trees

Dealing with Storm Damaged Trees

By Tom Worthley, UConn Extension

 

tree down across road in Brookfield, Connecticut on May 15, 2018
Tree down in Brookfield, Connecticut on May 15, 2018. Photo: Jeremy Petro

On May 15, 2018, late in the afternoon, a striking example of one of those “severe weather events” we see quite often these days passed through my neighborhood in Higganum. Severe winds, downpours, lightning and thunder all were part of a wicked and deadly storm that ripped limbs from and uprooted trees, downed powerlines and damaged buildings and vehicles in other parts of the state. Images on TV news and social media of damage and cleanup efforts have been striking.

For my part, because of the sudden and severe nature of the winds, and the near-continuous display of lightning, I was as nervous I ever remember being about a storm event and the potential for damage to my humble little house from trees and limbs. Sure enough, one large limb, from the top of a large red oak, did get ripped off and came down about 20 feet from where I park my car. There is, of course, a mess of smaller twigs and branches as well. No real property damage, thank goodness, but it was close. The storm was over a quick as it began, and now, just like many folks around the state, I’m faced with a clean-up task. It’s not a real problem for me; that broken limb is at the edge of the woods and will make a nice neat little pile of firewood.

For many people, however, the task of cleaning up storm-damaged trees is not so straightforward and simple. Many damaged trees are huge and are left in precarious, unstable positions. Storm-damaged trees are fraught with abundant problems, dangers, and risks. Cutting, cleaning up and salvaging downed, partially down or damaged trees is one of the most dangerous and risky activities an individual can undertake.

In viewing the news reports, photos and social media posts I have been shocked and horrified by the personal risks that people are taking to cut up downed trees in cleanup efforts. Pictures of men operating chain saws in shorts and t-shirts, climbing downed tree limbs (and standing on them!) to cut them, working with no personal protective equipment, etc. – it can all be quite distressing for a person familiar with the potential danger. No professional arborist or logger I know does chain saw work without personal protective equipment – and these are the experts!

It cannot be emphasized enough that without personal skill and a thorough knowledge of equipment capabilities, safety procedures and methods for dealing with physically stressed trees, an individual should never undertake this type of work on their own. The very characteristics that make the wood from trees a great structural material can turn leaning, hanging or down trees into dangerous “booby-traps” that spring, snap, and move in mysterious ways when people try to cut them. They can cause serious and life threatening injuries. Just because your neighbor or relative owns a chain saw, it doesn’t make them qualified to tackle a large tree that is uprooted or broken. Contacting a Licensed Arborist, or Certified Forest Practitioner with the right equipment, training, and insurance, is the best alternative for addressing the cleanup and salvage of storm damaged trees, and avoiding potential injury, death, liability and financial loss.

That said, there are a few things a homeowner can do about trees that are damaged and/or causing other damage around a home site:

  • First, from a safe distance note the location of any and all downed utility lines. Always assume that downed wires are charged and do not approach them. Notify the utility company of the situation and do nothing further until they have cleared the area.
  • Don’t forget to LOOK UP! While you may be fascinated with examining a downed limb, there may be another one hanging up above by a splinter, ready to drop at any time.
  • Once you are confident that no electrocution or other physical danger exists, you can visually survey the scene and perhaps document it with written descriptions and photographs. This will be particularly helpful if a property insurance claim is to be filed. Proving auto or structure damage after a downed tree has been removed is easier if a photo record has been made.
  • Take steps to flag off the area or otherwise warn people that potential danger exists.
  • Remember that even if a downed tree or limb appears stable, it is subject to many unnatural stresses and tensions. If you are not familiar with these conditions, do not attempt to cut the tree or limb yourself. Cutting even small branches can cause pieces to release tension by springing back, or cause weight and balance to shift unexpectedly with the potential for serious injury. Call a professional for assistance.
  • Under no circumstances, even in the least potentially dangerous situation, ever operate, or allow anyone on your property to operate a chainsaw without thorough knowledge of safe procedures and proper safety equipment, including, at the minimum, hardhat, leg chaps, eye and hearing protection, steel-toe boots and gloves.

An assessment of the damage to individual trees, or more widespread damage in a forest setting is best undertaken by an individual with professional expertise. Homeowners should contact an Arborist to examine trees in yards or near to structures, roads or power lines. A Certified Forester is qualified to evaluate damage in the forest to trees and stands and advise landowners about the suitability of salvage or cleanup operations. The CT-DEEP Forestry Division can provide information about contacting a Certified Forester or Licensed Arborist. Check the DEEP Website, http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2697&q=322792&deepNav_GID=1631%20

or call 860-424-3630. Listings of Licensed Arborists can also be found at the CT Tree Protective Association web site, www.CTPA.org.

