THE PATH #writephoto – Marilyn Armstrong

As long as I can remember, I’ve been enchanted by paths and in particular, by paths in the woods. There’s something about them, a kind of magic. You can’t see where the path ends and any time you choose to walk on one, you could wind up anywhere from the parking lot of the local mall to an ancient churchyard.

It’s the not-knowingness that makes it special.

So every time we are taking pictures in or near the woods, I look for paths. Even tiny, obscure, overgrown paths nonetheless hold the possibility of adventure.

Mystery. A hidden future. The unknown calls out and we are obliged to follow.

The long path home – Photo: Garry Armstrong
Perfect wooded path
In Vermont

THURSDAY PHOTO PROMPT – Sue Vincent

FOREST LIFE WHEN SPRING HAS COME – Marilyn Armstrong

OH FOREST PRIMEVAL


I laughed when Ellin wrote that the weather is perfect for outside. “Not too hot, not too cold, and the bugs aren’t in full attack mode.” Or something to that effect. People who don’t live here don’t “get” the bugs.

We don’t just have insects. We have hordes of insects with jaws and stingers. Tiny ones that get into your eyes and ears and clothing.

The trees will darken as summer progresses

Evil ones that carry disease and vicious ones that requires trips to the doctor and antibiotics. And of course, the slithery ones that eat your trees for breakfast, lunch, and dinner until they are naked. The trees are naked. The bugs are furry and itchy.

This year, so far, the bugs are “normal.” I see no evidence of returning gypsy moth caterpillars and I just hope that we are back to normal again. Nothing more vicious than mosquitoes and flies seem to be out there, discounting the ever-present ants, of course.

So this is our forest. It has come into bloom. Yesterday, actually. You could pretty  much watch the leaves unfurl. It’s not quite summer, so I think we are going to get a week or two of actual spring! Amazing! We deserve it after our last, endless winter.

WHAT’S WITH THE GYPSY MOTHS?

They are back. Not in our back yard (yet), but that doesn’t mean they aren’t here. If they are up in the trees, we won’t see them for a week or two. Meanwhile, a couple of miles down the road, they are munching away on my son’s trees. He has managed to rescue a beloved old apple tree, but the oaks are going down for a second year.

The cold, wet weather is on our side. I may complain about it because it really sets off the arthritis, but it may save us — to some extent — from the caterpillars. As long as it stays chilly and rainy, there’s a decent chance the invasion will be minimal. If not, it will most likely be worse than last year, something I have trouble imagining and which has both of us seriously creeped out.

Garry isn’t normally afraid of bugs, but he has developed a healthy loathing for these invaders.

Last year, they ate about 350,000 acres of hardwoods. If the weather dries up and the temperatures go up, they could easily knock off twice as much this year. Many people have been spraying and every little bit helps. We’ll get sprayed again, probably next week.

If you live in New England and you are seeing well-grown caterpillars — they would be the ones showing blue and/or red dots on their back — I’d appreciate you letting me know where you are and how bad it appears to be. Right now is when we would be heading into the worst of the invasion. June is the month. The caterpillars feed well into June, at the end of which they pupate and form cocoons.

The 2016 outbreak was the largest gypsy moth outbreak in the state since the early 1980s. In the 1980s, the damage was even more widespread, with 900,000 acres of woods stripped in 1980 and 2 million defoliated acres in 1981.

More recently gypsy moth damage hasn’t been as bad because, since about 1989, a caterpillar-killing fungus has greatly reduced their numbers. But drought conditions in 2015 and 2016 reduced the fungus’ ability to infect young caterpillars and the population boomed. This spring’s cool, rainy weather has the potential to save us. The fungus might make enough of a comeback to dent the caterpillar population for the remainder of 2017.

Defoliated oaks in July 2016

Neither of us remembered the 1980s invasions. Garry was living in Boston in a high-rise in the 1980s while I lived in Jerusalem. That’s probably why it took us so long to figure out what was happening. I looked through my posts from last year. This was approximately when we started to realize something ugly was happening. Between the end of May and a week later, I stopped leaving the house. At all. Three weeks later, the caterpillars had eaten every leaf on every tree.

Invasion map for 2016. We live in the big red patch at the bottom (on the Rhode Island border) in the middle of the state. It was bad.

