Invasive insects changing forests in Pennsylvania


Close to my home sit’s a small woodlot that gently slopes behind a small farm. From a road that parallels this diminutive patch of forest, one is able to see a long line of tall dead ash trees with barren branches reaching beyond living neighbors of different tree species, part of an edge that runs along the boundary where a lush pasture connects with the wooded area. (See photo above).

To anyone who takes notice of this strongly unpleasant scene, and truly understands what is really occurring here, there should be a deep sense of loss, one that is the result of recent developments in the world we all live in today.

Of course, it’s not only ash trees that have suffered so much because of the insidious emerald ash borer, but also many stands of eastern hemlock being dealt a fading death from the invasive wooly adelgid. Add years of gypsy moth deforestation that has hurt other forest species of trees, plus the news of the national loss of the mighty elm tree from a foreign disease.

Our forests are being devastated.

Growing up, like most people, I never even considered invasive bugs, diseased trees and invasive bushes and plants becoming a part of the landscape, and the overall harm they would inflict via injury and death to the natural world that surrounded where I lived, and still do.

With the sight of dead and dying trees, plus the enveloping foreign plants and brush I encounter in all the forests I pass through while pursuing my outdoor endeavors, it stirs a good amount of reflection in my mind seeing these current conditions. I wonder how many people even consider trees that stand dead, or soon to die? I’m curious as to what part of local and worldwide populations of humans think of how losing native forests hurts the wild things that have evolved alongside different plants and tree species to the benefit of both. And I’d really like to know how many people pass by woods every day, look at them briefly, and consider their plights?

I often consider too, how the future change that is certain to come about from all this loss of native tree and plant types will alter the forests and creatures that live within them. I wonder how the people who enter these future forests will notice an alteration from what these places once were?

I’m well aware that there are many people attempting to help fight the invasive hoard, and help those trees, plants and brush that are disappearing due to the invasion, and I wish them great success.

Yet, I’m also aware that nature has this wonderful ability to respond and ultimately reestablish the perfect balance between creatures and their habitat, so that each succeeds in a productive living fashion. The only problem with that capacity of the wild world — it will take well beyond my lifetime to complete.

Categories: Pennsylvania – Ron Steffe

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