by Peter Wohlleben
If you are into trees, or just want a good read where you will learn some thing, I highly recommend this book! It is enjoyable to read as Peter has a great sense of humour and clears up a lot of things we thought we knew about trees, many years ago, but now science is telling us otherwise.
As you know, we plant trees in Zambia Africa so I am into trees and they also have Gypsy Moths in some parts of Africa so maybe this will help them.
I certainly didn’t expect Covid -19 to allow me to save our forest in Eastern Ontario. I hope! This is my journey and thank you to Peter Wohlleben.
Dear Peter Wohlleben,
My name is Joanne Hutchinson and I just read your book, The Hidden Life of Trees and I loved it!
Thank you so much for all of your research, clarifying the old myths and practices and writing it all down.
My husband and I have owned 6 acres of forest on the Crowe River just north of Crowe Lake in Havelock, Ontario Canada since October 2009. The previous owners bought the land in 1960 and built the cottage in 1969. The trees had been harvested between 1864-1889 but we are not sure when our land was logged after that but my research says logging stopped in 1960 so I am not sure how old our largest trees are. I am guessing, but the highest Eastern White Pines we have are at least 60 feet tall.
I am guessing, we are surrounded by, over 800 acres of relatively un touched forest and hopefully it will stay that way forever. We do have an old logging road through the forest that is occasionally used by ATV’s.
This year, 2020, we were hit with a severe infestation of both the European and Asian Gypsy moths. I think it was both although I haven’t seen many of the large females that I saw last year. I am not sure if it is because I have not let them get that big. I have seen the two different colours of egg masses. The majority of them are a golden colour and there is at least one mass of a greyish brown coloured masses on the tree near the many more masses of golden eggs. I am thinking the greyish brown egg masses are the male moths but I am not sure. Do you know?
Since April I have been hand picking and killing caterpillars, pupae, female moths and removing egg masses from the trees with a wet vac, vacuum cleaner as far as I could reach up into the trees themselves and as far into the forest as the 3 long electrical cords would reach. The trees I couldn’t reach farther into the forest, I removed the eggs masses manually, using a paint can opener and a plastic yogurt container and then leaving them in soapy water for three days. I finally just started stepping on the caterpillars as there were so many. Now in October, it takes me about one hour to fill a yogurt container with the egg masses. I hate to kill anything, I always help flies and spiders out of our cottage, but I love my trees more.
Luckily, we had a virus help get rid of some of the caterpillars. I found a lot of dried caterpillars hanging on the trees in June.
Nucleopolyhedrosis virus (NPV) is a virus that only affects gypsy moth. NPV occurs naturally but only in large populations. The virus severely damages the internal organs of caterpillars, thereby killing them. This was used in Canada to develop the biological pesticide, Dispavirus.
I really just wanted to say thank you as I have learned so much and as I have cleaned the eggs from at least 5 acres, and still I am still going. I feel like I know the trees personally.
We have had the cottage for 10 years now and due to the fact that we have been up here since the end of March due to Covid-19, I have been able to finally determine what types of trees we have. It is a mixed conifer and deciduous forest and we were told we didn’t have any cedars as the deer have eaten them all but I found at least 10 cedar trees and I am planting more.
I have become quite adept at getting the eggs off of the trees by hand, all though the vacuum does a better job. Obviously, the smooth bark on Beech and even some young Maples are easy to pop them off. When I scrape( in an upward motion) the eggs off all of the trees I am careful not to damage the bark but the large groves in the older Oaks, Silver Birch & Eastern White Pine trees are a bit more difficult. I have read that their favorite trees are Oak, Maple and Birch but I am seeing large infestations on our huge Eastern White Pines, and basically all of our trees like Beach, Hemlock and many trees that I have not determined the species. I used the paint can opener to lightly scrape in between the groves to make sure I get all of the eggs. The moths are good at filling those cavities. I have to remember to keep my mouth closed due to the fuzzy material that the eggs are wrapped in. If it is hot out I get an itchy neck and face after and have to wash.
When I first started I often missed the eggs hidden behind a small tree close to the base of the tree. Now I know all of the hiding places to look. Also, from mid-July to mid-August I was clearing any fallen branches that had many egg nests and burning them in a barrel fire. I burned 10 barrels full of branches and eggs. The eggs crackle like fireworks. I eventually realized that I was depriving the forest of branches that would turn into humus but it was a lesser of two evils to get rid of as many eggs as possible. I have done so many, now I just remove the egg nests by hand and leave the branches to turn to humus.
