Field Notes: Yellow-Poplar Weevil Makes Presence Known in Southwest Virginia

by VDOF Forest Health Program Manager Lori Chamberlin

The yellow-poplar weevil has made its presence known again in southwest Virginia. This native insect generally causes very little damage, but the population increased enough this summer to have a noticeable impact on yellow-poplars in the southwest part of the state. The weevils are black and small, only about 1/8th of an inch long. Since this pest is a weevil, it has a long proboscis, or nose like appendage, that it uses to feed. Though their name implies they feed only on yellow-poplar, they also feed on magnolia and sassafras.

Adult yellow-poplar weevils emerge in early June and feed on leaves until mid-summer. As they feed, they make tiny notches shaped like a grain of rice in the leaf creating brown splotches on the leaf surface. This gives the trees a scorched appearance and may lead to premature leaf drop.

Since the yellow-poplar weevil is a native pest in the eastern United States, control is usually not warranted. Natural predators of the weevil normally regulate the population and keep it below damaging levels. Outbreaks of the weevil tend to occur every few years when weevil populations surpass natural predators. During outbreak years, tree damage may be unsightly and alarming, but is mostly just cosmetic and does not cause long-term harm to the trees. There have been six VDOF documented outbreaks in the last 25 years, all primarily in southwest Virginia. This year, reports of this pest came from Roanoke, Bedford, Buchanan and Russell counties. VDOF forest health staff conducted an aerial survey on July 2nd and mapped damage in Bedford, Botetourt, Roanoke, Montgomery and Floyd counties. Yellow-poplar weevil damage appears to be widespread throughout the western region this year, but it is patchy and scattered throughout the landscape.

In heavily infested areas, you may see these weevils crawling on top of vehicles or falling on people walking by. They are often mistaken for ticks, but don’t worry, the yellow-poplar weevil doesn’t harm humans!

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Wildland Firefighter Week of Remembrance

by VDOF Wildfire Prevention Program Manager Fred Turck

June 30 through July 6 provides an opportunity for those who manage and battle wildland fires to remember, reflect and learn from the tragic incidents that have taken the lives of wildland firefighters. This week invites us to examine the past and lessen the likelihood that such tragedies will recur in the future. We will never have zero wildfires; however, we can strive for and have a goal of zero wildland firefighter fatalities. Any number greater than zero is unacceptable. The men and women who are on the frontlines, as well as those with responsibility for protecting our forests and wildlands as well as our homes, deserve nothing less.

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The public can also engage with the Week of Remembrance by taking actions that reduce risks to wildland firefighter. Most importantly, people can do their part and not let a wildfire start. If we can keep our firefighters at home and our equipment in the garage we reduce the chances that something disastrous will occur. Eighty-five percent of all wildland fires are human-caused and like our friend Smokey Bear has told us for 75 years now, “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires.”

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In addition to preventing the start of a wildfire, people can also mitigate the risk of fighting a wildfire near their homes or damage to the home itself by using Firewise practices. For more information on how to prevent wildfires and how to protect your home and community visit http://www.dof.virginia.gov, http://www.firewise.org and www.smokeybear.com.

The Wildland Firefighter Foundation is one of several organizations that support the Wildland Fire Family, for a very moving memorial to the fallen firefighters please visit https://wffoundation.org/the-fallen/