as planting two hybrids/cultivars. Most of the highbush cranberry viburnums sold in the landscape industry are selections from the wild, or hybrid cultivars that have been developed. These types are valued for their larger fruits, brighter-colored fruits, bolder fall color, dwarf form, etc.
  • How does one tell the difference between the true, Americanum highbush cranberry form (Viburnum opulus var. americanum) and the poor-tasting and invasive European form, when there is no fruit to taste-test or compare?
    Answer (provided by Charles Armstrong and Donald Mairs): It isn’t easy! One must examine the petiolar glands, which are the little flat structures where the petiole joins the leaf blade. Do not confuse these with the mini-tendrils that are further back where the petiole joins the stem. With the truly native americanum form, the petiolar glands are variously described as convex (bulging outward), club-shaped, or columnar. This is contrasted with the European (opulus) form, whose petiolar glands are concave (either flat on top or slightly dented in appearance), and mostly wider than they are high. The photos here attempt to illustrate the difference in the glands between the American (left) and European (right) forms:
  • Do native highbush cranberry plants constitute a unique cultivar? If I plant a cultivar from a nursery, would that risk altering the genetics of the native shrub(s)? Wentworth seems to have good fruit and fall color but I hesitate to ‘dilute’ native genotypes.
    Answer: Native plants are not cultivars. A cultivar is a plant that has been hybridized; ‘cultivar’ is short for ‘cultivated variety.’ Plants found in native stands are simply called native plants. Your question about “diluting” native stands by planting hybrids is a good one. But, Pandora’s box has already been opened. Your few plants would have very little impact on the native viburnums around you, compared to the hundreds or thousands that other people have planted for many years. ‘Wentworth’ highbush cranberry viburnum is a very nice selection. Although it is referred to as a ‘cultivar’ or ‘hybrid’ in the landscape industry, it is a selection; it was selected from wild plants in New Hampshire. Thus, all of the ‘Wentworth’ plants in the world are identical, and are a clone of that original one that was dug from the wild. Even a planting of just ‘Wentworth’ plants would pollinate, and produce fruits. [Additional note from Charles Armstrong: Keep in mind, however, if the cultivar you obtain from a nursery is mistakenly a European cultivar, then the risk of altering the genetics of the native plants is very real. According to the USDA’s Plant Guide for highbush cranberry: “The native variety (var. americanum) is known to hybridize with cultivated or escaped ornamental forms of var. opulus. This may result in the gradual degradation or loss of the native genotype.“]
  • Can I prune my highbush cranberry?
    Answer: Yes. Highbush cranberry can be pruned annually. It grows quickly, and in the absence of pruning becomes a rather massive, mounded shrub (they’ve been known to reach 15′ x 15′). If you want to keep it from getting larger than desired, essentially maintaining its present size (assuming it has not yet reached full size), prune each year just after flowering. For pruning guidelines, see the following bulletin and check the information about “heading back” branches (Bulletin #2169): Pruning Woody Landscape Plants
  • I need to move my highbush cranberry. How (and when) should I do that?
    Answer: There can be challenges to doing this, such as: 1) If the plants are large ( it’s harder to move large shrubs than small ones); 2) The root systems expand outwards; roots often reach 2-3 times as wide as the branches; and 3) The roots are often intermingled with the roots of other nearby plants, so digging would damage the other plants. But, if you really must move one, follow these steps: First, determine the size of root ball you’d be physically able to move. The wider the better … but remember that soil is heavy. Without seeing the plant to be moved, I’d suggest a root ball two feet across, and 10-12″ deep. Second, in the spring, before bud break, go out and draw a circle on the soil to outline the size of the rootball you will eventually dig. Move 2-3 inches inward from that circle, and draw a new smaller circle. Along that inner circle, use a spade or sharp shovel to create a ‘dotted line’ of insertions … place the spade on the circle, insert it to its full depth and remove it without taking any soil out. Then move one spade-width around the circle and repeat, all the way around the circle. What you will have done is sever half the roots, but you’ll have left half the roots untouched. During the summer, the uncut roots will sustain the plant while the cut roots will generate new young roots. Water well during dry weather to encourage new growth of roots. Finally, in the fall (or following spring), go back to the shrubs. This time, use the spade to cut a continuous line into the soil, along the line of the larger circle. Then undercut the soil ball, and move the plant. Your root ball will contain lots of new young roots that were generated at the tips of the cut roots, and that will help the shrub establish in its new location.

