What more can our forests support? – Times News Online

Published on June 25, 2022 at 08:11

My mother was born in 1921 and lived in southwestern Carbon County near Blue Mountain. She told me that as a teenager, she, her sister, and her mother hitched up the farm horse, rode it up the mountain, and brought dead tree trunks home for heating on her farm. . The wood she brought home was American chestnut. This tree, which made up about 60% of our forests, was crucial for lumber, food for us (and Native Americans) and countless wildlife species.

Chestnut blight, introduced to New York around 1903, quickly spread across North America and devastated forests. Today, with few exceptions, only young trees with trunks about 2 inches in diameter survive from the original roots, and they too die. Chestnut blight was the first of many problems facing our trees and forests.

I believe I was a junior at ESSC in 1974 when the first gypsy moth defoliation hit my dad’s little “plot” of land in Franklin Township. I took photos of the eerily bare trees that had been completely defoliated by millions of caterpillars. I was already a bird watcher and these “woods” were quiet. There was no food for the birds. White oaks were the hardest hit, but chestnut oaks and red oaks suffered the same fate. Since then, at least two more defoliations have occurred there and virtually no white oaks and only 75% of the chestnut oaks are still alive. The gypsy moth was accidentally released in Massachusetts in 1869.

The emerald ash borer is a new forest scourge. This beetle was first discovered near Detroit in 2002 and is now found in over 24 states. Once a tree has the beetle larva under its bark, it is doomed. The larvae chew through the vascular cambium (growth layer of the tree) and phloem (the tissue that carries food) and within about two years they succumb. A huge white ash tree, nearly 100 feet tall and over 80 years old, showed signs of damage three years ago. He is now dead. Driving through Palmerton, I noticed that most of the white ash trees on Columbia Avenue are dead, downed, or dying. That’s a shame.

Our state tree, the eastern hemlock, is fighting to stay alive. The hemlock woolly aphid was first found in Virginia in the 1950s. It has spread all over the East Coast. Both nymphs and adults (resembling a small cotton swab tip) feed at the base of the needles, slowly killing them. Tree dieback usually begins at the largest lower branches and continues upwards. Wander through hemlock stands and you’ll stumble over the tops of dying hemlocks that litter the forest floor.

Our newest invasive pest is the Mottled Lantern. It was first reported in Berks County in 2014. I’m sure each of us has seen dozens if not hundreds of them in mid-summer each year. Their favorite host tree is the tree of heaven, which grows throughout our region, but they feed on 172 other trees/plants. It’s not a fly at all, it’s a type of leafhopper. If you’ve ever tried to hit one, you’ve noticed their speed. The extent of their destruction has not been fully measured, but vineyard owners and arborists are very concerned. I’ve seen plenty on walnut and butternut trees and on some of my apple trees.

Our forests are constantly changing, but birds that depend on hemlocks for shelter and nesting, or forestry companies harvesting ash or oak trees will all feel the economic impact of our involvement in moving species from native areas to new “smorgasbord” areas here in the United States.

Test your outdoor knowledge: True/false, American eels and lampreys can be found in our local waters.

Last week’s quiz answer: The American eel you caught in Mahoning Creek was born in the Sargasso Sea. (Area east of Bermuda)

Contact Barry Reed at [email protected]

This is the bottom view of a hemlock twig showing healthy, uninfected needles. BARRY REED / TIMES NEWS SPECIAL

A bottom view of woolly aphids feeding on almost all hemlock needles.

Frost covers the trees in the foreground on this very cold January morning below the Beltzville Dam. But note that most of the eastern hemlock succumbed to woolly aphids on the ridge south of Pohopoco Creek.

The light-colored female gypsy moths cover a section of a tree trunk with the buff-colored egg masses below.

A male gypsy moth (brown and smaller) fertilizes the female’s eggs when they are placed on the tree trunk for the next destructive generation of caterpillars.

Dozens of adult mottled lanterns cover part of an apple tree trunk.

The fourth stage (pupal stage) is present between July and August. After reaching this stage, they molt and become adults.

I peeled back the bark of a dead white ash tree trunk to reveal the tunnel created by the destructive emerald ash borer larvae (worms) that feed on the cambium layer and phloem.

Dozens of dead white ash trunks are easily identified as surrounding trees begin to get their foliage.

Dozens of dead chestnut and red oak trees in the West Bowmans area serve only to serve as nocturnal roosting sites for many red-headed vultures.

The destructive invasive Japanese barberry is exploding in numbers, thanks in large part to the dying canopy of white ash and oak trees providing them with more sunlight to grow. Another damaging aspect of our destructive forest pests.