These invasions are usually a couple of years which run together. The second year is typically worse than the first.

I’m trying not to make myself insane with worry, but it is hard not to worry. Ignore my complaints about the cold, wet weather. Bring on more cold wet weather. Keep it wet and keep it chilly. It’s our best defense against the killer creepers.

The caterpillar pictures Garry took at our house were as of June 9, 2016, the beginning of the worst part of the invasion. We aren’t there yet, so all we can do is hope … worry … then hope a little more.

MORE INFORMATION

What is a gypsy moth?

It’s a species of moth native to Europe and Asia. Historians believe they were first introduced to Massachusetts by Etienne Leopold Trouvelot, a Medford-based amateur entomologist who tried to breed a hybrid gypsy-silk moth in the late 1860s. To say that his attempts to produce a silkworm went wildly awry doesn’t begin to cover the damage that has resulted from his doomed experiments. Gypsy moths have spread across the continent, down into Mexico and up into Canada, including Alberta.

Why do I keep hearing about them?

Last year, Massachusetts saw its first major gypsy moth infestation in 35 years. A specific variety of fungus typically keeps the invasive species in check, but a statewide drought last year kept fungus levels low and allowed the gypsy moth population to balloon. And as of late last month, scientists said this season’s eggs are beginning to hatch—setting the state up for another bout with the creatures. Unless the bad weather keeps them in check, this could be a very bad year. Worse than last year.

What’s the big deal about some moths?

Gypsy moth caterpillars are responsible for mass deforestation. Last year, they stripped leaves from more than 350,000 acres of trees across Massachusetts, with the heaviest concentration in eastern and central parts of the state. They favor oak, aspen, apple, and willow trees, especially. Full-grown gypsy moth caterpillars are 1.5 to 2 inches long. A single larva can consume as much as a square foot of leaves per day, according to the University of Illinois Extension website. Last year, we could actually hear them chewing. It’s a horrible sound.\he caterpillars go on to produce a proportional amount of fecal matter, which can make it impossible to enjoy outdoor activities. The trees are left bare, limiting autumn foliage and allowing sunlight into parts of the woods which are normally shaded. Not good for plants or animals.

Any danger to people?

Yes. Although gypsy moth caterpillars do not bite, they frequently cause a red, itchy rash. Garry got a nasty one last year on his arms. The rash can last a few days or weeks. Wear long sleeves, a hat, long pants, socks, closed shoes, and gloves if you need to handle them. If you develop a rash, take antihistamines to relieve itching, or see your doctor if it’s very bad.

Is there anything I can do to keep them away?

If you spotted gypsy moth eggs in your trees earlier this year or late last year — Massachusetts Wildlife Magazine describes them as “tawny brown egg masses”—now’s the time to call a tree care professional, who can safely apply pesticides to keep the caterpillars at bay. Mass Audubon also suggests a number of DIY solutions.

And regardless, if you were invaded last year, there’s every reason to assume — whether you see them or not — they are on the way.

WHAT FOREST?

CAN YOU SEE THE FOREST FOR THE TREES?


As early as the 1500s, “you can’t see the forest for the trees” was in wide enough use that it was published in collections of proverbs and slang. As anyone who has been in a forest knows, it can be easy to fall into the trap of just looking at the individual trees, rather than considering the forest as a whole.


According to the “saying,” it’s really easy to lose the forest while you are looking at a tree.

Is that true? When you look at a tree, do you forget you’re in a forest? Is it that easy to forget the larger picture because you can only see part of it? Do we forget we are in a city because we’re looking at a building? Do we forget we are reading a book because we are looking at one page? At the risk of arguing with a “known fact,” I don’t need to see the whole city to know I’m in one.

Meanwhile, I really do live in a forest. Not an allegorical or metaphorical forest. We have a whole lot of trees covering a substantial amount of terrain. Our house is right on the edge of it. The forest is primarily red oak trees, with some other hardwood and a bare hint of pine. We used to have a walnut tree, but it went down in a hurricane years back.

If you live in a woods, it’s true that you can’t see the whole forest, but it doesn’t mean you don’t know it’s there.

