Spruce Budworm Task Force Releases Summary Update

Orono, Maine — The Maine Spruce Budworm Task Force, formed in summer 2013 by the University of Maine Cooperative Forestry Research Unit (CFRU), Maine Forest Service (MFS), and Maine Forest Products Council (MFPC) to begin preparing for the next outbreak of the eastern spruce budworm, has released an update to its 2016 Task Force report.

“The work of this Task Force has been important in focusing landowners and managers on a native insect that can cause profound changes in the forests in Maine on a periodic basis,” said Patty Cormier, director of the Maine Forest Service. “I am grateful to the CFRU for their leadership in bringing together the Task Force to reexamine strategies and publish this updated executive summary.”

In late 2021, the task force held a workshop to revisit and provide progress reports on recommendations that were made in theCover image of 2023 SBW task force executive summary original SBW Task Force Report. Over the past year, each of the seven task teams, representing different areas of research and expertise, worked to incorporate the latest information on spruce budworm in Maine and to prioritize future needs regarding the potential for a spruce budworm outbreak. The 2023 updated executive summary is the result of these efforts.

Monitoring efforts and shared knowledge have been key elements to this effort, pointed out Pat Strauch, director of the Maine Forest Products Council: “Since we first met, many of our members have engaged in enhanced monitoring, re-examined and adjusted harvest schedules to reduce impact of future outbreaks and continued the conversation regarding strategies and priorities for response to this insect.”

A native insect that has been a part of Maine’s spruce-fir forests for thousands of years, spruce budworm populations can be found at low levels the majority of the time. When natural limiting factors such as pathogens and parasites are unable to keep budworm populations below a threshold for tree mortality, an outbreak occurs. During Maine’s last spruce budworm outbreak in the 1970s–80s, millions of acres of forests were killed, causing ripple effects on wildlife habitat, Maine’s forest economy, and more.

Regina Smith, CFRU program leader, emphasized that “climate change has precluded applying all lessons from past outbreaks of this insect, and the work of this Task Force has helped identify areas of focus for CFRU research partners and others. This report is an important and timely update covering current research efforts and concerns.”

The updated executive summary provides a number of links for those interested in newly published research related to spruce budworm, media stories and educational materials, mapping tools, and more.

Contact: Regina Smith, regina.smith@maine.edu