Do you have additional questions? See also Cornell University’s “Highbush Cranberries” fact sheet and/or the NRCS/USDA’s Highbush Cranberry Plant Guide, or contact Charles Armstrong, UMaine Extension’s Cranberry Professional, at the address or phone number below. Photos by Charles Armstrong, except: Viburnum opulus var. americanum photos by Joe Frisk — used with permission (and gratitude).

African Honey Bees & Climate Change

By: Ed Edwin

Pandora, of classical Greek mythology, was given a box which contained all the evils of the world. When she opened it, all the evils flew out, leaving only “hope” inside once she closed it.

Today, climate change, in addition to the genetic traits of the Africanized Honey Bee, may be creating a modern-day Pandora’s box.

In 1956, the Brazilian experiment to reduce the defensive, aggressive behavioral traits of the African honey bee failed. The bees were given away, swarmed, mated with feral European honey bee queens, and created the hybrid offspring known as “Africanized honey bees.” The evil was out of the box.

Map 1 – Expansion of the Africanized honey bee from Brazil through South and Central America and the United States by area and year.

The Africanized honey bees began a rapid expansion through South and Central America and in 1990, the Africanized honey bees entered the United States at Hidalgo, Texas. Map 1 is a map reflecting the early expansion of the Africanized honey bee from Brazil through South and Central America and the United States by area and year. Map 2 is another early map of the United States color coded to show the location and year the Africanized honey bees were discovered in each area.

As with Pandora’s actions, introducing the African honey bee to Brazil seemed small and innocent, but it turned out to have severe, detrimental and far-reaching negative consequences.

Warmer Summers and milder Winters associated with climate change and additional traits such as adaptation and changes in genetic makeup; the Africanized honey bee’s ability to resist pests and pathogens; the genetic superiority and dominance of the Africanized honey bee; and frequent swarming and absconding; have led to population increases and expansion of territory.

This is particularly significant since there are recent losses of European honey bee populations due to health and nutrition issues and the critical need for agricultural pollination. As the aggressive behaviors of the Africanized honey bees move into new, previously uninhabited areas, there is an immediate need to increase public awareness of the dangers associated with Africanized honey bees.

One trait of the African honey bee that exacerbates this rapid expansion is their “restless attitude.” They stay in a location only long enough for the available forage to dwindle, then leave for a new location with more expansive floral resources. This behavior is critical in tropical environments where the bees migrate with the seasonal rains. In Africa, honey bees travel at a rate of 200 – 300 miles per year. They also construct smaller nests with less honey storage necessary to survive a lengthy, cold season.

Early researchers predicted the northern limit to be south of 34o latitude. One factor that changed this “Northern Ceiling” is climate change. As our winters became milder, the region of habitability expanded further north.

Joshua Kohn, a professor of biology at The University of California San Diego stated that, “higher temperatures caused by global warming could mean that Africanized honey bees may continue to push north in the coming years.”

In January 2017, both NASA and NOAA reported that the earth’s 2016 surface temperatures were the warmest since modern record keeping began in 1880. Most of this warming has occurred in the past 35 years, with 16 of the last 17 warmest years on record occurring since 2001. NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies Director Gavin Schmidtremarked, “We don’t expect record years every year, but the ongoing long-term warming trend is clear.”