Unless you looking down from a helicopter, you will never see the whole forest, yet I’m sure all of us can deduce, infer, and assume the larger picture. Whether or not you can see it in its entirety changes nothing. You see trees, but your brain believes “forest.” Not seeing the whole picture does not mean you don’t know there is one

Photo: Garry Armstrong

How many trees I can see from my house depends on where I am. From the back deck, I see forest. Fewer trees from the front or side of the house. But what’s the difference between the forest and the trees? Isn’t a forest just a bunch of trees? How many trees do you need before it’s a forest (rather than a bunch of trees)? Is there a definition?

Despite this, I bet you can tell the different between a group of trees and a forest every time, without assistance.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Parts of things embody the spirit of the whole. This is how we understand our world and ourselves. No matter what piece you look at, you retain awareness of its connection to something larger. We are individuals, but part of a family, a company, clan, tribe. Humanity as a whole. Without this fundamental grasp of reality, we could not live in the world.

So how do you know whether you’re looking at a single tree, or standing at the edge of a forest? Look around. If you see a lot more trees, put your money on “forest.” If you see a parking lot and a Walmart sign? Think “mall.” Of course, the Walmart could be at the edge of the forest. but I think you’ll work it out.

A SECOND SPRING

After a complete defoliation by voracious gypsy caterpillars, there are signs of recovery in the woods.

 72-woods-recovering-062616_006

It’s hard to find an up-side to a gypsy moth infestation, but if any exists, it’s that you not only get more light without the trees blocking the sun, but you can actually see the birds. I hear them, but usually they are hidden high in the trees.

72-birds-062616_012

Right now, there’s no place to hide. You can see the beginnings of a new crop of leaves. A second spring is coming. In another few weeks, most of the trees will have leaves again.

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Some places seem to be rebounding a lot faster than others. I don’t yet know what that means … if it means anything.

72-woods-fuchsia-062616_035

And so our forest, stripped of most of its leaves, deprived of the means to manufacture nourishment, endures. Hints of a second spring give us hope that our beautiful woods will make it through the siege. Most of the oaks and maples will survive. I hope losses will be few.

DEPRIVE | THE DAILY POST

TREES AND THE FOREST

72-May-Woods-Deck_37

YOU CAN’T SEE THE FOREST FOR THE TREES.

As early as the 1500s, “you can’t see the forest for the trees” was in wide enough use that it was published in collections of proverbs and slang. As anyone who has been in a forest knows, it can be easy to fall into the trap of just looking at the individual trees, rather than considering the forest as a whole.

Is it really that easy to forget the larger picture if you can only see part of it? Do we forget we are in a city because we’re looking at a building? Really?

72-False Autumn-Amherst-River_046

I live in a forest. Not an allegorical or metaphorical one. The real deal. Mainly oak. Some sassafras, maple, and beech. A hint of pine. We used to have a walnut tree, but it went down in a hurricane a few years back.

If you live in a woods, it’s hard to see the forest, but that doesn’t mean you don’t know it’s there. Unless you looking down from above, you can never see a whole forest. But we deduce, infer, assume the larger picture.

Whether or not you can see it changes nothing. You eyes see trees, but your brain knows otherwise. Not seeing the whole picture does not mean you don’t know there is one

window late afternoon

How many trees I can see from my house depends on where I am. From the back deck, I see forest. Fewer trees from the front or side of the house. But what’s the difference between the forest and the trees? Isn’t a forest just a bunch of trees? How many trees do you need before it’s a forest (rather than a bunch of trees)? Is there a definition?

72-Amherst-River_060

Despite this, I bet you can tell the different between a group of trees and a forest every time, without assistance.

We don’t need to see the whole forest to know it’s there.

Parts of things embody the spirit of the whole. This is how we understand our world and ourselves. No matter what piece you look at, you retain awareness of its connection to something larger. We are individuals, but part of a family, a company, clan, tribe. Humanity as a whole. Without this fundamental grasp of reality, we could not live in the world.

72-Amerherst-Downtown

So how do you know whether you’re looking at a single tree, or the edge of a forest? Look around. If you see more trees, put your money on “forest.” If you see a parking lot or a giant Walmart sign? Think “mall.”

ODD BALL PHOTOS – BITS OF THINGS

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: Week 36

Little yellow peppers growing in a window
Little yellow peppers growing in a window
Bright ferns on a forest floor
Bright ferns on a forest floor
Dam wall in the middle of town
Dam wall in the middle of town