In a May press release the USDA Forest Service announced it is hosting an open house to gather input for a proposal to treat Duncan Knob, an area affected by gypsy moth defoliation. The open house will take place May 24th at the Bath County Library from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm. Staff will be on hand to discuss proposed treatments and answer any questions on the project.
The gypsy moth is one of the most destructive pests threatening the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. Gypsy moth caterpillars feed on tree leaves, damaging and even killing trees. Trees that are repeatedly defoliated by gypsy moths have a high risk of dying. Because oak leaves are the preferred food of gypsy moth caterpillars, oak forests are particularly susceptible to defoliation.
National Forest System lands and private land comprising portions of Duncan Knob in Bath County were defoliated by gypsy moths last year. There are signs of gypsy moth egg masses, indicating further defoliation this year. Some trees have died as a result of the 2016 gypsy moth defoliation and others are expected to die in the near future. If weather conditions continue to be favorable for high gypsy moth populations, the area will be attacked again, further weakening any surviving trees and causing additional mortality.
According to the press release, treating the area now could improve the chance that oak trees will survive in this area. The Forest Service is considering using commercial timber harvest to salvage dead, severely defoliated, and dying trees. Cutting heavy defoliated oaks now is important because these trees can still sprout and regrow from their stumps. Other treatments being considered include removing trees growing close to oak trees, improving the vigor of oak species. This gives the targeted trees a better chance to survive a pest infestation. Oak species are a critical component of the forest, providing food and habitat benefits to wildlife.
Warm Springs District Ranger Elizabeth McNichols said “We hope local community members will provide input and ask any questions they may have about the treatments.”
If you have any concerns about gypsy moths on your property, call your local County Administrator’s Office or the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.