As snow begins to cover the landscape, most insects have either died, fled or gone into hibernation. But not so for the aptly named winter moth, which emerges from the cold ground to take flight on winter nights.
The winter moth has the ability to damage forests, orchards and blueberry fields. During the past few years, state entomologists have been working to get a handle on this new population of pests, and they’re seeking help from the public this winter.
“There’s an awful lot about these moths that we don’t know because they haven’t been here very long,” state forest entomologist Charlene Donahue said.
The winter moth was introduced to North America from Europe in the early part of the last century. But it wasn’t until the early 2000s that they made their way to New England, defoliating maple, oak and apple trees, as well as blueberry bushes.
Over several consecutive years, this defoliation leads to branch dieback and ultimately the death of entire trees. In fact, winter moth defoliation already has contributed to the destruction of tens of thousands of acres of oak trees in Massachusetts.
These destructive moths showed up in significant numbers and entomologists already are starting to see their adverse effect to forest and backyard trees.
“Fighting invasive insects like the winter moth is important to help protect that sector of our economy; in this case, hardwood trees and agricultural crops such as apples and blueberries. Public involvement will help professionals combat and minimize the destructive potential of this and other invasive species.”
This time of year, many of us are still out and about after dark. Even if we aren’t, we may cast a glance at our windows and notice if there are several or more small tan moths trying to get to our indoor lights.
While winter moths are particularly rugged insects, they are also affected by severe cold and heavy snow cover and ice.
The recent appearance of winter moths may have to do with warmer winters, as well as people transplanting gardens to their summer homes. While in their cocoons, the moths can be transported in soil.
Given the early ice and snow this winter there’s a good chance the population will remain low for the time being.
For more information on winter moths, contact EHS Pest in Norwood.
Bangor Daily News