Invasive Species Are Killing Trees in Connecticut

One of the best parts of fall in New England is when the leaves turn those beautiful colors, but some of Connecticut's trees have taken a hit over the past couple of years and have either already been removed or are quickly dying off.

The eastern part of the state has been suffering from gypsy moths the past three years and a separate infestation of Emerald Ash Borers that started in western Connecticut in 2012, is spreading across the entire state and will soon infect the entire Ash tree population.

"We've been dealing with three years of drought and three years of a major gypsy moth outbreak, which has put tremendous stress on a lot of trees in that part of the state," said Connecticut State Entomologist Dr. Kirby Stafford.

According to Dr. Stafford, eastern Connecticut lost 1,175,000 acres of Oak trees defoliated by gypsy moths. It's the largest out break we've seen since the 1970s and the three years of drought in 2015, 2016 and 2017 are to blame.

"There is a fungus that generally will keep the gypsy moths under control. Once they start building up population, this fungus infects the caterpillars and kills them," Dr. Stafford said.

Without rain, the fungus cannot thrive and eliminate caterpillars before they develop into gypsy moths.

And while the numbers are staggering, gypsy moth invasions are only part of the story. Emerald Ash Borers were first detected in Prospect in 2012. As of 2018, 129 towns have lost their Ash tree population.

Without doubt, Emerald Ash Borers will continue to spread and infect Ash trees across the entire state. This invasive species is spread by humans, typically through fire wood. And now it's up to residents to monitor their trees health, and have them removed if they fall ill.

"Some of the things we would look for would be the tree being attacked by wood peckers. That's the larvae that's in there that's feeding. Then after those what happens is you get exit holes and you get what's called blonding on the trunk," said Rich Sala, an Arborist Representative with Bartlett Tree Experts.

Another way to spot the signs of a dying tree is to look up.

"So if you saw a tree that had say full canopy or 80% canopy with some feeding going on up in the canopy then the tree could potentially be treatable," he said.

If a tree is this severely damaged, there is no option but to remove it. But if detected early enough, some trees can be treated through the trunk, an option that is much less expensive than tree removal.

The time to act is now. Soon enough we'll be forecasting winter weather and trees that have been infected by invasive species pose a much larger threat when you add in the weight of snow and ice.

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