There is little disagreement that previously known cooler areas are becoming warmer. In late 2015, the American Meteorological Society published the 26th edition of a peer-reviewed series titled “The State of the Climate.” This report highlights the previous year’s record heat, global surface recorded temperatures, and the majority of indicators reflect climate change trends consistent with long-term global warming.

Map 3 – NOAA, Climate Prediction Center expected forecasts for above-average temperatures to expand principally northwest, north and in isolated areas of New England.

Scientists in the Climate Prediction Center of NOAA, are also projecting higher temperatures for the year 2017. Their work includes the review of historical records to see how temperature conditions behaved as a result of similar conditions in the past. Map 3 is a map illustrating the expected forecasts for above-average temperatures to expand principally northwest, north and in isolated areas of New England. Managers in agricultural industries utilize this group’s analysis to help them optimize food production, in which honey bees play a critical role.

On November 15, 2016, the U.S. Drought Monitor Project run by NOAA published a paper titled “A Trio of Drought Hotspots Across the United States.” This paper supports the forecast prediction by the Climate Prediction Center of warm temperatures and lower than average precipitation particularly in California, the Southeast United States, and New England. These three areas have experienced severe, extreme, or exceptional drought conditions and are considered “hotspots.”

Map 4 – NOAA forecast areas expected to experience more intense droughts and heat waves, and less intense cold waves.

This data along with the length of the frost-free season (and the corresponding growing season) has been increasing nationally since the 1980s. With the largest increases occurring in the western United States, affecting ecosystems and agriculture. Heat waves have become more frequent and intense, especially in the west. Cold waves have become less frequent and milder across the nation. Map 4 is a map reflecting the areas expected to experience more intense heat waves, and less intense cold waves.

Based on the research articles and the projections of warming weather, milder Winters, and drought expectations, new portions of the United States are or may experience climate conditions conductive to the range expansion of the Africanized honey bee.

The warmer climate, and the northerly migration of Africanized honey bees allows hybridization with the European bees. These hybrids adopt traits from indigenous European bees allowing them to adapt to the new cooler climate. However, studies have shown that the African genetic traits and qualities they exhibit are dominant over some of the European genetic traits resulting from favored natural selection. Therefore, the hybrid bees behave more like African bees, while inheriting some of the traits of the European bees.

Over time, the European relatively docile trait is lost when the Africanized bees dominate an area. In addition, over time European alleles will largely disappear mainly due to the continued migration of African genotypes into an area and the possibility of hybrid workers exhibiting reduced fitness.

Studies have confirmed that Africanized honey bees are more resistant to many pests and pathogens effecting European bees including: tracheal mites; small hive beetles; American foulbrood; and microsporidian gut pathogens, Nosema apis, N. ceranae and Varroa destructor.

Africanized queen honey bees produce more drone bees than European queens. This is attributed to the fact that African bees are more prone to swarming than European bees, leading to the need for an increased stock of available drones. Once the Africanized honey bees are established in an area, the Africanized drones dominate as a result of the larger number of feral Africanized hives. Over a short period, the European bees become Africanized as a result of European queens mating with the predominant Africanized drones.

Along with the larger number of drones produced, the number of times an Africanized hive will swarm allows them to dominate a greater geographic area.Compared to a European colony which may swarm one to two times a year, the Africanized colony may swarm five to six times a year.

Another interesting behavioral characteristic of Africanized honey bees is their ability for hive usurpation, or colony takeover, of European colonies. Africanized honey bees swarm and land on the outside of the hive containing the European colony. Over time, the Africanized worker bees begin exchanging pheromones and food with the workers of the European colony. Within a short period, the Africanized honey bees, including the queen, take over the colony and subsequently the entire hive becomes a hybridized Africanized colony.

Absconding, or abandoning the hive is a trait that occurs regularly with Africanized honey bees, as opposed to the number of times European bees abscond.Absconding colonies differ from a reproductive swarm, in that no workers are left in the original hive to produce a new queen.Absconding typically occurs when the hive is disturbed or resources are no longer available. These relocations have been documented as far as 100 miles or more away from their original site, to locate abundant, nutritional floral resources.

