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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


Friday, November 15, 2013

windsor orange number seventeen
Welcome to the non VSR,

Winter Moth In-action Alert!

November 15th, 2013


The VSR will return in a few days with a regular report…..


Links to past Winter Moth Action updates are listed at the end of this post. In case you are really bored or are looking for some background info.


Video contest – if you observe Winter Moth adults erupting from their summer roosts, take a 10 second video and send it to . The VSR staff will judge all videos received and the videographer of our favorite video will win a quart of Finnish beer! Or something yet to be determined.


Special Business - WMB – Winter Moth Business – So Halloween has come and gone and folks may have noticed that it’s getting a bit brisky outside these days. Some may have even foolishly shaved during last week’s warm spell and only now are learning what the phrase “cold as a beardless chin” really means. All of this can only mean one thing – its winter moth time! Remember those punks? and the huge numbers of adult moths that flew in December last year making those “damn moths” a top 3 conversation topic for about a month last Dec.? Well, get ready folks, cuz here we go again!!!!!


Before we go any further or “Believe it when we see it”- the real answer to the Winter moth (and all the world’s problems really) is the parasitic fly that kills Winter Moth. (We don’t have to go thru this again, do we?). Anyway, we are in line to receive a dose of these flies next spring, which is good news and makes everyone happy, even happier when it happens. So let’s not forget that help is on the way.


It takes 10 years for the flies to take hold, and so things are bound to get worse before they get any better. But still, the flies are the antidote and we are getting them. Good to remember, or at least not forget. Feel free to go back to American Idol……now!


Current Status – As far as we know gagillions of Winter Moth are in the ground in pupas or cocoons and have been there since June. The pupae are about the size of a speck of dirt and they have been slowly morphing (meta-morphing even!) inside the pupa, “puberty in a package”, getting ready for what’s next. It’s what they do.



What’s to come – Soon adult moths will emerge from the pupae and attempt to fulfill their purpose in life - find true love (it’s “love at first whiff” when the pheromones are flowing), mate and lay gagillions of eggs all over hardwoods in town, and all around the island (soon enough if they have not spread yet). Once again, the males have wings and can fly, and the females have vestigials (wings that is) and cannot fly, but instead can march up trees in mass. The mating strategy of Winter Moths is to send out gagillions of adults all at the same time, and with gagillions of “randy” moths cruising around everyone has a chance to mate, even the weird ones.   


Blast from the past - Folks may remember last year’s adult Winter Moth flight being staggered over a few weeks from just before Thanksgiving and mid-way into December. We are all excited to see what this year’s schedule will be!


Where we are at – We tried! – Well, the big guns in the winter moth world visited our island since we last talked  – Joe Elkington (the parasitic fly guy) and Charlene Donahue (official state bug lady) – and upon surveying the town for damage they have concluded that we have loads of them. Even with last year’s banding efforts. Some might dare to go so far as saying “ a Spraintload”, but that’s a judgment call.


We have so many in fact, that even a massive tree banding (* - see tree banding below) effort in town would have little to no impact on Winter Moth numbers. Not with the caterpillars ability to “balloon” from one tree to another using silk and the wind. At this point there is little we can do. Let’s let that sink in a little.


This is not surprising when you look at all the small trees on the slopes around skin hill – it would be impossible to band all those trees. They all have had Winter Moth the past and will have another generation of eggs laid upon them in the upcoming weeks. So it goes.


Inaction In action! – or So what now? – Should we band? –


Banding (*) – cruising thru town you may notice that some bands - where sticky stuff is put around a tree to catch females as they march up the trunk – are being put up. Banding at this  time is now viewed as a monitoring technique to document numbers and distribution of winter moth on Vinalhaven.


And a very useful monitoring technique they are! It is understood that Winter Moth is likely to cover Vinalhaven (if it hasn’t already) before the flies take hold and so bands are going up in different spots around the island to capture females and see just how widespread these punks are.


Things to remember – And while winter moth spread is inevitable for the island, we can be mindful of not moving hardwood pieces to remote areas on the island. No need to help out the moth!


And taking hardwoods off island is not recommended. For the sake of communities not infested with Winter Moth.


Thanks for reading. Rock on 

Here’s links to winter moth action updates from last year – if you are bored and want more background stuff.