Emergence of winter moths has scientist worried about another spring of defoliation
"Their caterpillars defoliated 27,000 acres in Rhode Island in the spring of 2015, but even though we had winter moths everywhere last year and I saw a zillion eggs, they caused almost zero defoliation."
Faubert believes last year’s strange winter and spring weather negated what she expected to be a dire season for winter moth defoliation.
Winter moth eggs typically hatch during a warm spell in April, but last year they began hatching during a warm period in late March.
With little defoliation occurring last year from winter moths, Faubert said it’s possible that there will be fewer adult moths flying around in the next month.
"Defoliation is very stressful to trees," Faubert said.
The females crawl up tree trunks to lay their eggs.
In an experiment she conducted last year, Faubert placed two tree bands, separated by about a foot, around one tree.
One strategy Faubert is deploying to control winter moth populations is the release of a tiny parasitic fly that lays its eggs on tree leaves.
When the winter moth caterpillar consumes the eggs while eating the leaves, the eggs hatch inside the caterpillar and the fly larva eat it from the inside out.
Faubert released the flies in seven locations in Rhode Island between 2011 and 2015, and she hopes to soon see signs that it is beginning to work.