Last week, the Maine Forest Service released a statement requesting public help with monitoring a potentially threatening invasive species. Winter Moth, Operophtera brumata, showed up in eastern Massachusetts in the early 2000’s and has since spread westward in MA, into Rhode Island and can now be found in coastal Maine from Kittery to Bar Harbor. The larvae of winter moth defoliate deciduous trees and shrubs in early spring. Trees heavily defoliated by winter moth for three or more years can exhibit branch dieback and mortality.
Local residents of Downeast Maine can help the forest service by looking for the presence of Winter Moths in their backyard or neighborhood. They are active from late November to January whenever the temperature is above freezing. Males are small, light brown to tan moths. They are attracted to lights and a pheromone released by the females. Female adults are small, gray, with reduced wings and flightless. They are most commonly found crawling at the base of trees. By simply leaving the porch light on and reporting your findings, you might be able to help the forest service stop the spread of this destructive species. Maine Forest Service has set up an online survey website at the following address: http://www.maine.gov/dacf/mfs/forest_health/invasive_threats/winter_moth_survey.htm
Citizen science, also known as crowd-sourced science, is scientific research that is conducted on a very large scale by amateur scientists. Citizen science projects help researchers collect valuable data from a broad area that would not be possible without the help of local community members.