Map 5 – Honey Bee Forage Map, reflecting the bee forage regions of North America, based on native flora distribution and land use patterns created by G.S. Ayers and J.R. Harman, both of Michigan State University.

Map 5, titled Honey Bee Forage Map, was created from information gathered by G.S. Ayers and J.R. Harman, both of Michigan State University, reflecting the bee forage regions of North America, based on native flora distribution and land use patterns. When comparing Map 5 with Map 1, a map showing when and where Africanized honey bees were discovered, it is not surprising to see that the migration of the Africanized honey bees traveled through the geographic areas of the Southwestern United States and into California.

The Africanized honey bees’ ability to resist pests and pathogens will certainly assist in their dominance over the European bees. Additionally, the greater number of Africanized drones in the Drone Congregation Area would afford them a greater opportunity of mating with a European queen, thus expanding the range and numbers of Africanized honey bees.

Previous articles and studies asserted that the Africanized bees appeared to have a reduced ability to survive cold Winter temperatures and their northern range limits had been reached. A study by Harrison et. al., noted that “by 2006 Africanized honey bees were already found overwintering north of this prediction.” Recently, states such as Tennessee, Utah and North Carolina announced that the Africanized honey bee had entered their states.

Although the Africanized honey bees’ rapid pace of advancement has slowed due to the lack of traits necessary to survive colder climates, the warming associated with climate changes has allowed the Africanized honey bees to expand their range further than originally predicted.

The expected warming and drought conditions in the Southeastern United States, will create an environment conducive to the Africanized honey bee. The warming associated with “hot spots,” and available bee forage will provide a “migration corridor” into colder areas.Warmer climates and reduced European bee populations could influence the increased expansion of the range of the Africanized honey bee.However, what remains to be determined is if they will establish a permanent, feral population, or if they will only be “seasonal visitors.”

Genetic dominance, frequent swarming and absconding traits, and the lengthy distances traveled could allow the Africanized honey bees to travel up to 300 miles in a season. This distance along with their ability to take over an established European hive could furnish the invaders the honey stores necessary for colder climate survival.


There also exists the real possibility of the Africanized honey bee spreading inadvertently by human assisted transport, either by the shipping of individual packages of bees from Africanized areas, or the movement of managed beehives for agricultural pollinization.

The professional beekeeper and the hobbyist can and will learn how to manage aggressive Africanized hives. However, the nature of the Africanized bee may cause future beekeepers to reconsider taking on this venture, particularly in urban areas.

Bluestacks appplayer for mac. Given the certainty of climate change, it is not a question of whether the Africanized honey bee will expand their range and be introduced to new areas, but what evils from Pandora’s box we will face over the next 20 years. While it is difficult to make any firm predictions of the final distribution of the Africanized honey bee, it is critical that the public becomes aware of their nature before they arrive and become established.

As stated in the 1988 magazine, Science, in an article titled: USDA Fights to Repel African Bees’ Invasion, “When the bees attack their first victim, the whole debate will change from a beekeeper’s problem to a public problem. The day that a toddler is attacked by a feral swarm of Africanized bees, could spell the end of beekeeping as we know it.” And, as already reported incidents where the public and these bees have interacted are occurring with, albeit slowly, increasing frequency.


Africanized Honey bees are here to stay and may become our principle agricultural pollinator.Imagine the public outcry if a semi-trailer truckload of Africanized honey bees were to overturn in any community. The only thing that remained in Pandora’s box was “Hope,” but hope is not a plan. We can hope for the best, but we must plan for the future. Lessons from the past have taught us to co-exist with nature, not seek to control it.

Pandora's Pests Pictures

Ed Erwin is the Executive Director of Bee Harmony and a Master Beekeeperwith the University of Montana program.