2017-11-10 / Community

Volunteers needed at fort to protect trees

The Fort Williams Park Foundation, Cape Elizabeth Land Trust and town of Cape Elizabeth are seeking volunteers to help band trees during the weekend of Nov. 11-12 to prevent their destruction by the winter moth, an invasive species that has spread rapidly throughout the area and threatens to decimate several native tree species.

The combined effort will protect more than 100 trees (depending on the trees’ circumference) in Robinson Woods and a similar number in Fort Williams Park, primarily oaks, maples, ash and apple trees. In the park, the banding will be concentrated on three areas where progress has been made on planned improvements with town and/or donor money and volunteers: Officer’s Row Preserve, the Children’s Garden and Cliffside. Cape Elizabeth Tree Warden Todd Robbins will oversee the effort and train others to ensure the banding is applied properly.

Abundant in Europe and western Asia, the winter moth was introduced to North America via Nova Scotia, and in the past decade has exploded in population throughout New England. Adult moths hatch from their cocoons in the soil at the base of host trees in late November, usually around Thanksgiving. Females, which are wingless, crawl up the base of the trees to lay their eggs; one winter moth can lay as many as 350 eggs. When the eggs hatch in the spring, the caterpillars feed upon the emerging new leaves and flowers.

“The resulting defoliation can kill the tree if allowed to continue over several years,” said James McCain, director of the Fort Williams Park Foundation Arboretum. “In Cape Elizabeth, the winter moth has already killed thousands of trees, and the infestation grows every year. This makes the need for immediate action all the more critical.”

Tree-trunk banding is considered the most effective way to treat winter moth infestations. Assisted by volunteers, members of the Fort Williams Park Foundation and land trust, along with town employees, will protect susceptible trees by applying BugBarrier Tree Band, a fiber coated with an adhesive that traps the females before they can lay their eggs. The banding stays in place for two to three weeks – long enough for the female moths to end their egg-laying cycle. The trees are monitored in the spring to determine if they need to be banded again the following winter.

The banding will not harm native winter moth species such as the Bruce Spanworm, because they emerge from the soil in late October-early November, and will have already laid their eggs by the time the banding is applied. This is also why the banding cannot be applied before mid-November.

To volunteer to band trees at Fort Williams Park, email Kim Koehler at kimakoehler@gmail.com or call McCain at 767-3707. To volunteer at Robinson Woods, contact stewardship@capelandtrust.org or call 767-6054. For more information and updates, visit fortwilliams.org or capelandtrust.org, or visit the organizations’ Facebook pages.

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