Spring is a good time to take a close look at your woods

Many people like to walk through the woods during the spring looking for Morel mushrooms or spring wildflowers. Take this opportunity to take a closer look for any signs of invasive pest problems.

Spring is a wonderful time for nature lovers! After a long winter of snow, ice and cold temperatures, many people relish the opportunity to walk into the woods to observe the beginnings of the new growing season. Depending upon the type of woods, there can be many things to enjoy from Morel mushrooms to vernal ponds and spring peepers to wildflowers such as Trillium and Pink Lady-slippers.

However, don’t overlook the opportunity to assess the condition of your trees while hiking through the woods as well. Some parts of Michigan experienced severe windstorms last December that caused a considerable amount of broken branches and downed trees. Consequently, your woods may need some maintenance this spring to clean up some of this past winter’s storm damage.

But there is another important reason to check out your woods more closely this spring. As the buds begin to break and the new tree leaves are just barely unfurled, it is a good time to look for signs of major invasive forest pests that pose a threat to Michigan’s forests.

Exit holes left by beetles such as Asian longhorned beetle, (which is not known to be present in Michigan) are easier to see, especially in the upper canopy. The white, waxy “wool” that indicates beech scale infestation and beech bark disease can also be observed when the trunks are in full view and not yet shaded by foliage.

Similarly, evidence of pests that attack conifers (evergreens) can also be noted before the new needles start to grow. For example, if hemlocks grow on your property, spend some time looking them over. Prior to 2015, the hemlock woolly adelgid was not thought to be present in Michigan. However, hemlock woolly adelgid is now known to be present in a few locations near the Lake Michigan shoreline in Ottawa and Muskegon Counties. This pest can be controlled in landscape trees and could possibly be eradicated completely with more thorough detection and quick response to controlling infested sites.

So as you walk through your woods with your head down this spring (i.e. looking for Morels or wildflowers) don’t forget to look up occasionally at your trees. Be sure to make note of anything that looks unusual to your trees and let someone know about it! Your local Michigan State University Extension or Conservation District offices are good places to report anything that you suspect may be happening to trees in your woodlot. If you are concerned about Asian longhorned beetle or hemlock woolly adelgids, you can also contact the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development at 1-800-292-3939.

However, there is also a way that Michigan residents can volunteer their time and help track the possible presence of new invasive forest pests through the Michigan Eyes on the Forest and Sentinel Tree Network. Interested citizens can sign-up to become Sentinel Tree volunteers to help keep an eye on trees in their yard or woodlot.

Funded by the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program, the MSU “Eyes on the Forest: Invasive Forest Pest Risk Assessment, Communication and Outreach Project,” links research with outreach and communication projects through the MSU Department of Entomology and Michigan State University Extension. For more information, please visit the Michigan Eyes on the Forest webpage or the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network webpage.

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