by Carl Strang
The weather has become more seasonable of late, but plants continue to respond to the early warming of the soil. Last week brought the first winter cress flowers of the season.
Oaks have broken their buds and are on the verge of flowering, as well.
I would like to think that this will impede development of gypsy moth caterpillars. Those invasive insects hatch from egg masses which mostly are well above the ground, and it would be nice if that removal from the warm soil delayed their appearance until after the oak leaves have established some chemical protection. More likely, though, is that the caterpillars will be equally early and there will be no advantage to the trees. The coincidental timing of oak bud break and gypsy moth egg hatch is what makes oaks as a group more susceptible to defoliation by the caterpillars.