Near the end of August, beech blight aphids, Grylloprociphilus imbricator, appear on American beech trees. They are easiest to find by locating patches of black sooty mold on the ground underneath infested beech trees.
In the photo above, the orange fungus on the right was the first thing I noticed. Once I saw the sooty mold to the left, I looked up, and voilà, a branch full of wooly-looking aphids!
These are always a surprise to see during the heat of summer because they look so much like snow.
The fun part of encountering these aphids is waving your hand over the top of the branch and watching them wave their bodies back and forth in an effort to scare off predators. That is how they earned the common name of boogie-woogie aphids. You can see them do the boogie woogie in this video:
Like many sap-sucking insects, beech blight aphids take in more sugar than they need, and excrete the excess as honeydew. The black sooty mold grows on any surfaces covered with honeydew, such as the base of the tree below.
The aphids and mold do very little harm to their host beech trees. On pages 15-16 of our January 2013 issue of Forest Health Review, forest health specialist Chris Asaro explains all of the intricate relationships between the aphids, trees, ants, and different molds produced.
Now is a great time to explore nearby woods and look for colonies of boogie woogie aphids on American beech trees. They seem to be present in great numbers in Gloucester County this year.
About a year ago, I transitioned from working in the Department of Forests in Nepal as a forest officer to the Virginia Department of Forestry. Here, I want to share some information about the community forest management system of Nepal, which is the most common practice.
Nepal is a beautiful landlocked country with a total population of 28.98 million people. The country covers a total of 56,827 sq. miles of land, which is approximately 40.4 percent forested.
The country is divided into three major geographic regions: the High Himalayas, the Middle Hills and the Lowland Terai. The elevation ranges from 230 feet above sea level to 29,028 feet. Two-thirds of the population live in the rural areas of Nepal and depend on agriculture and forestry for their daily livelihood. In these rural communities, firewood is the major source of energy to cook food. Also, rural people have to cut, collect and carry their firewood and livestock’s fodder and bedding materials from nearby forests.
How Community Forests Emerged
After the democratic revolution in 1951, the newly formed parliament of Nepal passed the Private Forest Nationalization Act. The objective of this act was to protect forests from being converted by private landowners into agricultural crops.
But, this act brought a negative concept to local forest-dependent communities. Forest owners of larger properties were motivated to cut down their timber and convert it to cultivated land, rather than retain their forests that would be absorbed as National Forest. Because of this, deforestation and forest degradation were at a high rate, and the government policies intended to protect the forests were not successful.
During the 1970s, the government realized the support of local people was crucial to protect forests in the country. The Department of Forests in Nepal formed the first Community Forest. Community Forestry is a participatory forest management system, in which government forest resources are controlled, protected and managed by a User Group where forests are an integral part of their farming systems.
In Community Forestry, the User Groups are allowed to sell the forest products and to fund a budget for the benefit of the forest and local community. Because of this progressive act, now more than 1.45 million households (about 35 percent of the population of Nepal) are involved in Community Forestry User Groups (CFUGs). About 20 thousand CFUGs in Nepal cover around 7,000 sq. miles of National Forest (DoF, Nepal Data 2018).
In three decades of history, Community Forestry has been able to conserve the forestland and biodiversity. Now local users do not have to spend long hours collecting forest products for their household use. Community Forestry practices benefit the social, natural and economic aspects of the rural community in many ways.
Community forestry helps to increase the supply of forest products and fulfill the daily need of the local farmers. Socially, there is a provision for gender and social inclusion in each Community Forestry User Committee; women, low-income citizens, and other disadvantaged groups must be represented on the committee. Community Forestry also promotes income generation and community development activities for local livelihood improvement.
As mentioned earlier, Community Forestry was designed to meet the subsistence needs of the local community and to protect the local forest simultaneously. Although, it has been able to fulfill its primary objective, there are many issues at the local and national levels that have shown up in the last three decades that need to be addressed.
At the community level, the elected committee members and rural elites of the community direct most of the decision-making and may benefit most from the forests and their funds. Many of the Community Forests are still protection oriented and only a few of them are able to sell forest products to neighboring communities to generate funds from outside of the local area to increase their community fund. Therefore, Government and Non- Governmental Organizations are still investing a large amount of the money to run Community Forestry successfully.
At the national level, Community Forestry is still not successful in contributing to the gross domestic product of the nation. CFUGs do not have to pay forestland property taxes or internal forest product sales taxes to the government. It is not doing enough in job creation, timber production and forest based industries development. A national newspaper mentions that, “a large number of trees die and decay in the forest, while over eighty percent of the country’s timber is imported from other countries” (The Himalayan Times, 2016). This is obviously not good for a country that is 40 percent forestland.
In 2018, Nepal is endorsing its new constitution based on one federal, seven state and 753 local governmental systems. How will Nepal address Community Forestry regulation in this new governmental landscape? In Nepal’s new political system, local and state government must decide how to capture the benefits of forest products. The state government believes that they own the state forest and they should collect all taxes and revenue produced by the CFUGs. Officials at the Federal level of government also feel that they should get some percentage of revenue from these Community Forests.
In a nutshell, timely management of these issues is very important to the continuous success of the world’s most successful community based forest management program. I think government, local forestry users and related stakeholders should have a roundtable discussion for a solid output, which will maintain local forest users’ rights and provide economic benefits at the local and national levels in Nepal.
Every August, our agency assists the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries with their Mast Survey. Mast is not just a word to describe the tall post on ships; it is also a term used to describe the fruit of trees and plants that provide food sources for wildlife. Trees do not bear the same amount of fruit (i.e. nuts) reliably from year to year, so field staff are asked to rate the amount of fruit production on a dozen important mast species throughout the state.
Two weeks ago in York County, we found several species loaded with their fruit.
These (above) are pawpaws, which will turn dark brown when they ripen. If you happen to find some, the pulp can be eaten raw (watch out for the seeds), or Kentucky State University offers a list of recipes.
The persimmons are still green, and will be ready to eat after a hard freeze when they are orange and sweet. If you bite into a green one, you are in for a bitter surprise.
The flowering dogwood berries are also still green (above), and were easy to see on this branch because caterpillars had eaten the leaves.
These hickory nuts (above) are already on the ground, but a storm probably blew them out of a tree earlier this summer before they fully ripened. Whether or not the squirrels will eat them remains to be seen. Black bears, gray foxes, rabbits, mice, raccoons, quail, turkey, crows, blue jays and other birds also eat hickory nuts.
We are still conducting our surveys, but the mast production on Virginia’s peninsulas looks promising.