While a nice tidy pile of firewood from a tree that was damaged in a storm might be the silver lining, it is not worth the risk of injury to yourself or someone else when tackling a very dangerous task without the proper knowledge, equipment or preparation.

Gypsy Moth Update

gypsy moths on tree
Photo: Tom Worthley

Gypsy Moth Update from Extension Educator Tom Worthley: “On Friday, I observed these live adult female gypsy moths laying eggs along Chaffeeville Road in Mansfield. Obviously some caterpillars managed to survive the fungus and other predators and develop to maturity in some spots. If people are so inclined they could kill moths they can reach, (squirting the moths and egg masses with a bit of canola oil or very soapy water would work) but I’m inclined to think that a few adult gypsy moths are the exception rather than the rule.”

Tree Wardens Celebrate 25th Anniversary

tree wardensOn April 28, 2017, the Tree Wardens’ Association of Connecticut, Inc., celebrated the 25th anniversary of its founding with a gala event at the Omni Hotel in New Haven.

The organization was founded by Bob Ricard, Senior Extension Educator, as a result of his findings in a statewide needs assessment he conducted in 1991, the year he started working for UConn Extension. The results suggested that tree wardens (each municipality must have a tree warden based on state law passed in 1901) were not organized, received very little educational support, and didn’t know other towns had the position. Bob conducted a field workshop then the first organizational meeting at the Haddam Extension Center March 3, 1992. He was assisted by the late Dr. Dave Schroeder and Fred Borman, CT-DEEP, with the workshop.

Today the organization has around 200 members and an active board (including having recently completing a facilitate strategic plan to map out its next 25 years. Bob conducts the annual Tree Warden School (since 1998) with over 300 tree wardens, deputy tree wardens, and others passing the final exam. The organization hosts two workshops and an annual dinner meeting, advocates concerning laws pertaining to tree wardens, and sponsors tree planting events.

At the gala, Dr. Mike O’Neill, congratulated the organization for its success. Senator Blumenthal did the same and presented Bob with a Certificate of Recognition for founding and facilitation of the organization through its 25 years. At the end of the gala, attendees were talking of the next 25 years and getting together for the 50th anniversary.

Stormwise: There’s An App For That

StormwiseUndergraduate students in the Department of Computer Science are developing a Stormwise app. The app will have two functions; tree failure reporting where individuals can provide a description and photo, and the app will walk people through a hazard tree assessment process. Collecting tree failure data will be of great value for research down the road, and will help prioritize work. All data from the app will come back to UConn. The app will be marketed to the public and other stakeholder groups when it is debuted later this year. Outreach audiences include elected officials and emergency management directors that make decisions about power and transportation networks in their community. Tree crews, tree wardens, and community stakeholders are also included. The Stormwise website also offers information for various stakeholder groups, and the program has an active Twitter account.

Got Holes in Your Trees?

By Joan Allen, Assistant Extension Educator

 

woodpecker damage in tree
Woodpecker damage. Photo: Joan Allen.

It’s not generally good news if you discover holes in the bark of your trees.  Common causes of holes in trees include wood boring insects and birds.  In the case of insects, it is usually the larval stage that feeds within the tree while the adults feed on leaves or other external tissues.  In spite of this, it is most often the adult stage that created holes in the bark.  These may be either entry holes caused by adult beetles entering the tree to lay eggs or exit holes created when mature beetles or moths emerge following pupation.

Bark beetles are very small, often just a few millimeters long in the adult stage.  A typical life cycle would go as follows:  Adult beetles mate and females bore through the bark of host trees, leaving a tiny round entry hole.  Once below the bark, she excavates a parent gallery and lays eggs in niches along its length.  When the larvae hatch they tunnel outward in a pattern (gallery) characteristic of that species which can aid in identification.  They feed on the living cambium layer between the bark and the wood and when the cambium layer is killed all the way around the tree no new conductive tissue is produced for movement of water and nutrients in the tree and the tree dies.  Once the larvae mature, they pupate in their galleries and emerge as adults through new exit holes in the bark.

