Sugarmakers discuss climate change, bugs

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copyright the Chronicle January 11, 2017


by Joseph Gresser


DERBY — About 60 members of Vermont’s Orleans County Maple Producers gathered at Paul’s Sugarhouse and Dancehall here Monday evening to share a meal and gather information in the short time before they begin gathering sap.

Sugarmakers heard about the potential effects of climate change and the likely threat of forest tent caterpillars from Orleans County Forester Jared Nunnery.

They also got a peek at the logo and syrup can labels recently unveiled by the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association.

Mr. Nunnery began his talk by asking how many people have seen the chart that shows Vermont traveling down to Tennessee. Not many had.

“Good,” Mr. Nunnery said. “I hate it. Vermont is not going to become Tennessee.”

He said sugar maples are in Vermont not only because of the climate, but also largely because the soil suits their growth. The trees may be in danger, but warm weather is not the problem.

“Sugar maples can be killed by wind or by chainsaws,” Mr. Nunnery said. Otherwise they are not that likely to die because of a single factor.

There has been a recent outbreak of forest tent caterpillars that have defoliated large tracts in the state, he noted.

He asked for a show of hands of those whose sugarwoods have been affected by the caterpillars. Only a couple hands were raised.

Next year many more people will be answering yes to that question, Mr. Nunnery predicted.

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