A bit of a cold front moved through last night, with clearing overnight. This morning is clear and bright, the kind of morning where I'd have enjoyed spending more time outside than I had before work. But it was time enough to find something unexpected and different from just the day before. Gypsy moth devastation.
Literally overnight, the mountains to the north and across the valley from Roundtop are no longer green, but brown in several places, mostly across the tops of the mountains. I'd heard that gypsy moths were on the move again, but until this morning had seen no sign of that. So far Roundtop is spared but I know that may well not last. And given how these things spread, it may not be spared to the end of the week. And even if I am spared for the moment or even for this month, well, if not this year, then the next.
Gypsy moths often attack beech trees first, for some reason, then oak trees, which are the predominant trees (plus hickory and tulip poplar) in this area. The last time the moths came through, Roundtop was somewhat spared. The infestation was not as severe here as it was across the valley. And though the area directly across the valley was hit with moderate severity, a few miles to the south the mountains were devastated, with long-term damage and many trees killed.
When you're in an area with a severe infestation, you can actually hear those caterpillars chewing around you, a weird effect that I don't care to hear again. It's actually noisy with chewing. From what I've been told, trees can usually survive their first defoliation, especially if, as now, the leaves are already fully out and developed before the infestation begins. Naturally, the defoliation weakens them, but they usually recover. The real problem comes when the moths don't move on the following year. Two or three years of gypsy moth infestation in the same spot is more than even healthy trees can survive, especially when the second defoliation takes place just as the new spring leaves are appearing.
So suddenly, it's a bit like having the sword of Damocles approaching, if not quite yet hanging over my head.