October 9, 2013 —
At a recent meeting of the Wayne Conservation District, board members and staff received a sobering update on two factors negatively affecting Pennsylvania’s forests.
John Maza, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources service forester for Wayne and Lackawanna counties noted that the emerald ash borer (EAB), a brilliant green beetle that has decimated ash tree populations in multiple states since first being identified in Michigan in 2002, has now been identified in Luzerne County.
That brings the beetle even closer to Wayne, Lackawanna and Pike counties, which so far have not shown evidence of the highly destructive insect’s presence. In Pennsylvania, EAB beetles have been identified in 44 counties, and just across the Delaware River they have been discovered in Delaware, Ulster and Orange counties in New York. Since its discovery in Michigan in 2007, the insect has spread to 23 states and killed many millions of ash trees.
Another increasingly noticeable affliction is spruce dieback, which is resulting in the slow inevitable death of older spruce trees throughout the state. Maza said the disease is caused by a fungus that began to thrive in recent years characterized by wet rainy summers. By the time the dieback of needles and limbs is noticed, the disease is considerably advanced.
Younger trees are faring better than older ones, and site is a factor, with trees on southerly or westerly slopes in non-crowded configurations appearing to do better than others. Maza likens it to human health in that the vigor of the specimen is tied to its ability to ward off disease.
Both factors, in addition to others such as the hemlock woolly adelgid (an insect which preys on Eastern hemlocks) are expected to significantly increase the number of dead trees in regional forests.
Visit www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/insectsdisease/index.htm  for additional information on pests, insects and diseases affecting PA forests. Maza can be reached at 570/945-7133.