May 14, 2010

State of Alabama
Press Release: Forestry Commission, Alabama

North Alabama Oaks Knocked for a Loop

Over the past few weeks, there have been numerous reports of patches of dead or dying hardwood trees in North Alabama. In fact, these trees are not dead, or dying. They have been defoliated by emerging larvae of the linden looper, Erannis Tiliaria (Harris). Numerous spots have been ground-checked by Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) personnel, and the larvae have been confirmed by Dr. Charles Ray, an Auburn entomologist. However, according to experts, the larval stage will end soon and the trees should begin showing signs of new foliage.

Forester and AFC DeKalb County Manager Dan Green stated that he had never seen the defoliation to this extent. “It’s just a lot more noticeable this spring than in past years. It’s causing more concern because you can even see it in the forests from the highways.”

The linden looper is a native defoliator that may be found throughout the Eastern United States. It defoliates forest, shade, and fruit trees such as red and white oak, maple, elm, hickory, ash, birch, apple, and cherry. Heavy defoliation usually occurs in May and June and can cause growth loss and mast reduction. If coupled with other stresses, such as drought, this defoliation may cause mortality. The greatest impact of these insects is often felt in public-use areas where defoliation reduces the aesthetic value, and larvae and their droppings create a nuisance. Early evidences of feeding are small holes in the leaf produced by young larvae feeding on the expanding foliage. Older larvae consume the entire leaf, except the midribs and major veins.

According to Jim Jeter, AFC Hardwood Specialist, “These looper larvae generally occur once each year. Granted, this year there was a larger than normal emergence, but barring any other environmental stresses on the defoliated trees, they should put on new leaves and have no long-term detrimental effects.”

To learn more about the linden looper, visit the AFC’s website at www.forestry.alabama.gov/lindenlooper.aspx or go to www.forestpests.org



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