Forestry News



Our new sign was unveiled at the RIFCO Forestry Field Day held on May 17, 2003, at the RIFCO Demonstration Woodlot on Howard Hill Road in Foster. Members Greg Drew and Tom Angell made the sign, and President Milt Schumacher unveiled it.


At our annual meeting back in November we announced that RIFCO was the recipient of a donation of a new educational resource, in the form of a ten acre woodlot in Foster. RIFCO has granted the Foster Land Trust a conservation easement on that land, with an express purpose for our use as a demonstration woodlot.

A Land Management Committee has been formed, with Tom Angell of Scituate as its chair, to develop a plan for the use of this new resource. The initial plan is to make improvements to the access and trails so that we can hold workshops on the woodlot. A series of workshops is being planned that will take us through the initial stages of woodlot management. Future options include the application of certain forestry practices to allow observation of the forest's response.

The property, located at the intersection of Howard Hill Road and Briggs Road, has a stand of mixed hardwoods (oak, ash, birch, and red maple), and is fairly level. It has access along an unimproved section of Howard Hill Road, and a small clearing that was established as a log landing for a recent thinning. Skidder trails are present, which can be improved for year-round access by foot or machine.

There are other properties available around the state that could be incorporated into a network of demonstration woodlots, including this RIFCO lot. The RI Chapter of the Society of American Foresters has formed a committee to investigate the development of this network. Tom Dupree, Chief of the RI Division of Forest Environment, will be leading this effort.


Attack of the Oakworms and Your Tree's Health
by Catherine Sparks, RI Division of Forest Environment

In central Rhode Island, the towns of Scituate, Coventry, and West Greenwich had areas of 100% defoliation that covered a combined area of about 3,500 acres. The defoliation was spotty, however, and while some areas were hit very hard other areas only a short distance away seemed relatively free of caterpillars. I am anticipating another outbreak in 2002 and it may be expanded somewhat in area until the natural predators of the oakworm reach a level that will knock the population down. In case you're wondering, all those fat caterpillars from this year are now burrowed into the soil between 2 and 5 inches deep where they will pupate and pass the winter. We will know next August from observations of abundance and locations of the adult moths how many survived and where the problems will be.

Orange-striped oakworms are members of a family known as royal moths. They are a relatively large and heavy moth with a soft look about them. The body is very hairy and characterized by rich colors of rose, light purple, yellow, and light brown. There is a white dot on the forewings. Homeowners will find the moths to be a nuisance because of their attraction to artificial light at night. Anyone who leaves their garage open with the light on at night in an area of high population will be loaded with moths in the morning. This year homeowners complained of the moths flying at their windows at night and leaving marks that required window washing. If there are lots of moths there will be lots of caterpillars to follow.

The damage to oak trees from a fall defoliator is considered to be a lesser stress than earlier defoliators because the trees have had the benefit of most of the growing season and would be losing their leaves soon anyway. However, repeated defoliations in spring or fall combined with other events can push trees into a decline that leads to tree death. This is a normal and expected event in our forests and usually affects a small percentage of the trees.

In a landscape situation homeowners may choose to take preventative measures in terms of pesticide application to not only to prevent defoliation, but to minimize the nuisance around their homes. The orange-striped oakworm is a gluttonous feeder, completely stripping oaks of their leaves consuming all but a network of veins. In large numbers, as experienced this fall, they are terribly messy around a home. Any pesticide application should take place when the caterpillars have just hatched to be most effective. Regular watering and light fertilization twice a year can be helpful in mitigating the damage to high value trees around homes.

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