STILLWATER, N.Y.—It’s not your imagination, the trees look terrible.
Trees across the Maple Belt have a curled, brownish look with dropping leaves and premature color changes, with some turning color in the middle of August.
“I don't believe I have observed sugar maples transition in this manner and in the quantity we are currently observing,” said Linda White, a ranger with the National Park Service in Stillwater, N.Y. who has been observing trees for the USA National Phenology Network for 25 years.
White said on Sept. 16 that the trees were the worst she’d ever seen them.
Sugarmakers have been noticing a decline in trees since the spring.
Experts are blaming most of the problem on Maple anthracnose, a fungal disease that won't kill the tree but sure makes them unsightly. [ MORE ]
HOUGHTON, Mich.—Worms could be killing maples.
They're the darlings of the gardening world. But a university study suggests we should rethink their role in soil.
In recent years, earthworms have taken something of a star turn. While not as lauded as the beleaguered honeybee, the little wrigglers are largely viewed as a crucial building block to sustainable agriculture.
But if you consider yourself a superfan, we’ve got some bad news: Worms are causing trouble in the forest.
A study from Michigan Technological University revealed how earthworms are linked to a “dieback” in the Upper Midwest’s sugar maple trees.
The study resulted from a what foresters observed as a noticable decline in Michigan’s prized sugar maples, renowned for their foliage, lumber and (of course) sugary sap.
Reports had been coming in from local foresters that many maples were looking quite unhealthy, with naked limbs and minimal new growth.
In looking for causes, lead researcher Dr. Tara Bal said her team wasn’t initially focused on earthworms. [ MORE ]
MONTPELIER, Vt.—A maple-eating invasive insect from China has been found in Vermont.
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) was alerted in August that a live ‘Spotted Lanternfly’ was captured at a business in Rutland while unloading a truck originating from a state known to have laternfly infestations.
The business owners suspected the bugs were odd and brought them to agriculutre officials at the Forestry Building at the Rutland State Fair on August 17.
Sugarmakers have been on the lookout for the pest since it was first discovered in Pennsylvania in 2014.
The pest is known to attack maple trees as well as many other agricultural fruit crops such as grape, apple, cherry and peach. [ MORE ]
ALBANY, N.Y.—This summer look for egg masses.
Officials are encouraging sugarmakers to check trees and outbuildings for egg masses of the Gypsy moth, which had huge outbreaks throughout the Maple Belt this spring.
The egg masses are found usually on the trunk of the tree and underside of larger branches, according to Adam Wild of the Cornell Maple Program in Lake Placid, N.Y.
"They can be close to the ground or all the way up the trunk," Wild said.
Some producers were seeing egg masses on mainline tubing.
The egg masses are larger and can typically be seen from the ground. Binoculars can also help. [ MORE ]
WEST CHAZY, N.Y.—Gypsy moth caterpillars are attacking sugarbushes.
“It is truly biblical in proportion with larvae crawling everywhere, dropped on you from above and even eating foliage from hay in the fields,” said Laura Trudeau, one of the operators at Parker Family Maple in West Chazy, N.Y. where with husband Mike Parker, upwards of 100,000 trees are tapped.
Trudeau said the farm spent $47,000 to spray their sugarbush with Bacillus thuringiensis, called "Bt,” a natural insecticide that is the only approved spray for use in sugarbushes.
[ MORE ]
FRANKLIN, W.V.—Get to know your sap.
“We’re going to try to think like a tree," said industry expert Michael Rechlin, Ph.D. of Future Generations University.
During a recent webinar, The Science Behind the Sweetness of Sap Flow, Rechlin explained the hows and whys of the annual miracle of sap flow.
"We’re going to try to figure out from a tree's perspective why that sap drips out of a tree,” he said.
His talk covered evolutionary biology, chemistry, anatomy, tree physiology, physics and biology.
The sap flow process is the result of trees response over many eons to cold weather, specifically long, hard winters.
“Life originated in the tropics and as trees, like people and animals, moved north they had to find solutions to the problem of winter,” Rechlin said. [ MORE ]
MORRISVILLE, Vt.—Infestations of Forest Tent Caterpillar in Vermont have been largely non-existent this summer, state officials say.
"It's pretty quiet on the caterpillar front in Vermont,” said Mark Isselhardt of UVM Extension, who has been monitoring the pest on behalf of the maple industry for the past several years.
Issellhardt says the numbers have crashed due to natural controls like parasitic "friendly flies," viruses and birds.
The caterpillars are a naturally occurring pest that typically defoliate trees over the course of a three year cycle during an outbreak. [ MORE ]