Tuesday, September 28, 2021


Use Caution

I’m writing to discuss an observation and to warn the public of a potential danger in our local environment.

Anyone who has driven north on Route 79 will have noticed dozens and dozens of dead trees along the road. What is the cause of such gross devastation? It almost appears as if there has been a long-lasting flood of standing water.

The answer is just the opposite. A combination of years of drought and a pest that has been active in Connecticut since 1905, the gypsy moth, are to blame. Anyone who had lived in the shoreline area during the 1980s can recall the munching sound in forested areas, the debris that filled gutters, and the streets and sidewalks that seemed to undulate with the bodies of caterpillars. Mercifully, that outbreak ended in the 1990s with the emergence of a rain-activated fungus that kept the moths in check.

Sadly, the drought of 2015 to 2016 ended that bit of good fortune, leading to another gypsy moth outbreak. Rains in 2017 arrived too late in the season to disrupt the moth larval stage. Recent years have seen the lingering effect of these problems, plus an increase of other pests. The devastating result is especially evident in southern and eastern Connecticut where tens of thousands of acres of dead trees, especially tall oaks, stand like precarious hazards.

We live in a beautiful section of southern New England with abundant access to parks, trails, and picnic spots. The Department of Energy & Environmental Protection has been working to remove dead trees in high-use areas. Outdoor enthusiasts should use caution where storm damaged and dead trees are evident.

Diane Brennan

Diane Brennan serves on the Clinton Tree Committee.