"The health of Carbon County's forests is fair to good," said Frank Snyder, Service Forester for Schuylkill and Carbon Counties. "We have problems, sure."
By problems, Snyder is referring to a released report, 2012 Forest Health - Pennsylvania Highlights, published by Forest Health Protection U.S. Forest Service and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry, Division of Forest Pest Management.
"The purpose for the report is to give the wood industry, forest landowners, people who have an interest in the trees, an opportunity to be aware of potential problems that might occur in the forest in the next couple of years. It is an annual report, and it gives you a snapshot in time of what we have now and what could possibly occur in the future."
Snyder is the local member of a team who have been monitoring our forests for a variety of diseases: Emerald Ash Borer, Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, Gypsy Moth, Asian Longhorned Beetle, Anthracnose, Sudden Oak Death, and Thousand Cankers Disease.
The report covers observations made during 2012, a year with a warm wet spring, an unusual condition that encouraged diseases like Anthracnose and favored the growth of fungi, which attacked the caterpillar phase of the gypsy moths.
"The Emerald Ash Borer is all around us but has not been identified in either Schuylkill or Carbon counties," Snyder said. "It's normally hard to identify and attack because the adults lay their eggs high in the tree. So, we start seeing some of the treetops get thin and die back. It isn't until you see damage closer to the ground that we could identify it." He said that once we do find it, we will probably find signs that it's been here for 10 years."
"It's a beautiful insect. The adult is an emerald green color and about a half-inch long. The adult chews the bark and lays eggs on the bark. When these critters hatch, they bore through the bark into the cambium layer, feed back and forth on that cambium layer, and eventually girdle the tree, and the tree dies."
"We have been finding masses of the Gypsy moth throughout Carbon County. I don't expect any gypsy moth problems this year. But we have to watch these counts to see if they go up-which would indicate that their population is going up. The big problem will be in the central part of the state."
"We're doing better because the wet spring encouraged growth of the fungus that kills off the caterpillars. But who knows, we might have a perfect spring this year for caterpillars, and they may reproduce and we could have a problem next year."
The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid is still in Carbon County and they're still going to be a lot of trees dying from it. There are a lot of hemlock trees in the forest that have gone through many years of stress from the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, and if you walked up to one of these trees, you will see that the bottom branches are totally dead, and only at the very top is some greenery."
"A lot of those trees, even though they are surviving, will probably die from this disease. We are having another problem with the hemlocks, from the Hemlock Elongated Scale which is also attacking hemlocks at the same time as the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, and that's adding additional stress."
"The Asian Longhorn Beetle has not been sighted in Carbon County and we have been looking hard for it. In Carbon County we need to keep our heads up for this. The Asian Longhorn beetle was first found in New York City's Central Park and has been reported in New York and New Jersey."
"Asian Longhorn Beetles love maple trees. They bore into a tree with a half inch diameter borehole. They get inside the tree and start boring into the center of the wood and keep going around, and eventually the tree breaks apart."
"We have to be careful in the Pocono area because we have a lot of visitors from New York and New Jersey. So, if they bring any wood products here, or one of these bugs hitch hikes, they could started an infestation of this area."
"Anthracnose," Snyder continued. "we had a lot of that in our area, It is a leaf disease caused by a fungus. As the bud starts to swell and open up, the fungus can infect the developing and expanding leaf."
Thousand Canker's disease creates die-back in the branches of black walnut trees. So far, it's been isolated to Bucks County.
Sudden Oak Death has been traced to shipments of nursery stock from California and Oregon, and is believed to have originated in Europe. So far, it has not been observed in Pennsylvania.
"I'd say the health of Carbon County's forests is fair to good," Snyder said. "We have problems, sure, but I think overall it is fair to good."