Lack of Moisture Causes Tree Problems
Have we time warped into spring? This extreme “no winter weather” condition that we have warped into is affecting our lakes and aquifers, our air quality is affected. This crazy weather is having an effect locally on socioeconomic factors. The lack of rainfall is having a significant impact on many aspects of our local economy and is greatly enhancing our quality of life because we are outdoors hiking and “road tripping” because of the glorious weather.
Ski resorts rely on cold temperatures and seasonal snow while many of us are out and about on these wonderful warm sunny days. Our home construction and road construction is progressing at a more rapid pace with sunny warm days instead of wet cold snowy days with conditions that are hard to handle. Energy usage is closely linked and the demand for energy such as natural gas, propane and electricity has all but halted. Local businesses that rely on winter revenue are experiencing a decline in register sales; chain saws are not being used to cut winter timber, therefore sharpening services are down. The demand for winter fuel is off kilter and propane sales are at a standstill, and heating usage is off for our energy suppliers. And from a picturesque point of view, our beautiful Arizona wildflowers will certainly be affected by the lack of moisture.
The lack of winter moisture will certainly be a factor with an increased threat of wildfires and the weather conditions will create issues with forest and woodland insects. Because of the lack of moisture, pinyon needles scales have already been detected in Prescott and are responding to the above normal temperatures. Because of our warm weather, the pinyon scale life cycle has been accelerated by at least a month, according to Bob Celaya our Forest Health Specialist. Eggs laid by female scales usually do not start hatching until late April and May, but according to Bob, this year they will start hatching in March. It is important for homeowners living in our forested areas to start searching for and removing these egg masses now. Once the eggs hatch and the scales re-attached themselves to the needles, their piercing-sucking mouthparts will remove any additional moisture from our already drought-stressed pinyons and fire danger will be at our door.
The pinyon needle scale is a very complex insect and is well established in the Prescott area and can be found spread over thousands of acres, from Prescott Country Club to the Prescott Basin and to Williamson Valley all the way north to Hootenanny Holler said Celaya.
In addition to the pinyon needle scale, we must be on the look-out for bark beetles along with other varieties of miscellaneous insects that can be invasive to our beautiful forests. Bob said the forest department has seen scattered flagging/dieback of ponderosa pine branches. Prescott scale flagging on ponderosa pines has been confirmed in several communities in Prescott, including Forest Trails, Kingswood Estates and Rancho Vista Hills in late 2013.