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The Vinalhaven Sightings Report is organized and edited by Kirk Gentalen on behalf of Vinalhaven Land Trust and Maine Coast Heritage Trust. Out and about on Vinalhaven, MCHT steward Kirk Gentalen reports on what he and others have seen in their travels. Contributions of stories and photos are welcome, and can be sent to


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Winter moth action update – June 15th, 2013

“Bring it on!”-ed by the kind folks of MCHT and VLT

“Feels good to win sometimes” – Adam White

and here's a video of Charlene Donahue
whacking some trees. 

considering the seriousness of the "situation",
charlene is a pleasure to be with "in the field"
Check your head! – Before you get too far ahead of your “bad” self make sure you have par-oozed the “semi-required reading” listed below – for no other reason than to have more of an understanding of what is meant by the Winter moth “Situation” that we have on Vinalhaven. Or if you are so busy jugglin’ all those things that make life complex and have somehow spaced on the “situation” then please refresh your memory with the previous non-VSR “Winter Moth Action Updates” that were posted on this blog. There, I said it. This is a blog, but it’s a blog from the people, for the people….damn, it’s still a blog…..








Feels good to get that out of the way…..


here's what winter moth caterpillars
looked like before they went
into the ground and pupated
And now for something completely different……So normally we start off with a little biology update on the winter moth (they are in the ground in pupas that look like little specks of dirt) and THEN head into the depressing news of defoliage, doom and dimwittness. Well, there’ll be none of that this time – because… (and get this)…..we have been told that we are getting the parasitic flies next year! Hooray!!!! Strike up the band! Call off the superheroes! We win! We Win!!!!...


….But hey, hold on and wait a second – we ain’t got spraint for flies yet! (or for brains!). –So take a deep breath and….like seriously - what? I mean, come on - we’ve been told this before (have we?) and a year is a long time away? And yes, all this is true and “it is what it is”, but this is certainly the best potential (somewhat confirmed) news we’ve had about our Winter Moth situation. So what do we know happened? Well, I’m glad you asked…


What we do know has happened is this - funds (the royal “funds”) on the federal level – like US Forestry Service levels – that were earmarked for one use for this fiscal year (please forgive me for ever using the word “fiscal” in the VSR) have now been moved around so Joe Elkington


(of the Joe Elkington lab fame from the winter moth update – may 2013 - )


can/has/did hire a crew in British Columbia (uh, Canadians…..) to catch pregnant flies and watch them mate (undoubtedly a union job) and then all kinds of people get their grubby paws on them as they are passed/smuggled internationally (is there a black market for flies?) and finally are reared at Joe’s awesome lab Mass.. Then next June they (the flies) are released to kill winter moth (kill, kill!!!!, KILLLL!!!!!!!!!!!). Biocontrol is so much fun!


And why were these magic “funds” moved, shuffled, re-dealt, even “re-smelt” some might say? “Whoever re-dealt it, re-smelt it!” old Estonian saying…..There were certainly, and undoubtedly, many factors that led to this money shuffling or “laundering” (that isn’t the right word, is it?). But apparently at least one letter, hand written by a concerned Vinalhaven citizen made it up the ranks at the USFS, up to the upper ups (I haven’t totally figured out the Forest Service pyramid scheme peaking order) where it was “well received”.


Rumor has it that many more were mailed, read and received, but even one getting thru is truly awesome! No word on whether the letter that made it said “We need those damn flies” in it, but I’d like to think that it must have. “Nothing beats a hard copy in the hand”. Now that says something.



And so, at least in part, it makes me exceptionally stimulated to announce that letter writing works! Wholey spraint! For all the letters I have written or had kids write over the years there has always been that nagging reality in the back of my mind (who let you in!?!) saying – letters don’t amount to jack-spraint. I have never experienced it working first hand. And in case this it worked at part least in! (said the drunken yoda). 


Whatsmore and even more surprising, it has even been reported that a copy of the latest “Winter Moth Action Update” post (May 2013) on this “blog”  (there – I said it again) was forwarded to the feds – where it was reportedly “well received”. (Suckers!). It was mentioned to me that the letter and the post were so “well received” (not surprising how seldom we hear that phrase) that they certainly helped our cause! Really? The non-VSR? And so the ludicrousness of the whole “situation” continues….


