2005-07-01 / Columnists

On The Bayfront

By Elisa Hinken Bits and Pieces

By Elisa Hinken
Bits and Pieces …

Tree alert! Many trees upstate have been defoliated by an eastern caterpillar invasion. I’ve seen a few “tents” in trees around here, but we are lucky enough to have a natural balance to circumvent an epidemic. We also don’t have as many fruit trees as in rural areas. This eastern tent caterpillar is a native pest that defoliates trees during its larval stage. The larvae produces a conspicuous silken tent in the spring. Their favorite trees are cherry and apple, but will feed on other forest and fruit trees as well.

The insect over-winters in egg clusters wrapped around twigs. The eggs begin to hatch in the spring when buds break and leaves begin to expand. The larvae begin constructing a tent on a branch crotch near where they hatched. They will leave the nest to feed and return to rest. When the larvae are almost fully grown they will often come down out of the tree and congregate. They will enter a resting stage (pupate). Pupation occurs in silken cocoons. The adults will then appear as moths and eventually lay eggs for the following year. There is one generation per year.

An effective control on small trees is to prune egg masses before they hatch, or you can destroy the larvae when they are young in the nest. They often stay in their nest on a rainy day and return to the nest at night.

Populations have been known to increase to high numbers on a ten year cycle. Natural controls including a virus, parasitic fly, bacterial disease, or a combination will eventually cause the population to crash.

In other news, the fishing season has been the finest in all my memory (I’m creeping toward that “half century mark”). How do we hypothesize this? Cleaner water? Cooler than normal water and air temperatures keeping the Spring season around a little longer? Have marine recreational fishing regulations been THAT effective for conservation purposes? Global warming? El Niño? Rising sea levels? I really don’t have the answer, but it may be a combination of factors. Whatever the reason, I hope people are taking advantage of the fine fishing we’ve been experiencing. With 7 ½ miles of beach, a vast bay and open inlet, the Rockaway community has the opportunity to be one of the finest angling territories on the eastern seaboard. However, our communities have been slow to support this sport. Local park regulations are too steep and do not properly address this issue. A minority of the fishing population are slobs. Lack of marinas, parking and bait shops are an issue. The village of Montauk touts little motels and “bed and breakfasts” which cater to the angler. It’s one thing if our sleepy little community were self sufficient, but it’s not. Attracting tourism for angling sportsmanship can do wonders for our local economy. Rockaway is back on the map because of new quality housing and surfing. Let’s keep the momentum going by supporting better infrastructure while preserving and building upon our recreational opportunities. We need to preserve all available waterfront as well.

Finally, my last bit… did you know that we have an artificial reef about 1.6 nautical miles off the coast of Rockaway? Artificial reefs have long been used to enhance marine habitat and attract marine fish and other animals for harvest. Reefs are built of any hard, durable structure that simulates the habitat of particular species of fish, crustaceans or mollusks. Most artificial reefs in New York are made of rock, concrete, or steel, usually in the form of surplus or scrap materials. Reefs were developed to provide new fisheries habitat and more accessible fishing grounds for anglers. Divers also visit our reefs for nature observation, photography, and catching lobsters. Fishes common to New York reefs include blackfish (tautog), black sea bass, porgy (scup), bergall (cunner), hake, and cod. Specifically, the reef is 413 acres (2000 yards by 1000 yards) in size and 32 to 40 feet deep. It was formed by sinking 6,000 tires in 3-tire units; 60 steel buoys; rock; concrete slabs, pipes, culvert, decking and rubble. One tire unit is configured into a 15-tire pyramid. There is an unconfirmed report of 16 auto bodies sunk, probably disintegrated by now. By the way, fish pots are banned by State Law from being placed at this reef.

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