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!
Big Trees and Little Trees
by Area Forester Lisa Deaton
Lately we have been recertifying trees for the Virginia Big Tree Register. Trees on this register are checked every ten years to see if they are still alive, and if so, remeasured. The swamp chestnut oak above is located in Mathews County. It is 6.5 feet in diameter and 96 feet tall
We have also recently encountered a number of big trees that are not on the register yet.
The yellow-poplar above (also called tulip poplar and tulip tree) is in the middle of a 40 year old pine forest, but within view of the owner’s house.
The same landowner has a tree that he and his granddaughter have named the Rest Stop Tree (below).
It is a yellow-poplar that fell over sideways early in its life, and the side branches started growing upwards. The tree serves as a favorite rest stop during family walks. Trees that are special for any reason can be nominated to the Remarkable Trees of Virginia Project.
Meanwhile, it is reforestation time, and very hardworking crews have arrived in Virginia to plant loblolly and shortleaf pine seedlings in cutovers.
These men have traveled from Guatemala and Mexico to work in the southeastern U.S. for planting season. Each man plants about 3,700 trees per day.
by Area Forester Lisa Deaton
Snack Bars for Birds
Winter is a time of year when people start to notice damage to their trees. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are a member of the woodpecker family, and they can drill an alarming number of holes into a single tree in search of sap and insects.
This is a large yellow-poplar in Gloucester County.
While the holes are certainly an injury that can allow fungi and bacteria to enter a tree, the holes do not generally cause a great deal of harm.
Pecan tree in King William County Loblolly pine in Gloucester County
Other woodpecker species common to Virginia are the downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, red-headed woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, northern flicker, and pileated woodpecker – the largest of them all. These species dine mainly on insects and will pull apart decomposing wood on the ground and in standing trees as they hunt for food.
If you see wood chips or flakes at the base of a tree…
simply look up, and you will see the tree top that is serving as a “snack bar in the sky.”