County Ag Report: Spruce Budworm

Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 10:50 AM EDT
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PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) - “There’s a lot of things that can turn foliage red and budworm is one of those and its one of the most important of the group of defoliating insects, which means it chews the leaves off of the trees,” said Neil Thompson, leader of the forestry program at UMFK.

The Eastern Spruce Budworm is a larva that feeds on spruce trees. They’re one cause of the loss of spruce in Maine. Neil Thompson has been working on the budworm since 2013, and says they periodically enter an outbreak condition.

“That’s when Population has exceeded natural limiting factors, predators, pathogens, and parasites that usually consume moths and larvae...that can happen when there’s very good weather in the area and that causes the population to grow quickly or it can happen when there’s an immigration event and that’s what’s going on here.”

Northern Maine experienced an outbreak in the 70s and 80s, but the current influx is coming from a current outbreak in Quebec. Thompson says there’s an impact for Christmas tree growers.

“Christmas tree farmers of course have a very high standard for aesthetics so when the budworm chews the leaves off the tree that can no longer be a sellable Christmas tree because the thing you’re hanging ornaments off of is halfway bare or completely bare.”

University of Maine has built their own lab to monitor the budworm, but they are also working with the Canadian forest service lab in new Brunswick. Thompson says civilians can send in photos and reports of seeing the budworm.

You can find information about submitting photos and reports at

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