News and Events
A handful of the world’s 3,100 known termite species damage homes. In forests, however, termites are valuable.
“Termites recycle dead wood,” says U.S. Forest Service research entomologist Michael Ulyshen. Termites consume as much as 20 percent of the dead wood in forests, as Ulyshen showed in 2014.
In the Northern Hemisphere, winter officially starts at the same time every year. In 2017 it was on a Thursday, December 21st, the shortest day of the year. The Winter Solstice. And winter has swept into the Southeastern U.S. with some teeth this year.
On September 17, more than 35,000 insect enthusiasts gathered at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, NC.
U.S. Forest Service employees were among them. As in years past, the Southern Research Station had a table at BugFest. Hundreds of children and adults stopped by to learn about SRS research and to see insects up close.
We are at it again, setting up wood wasp traps as part of a localized survey to detect native siricids and parasitoids. A wood wasp native to Europe, Sirex noctilio, has been introduced to parts of the U.S. For now, the non-native species has only been detected in portions of NY, PA, MI, and VT. Our southern pine species would be prime habitat for these critters though, so we are making attempts to detect the insect.
In a controlled experiment, as many variables as possible are accounted for, a hypothesis is conceived. The experiment is carefully planned, laid out, and implemented.
Take all of that planning and equipment to the field however...
We have been at it again this spring with a new predator of hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA). This is our third consecutive year releasing silver flies on HWA infested hemlocks.
Yep, the "daylighting" of hemlocks has finally begun!
Based on what we know from anectodal evidence in the field and research done in a nursery setting we can say that hemlocks in full sun tend to be healthier and have lower levels of adelgid infestation. So, we are bringing that hypothesis to the big woods and trying out a new experiment. This study has been on paper for quite a while and we have been scouting sites for the better part of a year.
Up to 30 percent of all forest insect species depend on wood that is dead or dying. “Such species are among the most threatened insects in Europe,” says U.S. Forest Service scientist Michael Ulyshen. “However, very little is known about their diversity or conservation status in North America.”
SRS research entomologist Bud Mayfield was relieved to find that defoliation on an American chestnut planting site was not as severe as expected. Mayfield and SRS research forester Stacy Clark are coauthors on a paper in the Journal of Insect Science that describes a study they conducted with Ashley Case, an adjunct lecturer at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.
Scientists have identified a potential new strategy for protecting hemlocks from the miniscule insect that plagues them. “High levels of sunlight help reduce hemlock woolly adelgid abundance on young seedlings,” says U.S. Forest Service project leader Bud Mayfield. “Follow-up experiments in the field are still needed, but the results suggest thinning or strategically creating gaps in the forest could help conserve hemlocks.”
Bees are a critical part of many flowering plants’ reproductive cycles. “By some estimates, nearly 90 percent of the world’s flowering plants are pollinated by bees, butterflies, beetles, or other pollinators,” says U.S. Forest Service research entomologist Michael Ulyshen. “There is also growing evidence that many pollinators are declining.”
Kudzu, the nightmare weed that gobbled the South, is disappearing.
Slowly, inexorably, the scientists, foresters, farmers and goats — yes, goats — are gaining the upper hand on the slinky, creepy green vine that makes abandoned homes and utility poles disappear seemingly overnight.
Over the past decade, U.S. Forest Service researchers have been working with university cooperators to find some way to slow down or stop the relentless spread of cogongrass. In late 2014, Auburn University researchers reported results that demonstrated, for the first time, that patches of cogongrass can be eliminated completely within three years — showing that eradication of the invasive plant is actually possible for many land managers.
It grows on every continent except Antarctica and has earned a reputation as one of the worst weeds on earth — and according to U.S. Forest Service emeritus scientist Jim Miller, cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica) is without doubt one of the most threatening invasive species in the South.
Forests in North America have changed rapidly over the past century. Before European settlement, forests were a mosaic of open pine and hardwood forests, prairies, and woodland savannas. Recent studies have found that forests with sun-filled openings and those with open canopies — where the branches from adjacent trees don’t touch or overlap — favor pollinators like bees and butterflies.
Forests infested with privet invoke a kind of despair in people attuned to the problem of invasive plants. Privet invades a forest quickly, sprawling across the understory and growing into thickets that crowd out native plants and change the very ecology of an area. Even if the woody shrub can be removed effectively, can a forest return to any semblance of its previous condition?
Guidelines for Regenerating Southern Pine Beetle Spots, a general technical report (GTR) by the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS), provides detailed guidance for regenerating pines in areas within forest stands where trees have been killed by the southern pine beetle.
Originally from Asia, the redbay ambrosia beetle and the fungus it carries in its jaws have found a new home in the southern United States. Eradication is impossible at this point, and the fungus causes laurel wilt, a highly destructive disease that affects redbay, swamp bay, sassafras, avocado, and pondberry – as well as every other member of the laurel family.
The redbay laurels that once graced the coastal forests and residential landscapes of the Southeast have all but disappeared, taken down by laurel wilt, a deadly disease caused by a fungus (Raffaelea lauricola) carried in the jaws of the nonnative redbay ambrosia beetle (Xyleborus glabratus).
On Friday last week, U.S. Forest Service scientists with the Southern Research Station and Forest Health Protection released just over 1200 Laricobius osakensis beetles on eastern hemlock trees in North and South Carolina. Reared at University of Tennessee Knoxville’s Lindsay Young Beneficial Insects Lab, the predator beetles are natural enemies of the hemlock woolly adelgid, an invasive insect that kills hemlock trees in eastern North America.