And while we are on a roll with the letter writing, word is that more would be a good thing.  The shifting of funds is being described as a band-aid, an awesome band-aid with a picture of a parasitic fly laying an egg in a winter moth caterpillar on the non-sticky side. But still a band-aid. They get gross after a while.


But the funds that were shifted have to be accounted for (doesn’t sound like the government at all does it?), and thusly it’s important that while we’ve got their (the royal “their”) attention we keep their attention. And so we need letters written to people that can hear us – mainly Chellie (like I’m on a first name basis with her), Angus (king not young), and our old favorite Patti Ramani. Some of these things might be worth mentioning in the letterVinalhaven, Winter moth and that you support funding for labs for bio control (such as Joe Elkington’s). You can also include your shoe size and favorite color (unless its Teal, then you are not allowed to write a letter – no thanks tealheads!). Here are those addresses again! Time to get ‘em, while we’ve got ‘em! Or something like that….    


Chellie pingree –

Portland Office –

2 Portland Fish Pier,

Suite 304, Portland, ME 04101

Phone (207) 774-5019

Toll Free 1-888-862-6500 Fax (207) 871-0720


Patti Hirami

Acting Director, Forest Health Protection

U.S. Forest Service/Washington Office

1621 N. Kent St Rm 711

Arlington, VA 22209-2137

Desk: 703.605.5340

Cell: 202.384.7315


The “Honorable” Angus King
United States Senate
359 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-1905

(you may want to leave out the quotation marks around honorable. You may not want to..)

and here's something - you can even write if you don't live on vinalhaven! Or are from somewhere else than Maine (i can name two other states). Chellie might not know you as well as she knows me if you are from another district - but getting letters from other places would be good as well - let "them" know we in New England are serious about addressing this subject! Come on lazy bones in Camden, Warren and MDI! You probably have winter moth anyway - nip it in the budd! 


And so now letter writing clubs will undoubtedly and spontaneously “happen” around the island. It may be hard for us (the royal “us”) to think of a lamer sounding kind of club (homework club?) hats off to anyone and everyone who sends in a letter.


Here’s a question - Why not send an email? Saves trees right (when compared to sending a letter) and the US Forest Service should appreciate that. (If you really believe that then you don’t know the US Forest Service very well, or have never been to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.) One simply reason is that an email is a form letter even if it’s in your own words.  There is no personality, no person behind them no matter what font and background color you use. Emails are lame for these kinds of purposes, with the only thing lamer being an on-line petition. Sorry folks – this is the official VSR take on this, which means it is fact for “VSR nation” – do as we say, obey obey! By the way, having your group or club name end in “nation” is kinda lame too. Man, where are we going with this?


Not that writing a letter magically solves your “absence of a personality” problem. But with letters you get handwriting style (not always a good thing), you get cross outs, you get sentences not necessarily following a straight line. They come from humans who make a little extra effort for a good cause. Wait, did I say extra effort? What extra effort? – getting out a pen that works and a piece of paper? Going to the post office? If the trees in town are not worth that “extra effort” then you probably shouldn’t write a letter about the winter moth situation. And you probably should be allowed to have trees.  


The letter that made it to the upper reaches of the US Forest Service was physically handed from Patti’s office up, and actually probably by a handful of US Postal Workers on its route – way more germs on that letter than any email. The fact is that “nothing beats a hard copy in the hand, one that can be passed around”, and that’s a fact cuz I heard someone say it within the forest service whom I still trust at this point.


And with this point beaten way too hard into the ground, we here at the VSR are offering to re-reimburse the cost of a stamp (what is it these days – 20 cents or “forever” or something) to anyone who sends a letter to one of the above addresses. Just send in a picture of yourself mailing a letter. The address on the envelope you are mailing must be clearly visible in the photo or you are not eligible for getting your stamp (no stamps for bills!). And you must be smiling in the photo! If you meet all necessary standards for mailing a letter, even ones that I make up in the future I will give you a stamp. Now get out there and mail!


Pep talk –And so let’s kick some serious winter moth ass! The time is now, the 3 moose of the winter moth apocalypse are saddled up and looking to give out free rides to the promised land – a land with no winter moth at all! Or at least in small enough numbers that they are annoying anymore. Every letter counts! Even the ones with misspellings! Get on that moose and write your