As temperatures rise, so does the risk of Oak Wilt

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With warmer weather on the way, you may be starting to think about beginning a few landscaping projects. But if you have trees in need of pruning, your window of opportunity may be almost closed. Experts say the best time to do it is from December to February.

This is especially true in the case of red oaks, which are very susceptible to a disease known as Oak Wilt that infects the tree through the wounds caused by pruning. The trees can get sick when sap-feeding beetles that carry the disease come to feed at the wound site. From there, Oak Wilt spreads to the roots of the tree, eventually killing it. Even worse, it can be passed from tree to tree.

If you have to prune a red oak this spring, foresters say there is something you can do to help keep your tree healthy.

"We do recommend that you use a tree pruning paint. If it's a latex based product, you can put that on the wound and then you should be okay," says Missouri Department of Conservation Community Forester Cindy Garner.

Experts say to look at the tips of a tree's leaves if you're wondering whether the oaks on your property are red oaks. Red oak tips are pointed, while trees in the white oak family have leaves that are more rounded.