Record NERCOFE crowd gathers to hear about budworm

More than 300 people packed the NERCOFE conference to hear about spruce budworm.
More than 300 people packed the NERCOFE conference to hear the latest about the upcoming spruce budworm infestation.

A record crowd gathered in Orono March 10 to find out what to expect from the coming spruce budworm outbreak. More than 300 registered for the New England Regional Council on Forest Engineering (NERCOFE) workshop at the University of Maine, some who had endured the last outbreak in 1970s as well as many who had not. Some presentations were familiar to MFPC members who attended the 2013 annual meeting last fall, but there also was some new information and a Q&A that took some interesting turns.

2012-2013For example, Dave Struble, Maine state entomologist, had slides showing the budworm outbreak in Quebec expanded from 2.2 million hectares in 2012, to 3.2 million hectares (7. 9 million acres) in 2013, an increase of 44 percent. The population in New Brunswick is very low, but is found across the province.

Other reports were:
Brown Needles: Lessons from the SBW Outbreak of the 70s & 80s– Lloyd Irland, The Irland Group
Human Response Life Cycle: How it Shaped Everything in Maine Forestry for the Past 40 Years– Bob Wagner, University of Maine
Outbreak Status, Monitoring and Available Control Measures– Dave Struble, Maine Forest Service
Potential Wood Supply Impacts– Bob Wagner, University of Maine
Likely Economic Impacts– Eric Kingsley, Innovative Natural Resource Solutions
Forest Management Responses– John Bryant, American Forest Management
Policy & Regulatory Implications– Patrick Strauch, Maine Forest Products Council
Communications Needs– Mark Doty, Plum Creek

After the presentations, came the Q&A, in which several members of the audience commented on what they’d like to see happen, including a communications effort that includes social media (it will, Doty told them); interaction with environmental organizations, and a group of speakers who present a consistent message on budworm, as, for example, speakers  trained at MFPC during the clearcutting referendums.

maine status“It’s my hope that we can approach this very differently (than in the 1970s),” Strauch responded. “We have a lot better information about what’s going on. We can do more predicting about the resource. I think we have made headway with a lot of environmental groups in terms of understanding the importance of the working forest and if indeed they buy into that concept that the working forest is good for Maine’s people, then they have to help us with the messaging on this and look at it from the perspective of the landowners and what’s in the best interest of the public. So I’m hopeful we’re at a new age.”

Response to the workshop was good, according to Cindy Paschal, administrative support supervisor of the School of Forest Resources, who passed along the comments below, as well as suggestions for other workshops:


  • This year’s workshop was one of the best I have attended.
  • SBW panel was great because of consistency between speakers working on the same issue but from different angles.
  • Excellent topic and speakers.
  • Very good program.

Topics you’d like covered in future workshops:

  • Update on spruce budworm, especially the results of the spraying this year in New Brunswick
  • More updates for budworm location/population
  • SBW update, part II
  • Post-budworm
Mark Doty, John Bryant, Bob Wagner, Dave Struble, Lloyd Irland and Patrick Strauch.
Mark Doty, John Bryant, Bob Wagner, Dave Struble, Lloyd Irland and Patrick Strauch.

How will climate change affect spruce budworm in Maine?

Mark Doty, John Bryant, Bob Wagner, Dave Struble, Lloyd Irland and Patrick Strauch. Eric Kingsley is behind Wagner.

The most interesting question came from Mark Stadler, who retired as director IFW’s Wildlife Division in 2011. Stadler, who received the 2012 NRCM Environmental Award, asked how the impact of climate change would affect spruce budworm.

Wagner, former director of UMaine’s forestry department and still head of Center for Research on Sustainable Forests (CRSF) and Cooperative Forestry Research Unit (CFRU), answered first, followed by Irland and Doug Denico, Maine state forester.

Wagner: “That’s another thing we don’t know. But a couple of weeks ago in Quebec we saw an interesting presentation from an entomologist who had studied this. There’s some suggestion that the outbreak’s southern margin has actually been moving a little bit north. If you look at the outbreak in the 1970s, it actually started much further south. This time it’s much further north. So there’s some question about how that’s going to affect Maine’s rate of infestation since the prevailing winds are usually west to east. Now that the epicenter has moved north, Maine may no longer be in the direct line. Now there are plenty of southwest winds that can take the migration down into Maine, but I think at the end of the day there was some suggestion that over a long period of time, the budworm outbreak might be moving north. But he (the entomologist) was not committal that it’s going to make any difference for this one. I think that’s the most that we know. It seems to me for what we’re facing now and the next 10 or 20 years, climate change is irrelevant right now.”

Irland: “But there’s one little angle that comes up. The Canadian scientists were pretty sure that budworm outbreaks are triggered partly by warm dry springs. That’s very good for larval survival. I don’t think we have the ability to predict weather changes that precisely that we could say there would be more or fewer warm dry springs in the future. But when we get that warm, dry spring, we’ll probably see more bugs, more larval survival and that may be what puts us into outbreak mode. If I read the climate change literature correctly, it seems to me that what they’re saying is that climate is going to be more volatile. So the average level of temperature is one thing and if that changes very slowly, it won’t change enough in the next 10 or 20 years to change what’s happening here. But if it is true that if climate gets very much more volatile, it’s harder to spot a trend and we could have more of these either wet springs that are hard on budworm or dry springs that are good for budworm or harsh droughts that are stressing the trees. More weather events of various kinds that are outside the normal range of variation in the future under climate change.”

Wagner: “The Canadian forest service has a beautiful motion time of the budworm all the way from Newfoundland to British Columbia and it shows you all the hotspots. And what’s really interesting when you look at it is that over a good portion of the spruce budworm’s range, it actually is chronic. It has hotspots that flare up here and there, but it’s always resident. I spent the 1990s in Ontario and we always had a resident spruce budworm population. What’s really interesting about the East is that it tends to be this boom and bust – this big episode, and when it happens it’s very severe. So going to Lloyd’s point, climate over time, it could just change the overall behavior. Who knows, we could end up with no budworm or more of a chronic situation on most of the budworm’s range. All that is unclear, but it’s very interesting that the boom-and-bust pattern is a feature of the eastern portion of the budworm’s range.”

Denico: “Just a comment or two. I’m either a yes or no person, so there’s no question in my mind about what climate change is going to do. Nothing this time. If you look at the map that was put up there about Maine, you’ll see that we’ve got budworm all over Maine – moths I mean – and it’s coming back in the same places it came back in the 1950s. From Blackstone siding, all the way down through Beaver Brook, down in back of Ashland, down into Garfield. Same places. The other myth is that the Newfoundland people say the budworm comes from Quebec. Quebec hates Ontario because they say it comes from Ontario. We hate them all because they send their budworm down. No. We can have our own epidemic right here, right now, and the numbers indicate that it is coming, a big one. So get climate out of your head this time. No question. And we can do it to ourselves. It doesn’t have to be done to us. If they ship some down to us, that will make it a little worse in places for awhile. But we are perfectly capable of having our own epidemic.”