last century. From the early eighteenth century on,
they had been replanted, though not necessarily
with the “historically correct” species mix. It is only
with the establishment of the National Park in the
1990s that ecological processes have been given
priority. I like to think of the stretch of the Green
Belt that traverses the Harz National Park as a
footpath in a potential wilderness.
And of course, wilderness is not really the
point of the Grünes Band. It is conceived as a
Biotopverbund – a network of ecological corridors
and core areas, managed and preserved with the
goal of protecting native species, plant associations, and habitats at sustainable levels. Just as
significantly, the Grünes Band is a landscape of
remembrance. Remaining structures of the border installations such as border markers, watch
towers, and the parallel concrete tracks for patrol
vehicles are protected. Germany’s national strategy on biodiversity explicitly states the ecological
and historical importance of the Grünes Band, and
its protection is anchored in the Federal Law on
the Protection of Nature.
If there is not a square inch of German soil that
has not been affected in some way by human
use, the picture in the Northeast is only different
by degrees, not by a fundamental distinction.
Within the crazy quilt of Germany’s cultural
landscapes, though, the history of the twentieth
century adds a special chapter of legacies in the
land. What better way to learn, in Germany or in
New England, about history than by studying the
This article was supported by Northern Woodlands
magazine’s Research and Reporting Fund, established
by generous donors.
[ ENTOMOLOGY ]
Bug in a Bolt
Like many North Country residents, I typically light my woodstove in November, burning 16-inch logs until
April. While carting an armload last winter, I noticed tunnels ranging from the size of a straw to the size of a
small pipe in almost all of my red oak logs. What were they? My journey to find out led me on a tour through
the interior life of our local trees where there is an ongoing and voracious community of insects.
The damage I found in my firewood occurred throughout the logs and appeared to have been done
by the larvae of a beetle. I found entrance holes – tunnels bored horizontally, diagonally, and vertically
– and what looked like pupal chambers and exit holes.
By comparing the evidence in my wood to databases and consulting with an entomologist, I identified
the culprit as the red oak borer (Enaphalodes rufulus), a native long-horned beetle that lays its eggs in
various species of oak, with preference for northern red oak. This beetle spends 80 percent of its life in
the dark, chewing wood fiber that is digested by the microbes in its gut.
Red oak borers deposit their eggs in bark cracks, as well as under bark scales and lichen patches.
Once the eggs hatch, the larvae chew through the bark into phloem, creating narrow galleries that they
occupy throughout their first winter. During their first spring, the larvae make larger, vertical tunnels
into the xylem. In these galleries, the larvae pass their second winter. In the second spring, the larvae
pupate and emerge as adults in May or June. The entire life cycle takes two years and adults emerge
synchronously in odd-numbered years.
The red oaks that became my firewood fell from a forest edge into a meadow in Essex County, New York.
We bucked and split them where they fell. Damage from ice or snow may have compromised the trees’
defense systems and advertised their suitability to red oak borers, which can detect stressed trees.
Once infested, the value of the wood is reduced. Exit holes alert both foresters and graders to possible defects. Because red oaks have so much value for wildlife, leaving infested trees standing to
appreciate their beauty and usefulness to the ecosystem may be more desirable than selling infested
logs for lower than full grade, though oak that is unsuitable for milling because of borer damage still
makes outstanding firewood.
Melissa Fierke, associate professor of forest entomology at SUNY College of Environmental Science
and Forestry, says that the red oak borer is widespread in the Northeast, but at quite low densities.
Thankfully, their population has remained in balance on our woodlot. We still have plenty of standing
red oak that does not show evidence of borers, but we’ll never know until we cut them open.
Not your typical path in the woods: a concrete track for