The Tiniest of Worms is Causing Serious Havoc On Trees in Massachusetts
Ever since I moved to the Berkshires a few weeks ago, I can't stop telling my friends that aren't here how absolutely beautiful it is here. There are trees everywhere! And that's amazing when you come from somewhere that seems to have absolutely no trees (Cheyenne, WY). But now, there happens to be a tiny worm that is doing its best to destroy all that beauty and it's a real problem in the Bay State.
This particular worm has been targeting beech trees throughout Massachusetts and it could potentially have a long term impact on forests throughout the state. Simply put, this worm is causing beech tree disease and has been since it showed up in Plymouth, MA just two years ago.
The director of the Massachusetts forest health program, Nicole Keleher, talked about how much the problem is spreading throughout the state:
It has quickly spread throughout the state...I believe we've detected it in over 80 communities at this point, and it's been found in every county. So it's well established throughout the state and is causing significant impact to our beech resources.
The worm is known as foliar nematodes and they look pretty creepy.
Because the beech tree disease is said to be relatively new, there hasn't been a ton of research that has brought about results telling just how much damage could be done overall.
But as you can see below, here are some examples:
A plant pathologist at UMass-Amherst by the name of Nicholas Brazee has talked about the danger it poses to forests throughout Massachusetts, given the population of beech trees throughout the state:
American beech makes up a huge percentage of our forest trees...Almost 10% of Massachusetts forests are composed of beech. And the loss of beech would have just catastrophic ecological consequences. The disease appears to be spreading quickly, killing trees quickly. And so it could, you know, really dramatically transform our forests over a short period of time.
The fact that these foliar nematodes are microscopic doesn't exactly help things. But as there's more learned about what defenses can be used for the beech tree against these organisms, the healthier the forests throughout the Bay State will be. Let's just hope that is much sooner than later.