What to Expect in the 2020 Season
We had anticipated a severe problem last year judging from the number of winter webs observable at the tops of Georgetown’s trees: then we got lucky. The cold wet spring of 2019 significantly decimated the browntail population on our peninsula when fungus and bacteria sickened the larvae just emerging from those winter webs. The regional map put out by Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry still shows our region on high alert, so we checked with Tom Schmeelk, the DACF’s forest entomologist and one of our featured speakers last year, about what to expect for 2020. He said the DACF did not do any surveying specific to Georgetown, but their survey of the area south of us found half as many webs as last year. The “epicenter” has moved north (Camden, Rockport and Lincolnville).
Be aware that populations can make a comeback, however, and that caterpillar hairs remain toxic in the environment (leaf piles, etc) for three years, so all the cautions still apply. And although we observed many fewer webs this winter, there are certainly still some in residence. If you have winter webs in your trees that you can reach (they like apple trees as well as the taller oaks) it is well worth clipping and destroying them (soak in soapy water) before the larvae start to emerge in warm weather. Reminder that pesticide use within 250 feet of marine waters is restricted by Maine law. FMI see Browntail Moth