What happens to forests when invasive insects win?


Nice alarmist headline with nothing behind it save a link to the New York Times. Why the hell do I read this site?

We spent four days camping in our travel trailer last weekend on Lake Granby. We took the route that went over Estes Park this time, rather than the longer route through Winter Park. Taking 34, we drove up at the treeline level, where you can see the pines holding out more so against the pine bark beetles, due to the short summer there and very long cold winter. But even at 11K feet, the beetles are still winning. At 8K, all around the lake as far as you can see are brown/red mountains covered with dead trees. At our campsite we had to carry flashlights at night with us to keep from stumbling over the low cut tree stumps of pines that used to ring the lake.

I read an article yesterday online from Newsweek, about the acidification of our oceans, titled (I think) ‘The Death of the Oceans’. There the author mentions the contribution synthetic fertilizers are making in adding to the acidification, but not the leaching of nitrogen into the waterways of massive forest die-off. An oversight? Politics? A contribution so small it’s not worth mentioning?

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I see that they made it to my old neck of northern WI a few years ago. We only have one white ash in our yard and I don’t recall ever seeing any in the woods… Most of the forests up there are actively managed, so it’s hard to imagine that a few felled trees would have the dire consequences described.

" We can’t stop it."
I assume that we can’t stop for a variety of reasons such as

  1. nobody gives a shit
  2. the problem is out of the hard economic circles so, nobody gives a shit
  3. we could give 100.000.000$ to scientists to solve the problem in a reasonable timeframe but we preferred to give it to other endeavours war machines for example.
  4. essentially people with money of the power to give money to resolve the problem, do not give a shit
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Why the hell do I read this site?

Obviously not for Maggie’s articles.

Fascinating article, maggiekb.

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I used to drive fairly regularly to Windsor and back and there were these signs along the 401 highway that said something like “No firewood beyond this point”. That was part of the measures put in place to contain the little buggers. It didn’t work.

It takes time to figure out how to successfully fight back against insect invaders. They’re much more difficult to contain than mammals, and it typically takes a multi-prong attack to get a place back into balance once an aggressive invasive has been introduced.

That doesn’t mean you can’t suppress them. The gypsy moth was first introduced to America in 1869 in MA. Through serious concentrated work (for over a century!), the moths’ progression across the U.S. has been restricted. Unfortunately, invaded areas typically are defoliated.

The Longhorned Eucalyptus Borer, another introduced pest, currently has limited range, but that’s mostly due to geography. The insects typically live in mediterranean climates. Their range currently includes CA, AZ, and parts of British Columbia. In an effort to battle the borers, their natural enemies were introduced to infested areas. So, now there are parasitic wasps to control the beetles living where the beetles live. This is not an unusual tactic.

In parts of Southern California, some snails in your garden may have shells that look a little odd. Don’t kill them - they’re there to help you. They’re called “decollate snails” and are snails that snack on other snails. http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/NE/decollate_snail.html

Another way to control the spread of pests is through quarantine. Thanks to the Asian Citrus Psyllid, there are currently quarantines on on some citrus within California. The quarantine is necessary. The insect doesn’t just feed on citrus, it’s a disease vector. When an Asian Citrus Psyllid feeds on a tree, it can transmit Citrus Greening disease, Huanglongbing (HLB), and that can kill the tree. The quarantine is a needed precaution.


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“Predator Free” suggests an deep ignorance of ecology. Any responsible environmental organization would qualify “predator free” from the very beginning.

In the context, the phrase “predator free” is abundantly clear. The context is that there’s a very good reason why NZ has been called ‘the land without teeth’.

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