Bark beetles are often attracted to trees stressed or weakened by other agents such as drought stress or other pests and diseases.  In addition, some species emit an aggregation pheromone from an attractive host tree that attracts many more bark beetles of that species.  When many entry and exit holes occur together it looks like shotholes and there are certain bark beetles that are known as shothole borers.   Some bark beetles carry fungal spores on their bodies and when they create their parental/egg laying gallery, the fungal spores are introduced into the host tree where the fungus can develop in the wood.  These fungi may or may not have a direct impact on tree health and the fungus is sometimes a source of food for the larval insects.

D- shaped or oval exit holes are typical of Buprestid beetles including the emerald ash borer (D-shaped).  Common names of beetles in this group include metallic wood boring beetles or flat-headed borers.  There are over 15,000 species and some have brilliantly colored metallic looking elytra (wing covers).  Holes are relative to the size of the beetles, which are small to medium in size.  The D-shaped exit hole of the emerald ash borer is about 4-5mm across and the beetle is just under ½” long.

Round exit holes that are larger than those of the bark beetles are created by round-headed or longhorned beetles as they exit trees (family Cerambycidae).  In this family, eggs are often laid singly in the bark and newly hatched larvae tunnel into the wood to feed until they pupate and emerge as adults.  The Asian longhorned beetle falls into this group and the emergence holes are deeper than those of many other similar beetles.  Pupation of the Asian longhorned beetle occurs not far below the bark but these larvae tunnel throughout both the heartwood and sapwood of the tree.  Because of this, they tunnel out toward the bark to pupate, creating a tunnel from deeper in the tree.  There are a number of native longhorned and other beetles that created similar exit holes.  If you are concerned that you may have a tree infested by Asian longhorned beetles be sure to contact the plant diagnostic lab in your state (at your state’s land grant university of state agricultural experiment station) for a definite identification.

Some borers create somewhat longitudinal or horizontal scars on the surface of woody stems and branches.  Examples are the rhododendron borer and the sugar maple borer.  Two types of borer may attack rhododendrons.  The rhododendron borer is the larva of a clear-winged moth while the rhododendron stem borer is a longhorned beetle.  Evidence of damage begins as wilted then dying shoots and stems.

At least two types of bird create holes in the bark of trees to access food.  Woodpeckers create large, irregular and rough-edged holes as they peck away at the bark to get to insects, including borers underneath.   Sapsuckers also peck holes in trees but they are smaller, uniform in size, round and often occur in rows or grids of multiple feeding sites.  As their name implies, sapsuckers feed on tree sap, not insects.

There is a final interesting cause of holes in sugar maple. Taps used for extracting sap for maple syrup production can also create round holes in that type of tree and they look very much like the exit holes of some of the larger wood boring beetles!

EAB Quarantine Extended to All of Connecticut

EABsmallThe quarantine for the invasive, non-native emerald ash borer (EAB) was extended to include all eight Connecticut counties effective December 5, 2014. This was in response to the detection of EAB in Middlesex and New London Counties. EAB is already established in numerous towns in New Haven, Fairfield, Hartford, and Litchfield Counties. The movement of ash (ash logs, ash materials, ash nursery stock, and other regulated articles) within and between the eight counties of Connecticut are no longer subject to state or federal quarantine. However, out-of-state transport of ash and the transport of firewood of all tree species, including ash, within Connecticut continue to be regulated. Connecticut was added to the federal EAB quarantine around the same date. More information about the emerald ash borer and related quarantines can be found on these websites: DEEPConnecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.

Trees in Bushnell Park

sweet gum tree
Sweet gum looking up the trunk toward the canopy. Photo copyright 2013 Pamm Cooper

I recently went to Bushnell Park for the first time in my life and was glad I tagged along. My favorite plants since childhood are trees, especially the kinds you can climb up into and take a seat on a limb broad enough to provide a comfortable seat so you can view the world around you from a different prospective. It was while quietly sitting im trees that I first encountered many birds at close range, such as cedar waxwings, that don’t seem to mind being close to you if you are still and seem to be a part of the tree.

Bushnell Park, the oldest publicly funded park in the United States, was named for the Reverend Horace Bushnell, who conceived the idea of an open space in Hartford that would be available for people to enjoy free of charge. His good friend was the landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who was involved in the designs for both Central Park in New York City and Forest Park in Massachusetts at the time but recommended Horace consult his Swiss- born counterpart, Jacob Weidenmann, who was also a botanist. Weidenmann became the first superintendent of parks in Hartford, and not only designed Bushnell Park, but also Cedar Hill Cemetery on Fairfield Avenue. Both of these parks are dotted with many notable trees, including those considered state champions.

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