For 7 months now, I have been trying to save our forest from a bad infestation next spring in 2021 and I will keep going until we have to go back to Toronto in early November. I have spent 1-3 hours per day since April. and now that the weather is getting colder I am finding that the masses are getting knocked off the trees so I am glad that I did not wait to start removing them as I would have lost a lot when they fell. It is my understanding that they will survive the winter, even if they fall to the ground. I only have about an acre to go.
It is not all bad as it is giving me exercise and there is nothing better than being in the middle of the forest with the wind blowing in the trees. I have even heard the trees sing as they rub together. Some trees a higher pitch that sounds like a flute and some a lower baritone to compliment the other trees. My lovely Django follows me every where and on a nice day she will lie in the sun and wait.
It looks like we may have already lost at least 3 trees as the leaves did not grow back after the caterpillars were finished and I am worried about our old Oaks and Eastern White Pine trees that have lost a lot of their canopy. We shall see next year. What really surprises me is that the old Oaks are dropping acorns. I hope it is not that they are sending out a last-ditch effort to reproduce and save their species. I have been throwing all of the acorns I find in our road and pathways back into the forest so they will have a chance to sprout. I have even buried a few, an inch or so down in the soft rich humus.
We have many vibrant ecosystems, bugs, snakes, tree frogs and bull frogs, deer, coyotes, beavers, porcupines, raccoons, red and black squirrels, chipmunks along with many types of fungi. Also, many birds raise their babies close to the cottage. This year we had a Robin build a nest and every year we get a breeding pair of Pewees. I have also found two Hummingbird nests. Our screened in porch is like a movie theatre. I sit and watch Blue & Grey Jays, Crackles and crows, Starlings, White throated Sparrows, Mockingbirds, Song Thrushes and Wrens, Titmouse, Nuthatches and Chickadees, Grey Herons, Osprey and I have even seen an Owl. I have seen this year, Bubble head Ducks, which pass through on their way north every year, Common Loons, and many other ducks not normally seen (I think because of Covid-19 or maybe because I have never been here as much in previous years). It has been wonderful! Sorry I am getting away with myself, we are supposed to be talking about trees.
In spring I found large batches of bark lice eggs and then they developed into the small winged bugs. Now in September/October I am seeing only one lone bark lice near the Gypsy moth eggs, seemingly protecting its stash. I have also seen Daddy long legs and other spiders guarding the eggs. I have also seen these really cool grey bugs who also seem to be protecting the eggs (see photo) and all of these bugs, I assume, are waiting for the eggs to hatch and have a feed. Would you know if I am correct on this assumption? I hope so. Even though I have engaged my husband to stand on a ladder and remove eggs from higher up in our old Oaks, we cannot do all of the trees. My hope is by getting the bulk of the eggs on the lower trunk and on the ground, it will give the trees a fighting chance to survive next spring.
Here are some of the types of fungi but that is a topic for another time.
I am so pleased my husband built me a bat house in 2016 as we hadn’t seen any bats around for a few years. I am not sure if it is because of White Nose Syndrome? I kept looking for the guano at the bottom of the pole but have never seen any. This year I rested my hand on the pole and it moved and then three bats flew out. I am so excited that we have bats again. This house is supposed to hold 300 so I hope it fills up! Maybe that is why we have had less mosquitoes this year?
I think this are Red Maple leaves with black spots on them. Would you happen to know what the black spots are?
So, thank you again and I hope I am not bothering you by sending this long letter and pictures. I have since bought the other three books you have written and I am much looking forward to reading them.
If you would be interested in hearing how things turned out in the spring of 2021, let me know and I would be happy to bring you up to date.
Please feel free to get in touch any time and if you ever come to Ontario Canada I would be pleased if you could come for a truly Canadian cottage experience.
PS: I have a charity in Zambia Africa where I am trying to reforest a small area in Western province called Mongu.
With kind regards,
Founder & President
Socio-Economic and Environmental Development Solutions (SEEDS)
Registered Canadian Charity #801572736RR0001
SEEDS Garage Sales Store, 1 Browning Ave. Toronto. On., M4K 1V6