Aug 02 2021

Purple Loosestrife control

This week we finished mapping the county roads for Wild Parsnip and Purple Loosestrife locations.  We noted that the Wild Parsnip has bolted (flowered and gone to seed) and is pretty much done causing problems for the year.  Next spring, we will begin treatment of the sites along the county roads where we expect it to grow.

We haven’t seen any purple loosestrife along the roads in Forest County yet, but it is making its appearance in neighboring counties.  Every year the question comes up: Will it help if I cut the flowers off the plants? Considering that these plants can drop 1-2 million seeds when they reach their maximum height of over 6’ or more, YES, please cut the flowers off if you have the access and capacity to do so. When you’re done make sure you clean off your footwear in case you picked up any of the tiny seeds.

If you have a smallish site, didn’t have a chance to try biocontrol yet, you can try the following.

  • 1-Cut off the flowers. The lower you cut the plant, the more you’ll stress it out since it’s wanting to send all its energy into seed production right now.
  • 2-Bag and dispose. Many municipalities will pick up if you label the bags “Invasive-Approved by WDNR for Landfilling.” I recently learned though that they don’t have to, so you may want to check. If you can’t trash, perhaps you could burn, depending on where you are. If you decide to try composting them, bury them deep under the other things you’re compositing so they get as hot as possible, and then watch the area carefully for sprouts.
  • 3-Small plants might be easily removed by pulling.
  • 4-Large plants can be dug out, if you’re able.
  • 5-Or if you aren’t vehemently opposed to chemicals, treat what’s left with glyphosate (Roundup).  

If the plant has reached the stage where it’s more like a woody shrub, a treatment for woody plants would possibly work better. Keep in mind that if the site is wet, you must have it done by a certified chemical applicator and have a permit. Minimally, wet is defined as so sloppy that walking on the ground with your socks on would ruin them.

Ending on a happy note. One of the reasons biocontrol is so great is that it teaches the newcomer, not native plant, to play nice with others. In a highly degraded site like this median or a wetland full of narrow-leaf cattail, purple loosestrife may be one of the few things blooming for pollinators.

Conservation Corner is a weekly article produced by the Forest County Land &Water Conservation Department. For more information contact Steve Kircher, County Conservationist-Land Information/GIS Director at 715-478-1387 or by e-mail at

Jul 23 2021

Wisconsin Caterpillars

Every summer at my household, my wife collects milkweed and monarch butterfly eggs.  She’ll put the milkweed and eggs in a large terrarium and then has her daycare monitor their growth and transformation from caterpillars to butterflies.  She usually is able to raise and release about a dozen butterflies.

Did you know that there are more than 50 species of caterpillars found in Wisconsin? Each with their own host plants, colorations, and adaptations, the variety is extensive.

Five common caterpillars in Wisconsin are the:

Monarch:  the best place to look for monarch caterpillars is in open areas or along woodland edges. Monarchs spend a lot of time on their host plant, the milkweed. They lay their eggs on them and caterpillars eat their leaves. An interesting fact is that when they eat the leaves, the caterpillars absorb the poison in the leaves, which makes them taste bad to predators!

Painted Lady: This caterpillar lives in silk nests on 100+ host plants, including thistles, hollyhocks, and mallows. Caterpillars spend most of their time in these nests. Look for these in open habitats such as old fields, meadows, disturbed areas, and roadsides.

Viceroy: This caterpillar’s strange appearance is a camouflage to look like bird droppings. Their host plants are the willow, poplar, and cottonwood trees. Viceroys hibernate in tube-like shelters built on the leaves of these trees. They are a very unique looking caterpillar, but the adults look very similar to monarchs. You can find these caterpillars in wetland areas, especially along streams where their host trees are found.

Red Admiral: The red admiral is often found along edges of wet wooded areas, streams, trails, and nearby fields. They tend to live on plants in the nettle family. The stinging nettle helps the caterpillars protect themselves from predators. They also range in color from yellow all the way to black.

Cabbage White: As the name suggests, this caterpillar lives off cabbage as well as broccoli, cauliflower, and turnip leaves. Holes in these vegetable leaves are indicators of the presence of this caterpillar. They are pale green and covered in short velvet-like hairs. This caterpillar can be found in any open areas with plants in the mustard family.

Damage Causing Caterpillars

There are at least three invasive caterpillars that can be found defoliating leaves of hardwood trees such as aspen, oaks, and birch. 

Eastern Tent Caterpillar:  The eastern tent caterpillar, Malacosoma americanum, is a conspicuous sight in early spring in Wisconsin. Those white masses in the forks of tree limbs are created by colonies of caterpillars. The tent protects them from predators, such as birds, and from temperature extremes. They come out of their silken webs to feed in early morning, evening or at night when it is not too cold. They return to the nest during the heat of the day and remain in the tent during rainy or cold weather.

Forest Tent Caterpillar:  The forest tent caterpillar is an important leaf-eating (defoliating) caterpillar in Wisconsin. Some people call forest tent caterpillars “army worms” because as they travel across the ground they look like marching soldiers.  Forest tent caterpillars are about 2 inches long with colorful bodies covered by many hairs. The sides of their bodies are blue with narrow orange stripes. Their backs are black with white markings that resemble keyholes, penguins, or footprints.

Gypsy Moth Caterpillar:  European gypsy moths were accidentally introduced into Massachusetts in 1869 by an amateur entomologist. Since then, gypsy moths have defoliated millions of acres of trees in forests and urban areas in at least 20 states and the Washington DC area. Gypsy moth caterpillars feed on more than 300 species of deciduous and evergreen trees. Gypsy moths were first found in Wisconsin in the late 1960s in the eastern part of the state. By 1989, they had settled along Wisconsin’s eastern shore from Milwaukee to Green Bay. Moths have since been found in every county. The eastern two-thirds of the state is considered generally infested and is quarantined [PDF exit DNR]. The quarantine prohibits the movement of items that could harbor gypsy moth eggs, caterpillars or adults and allow them to be moved to uninfested areas.

Conservation Corner is a weekly article produced by the Forest County Land &Water Conservation Department. For more information contact Steve Kircher, County Conservationist-Land Information/GIS Director at 715-478-1387 or by e-mail at

Jul 19 2021

Blue-green algae

Blue-green algae, also known as Cyanobacteria, are a group of photosynthetic bacteria that many people refer to as “pond scum.” Blue-green algae are most often blue-green in color, but can also be blue, green, reddish-purple, or brown. Blue-green algae generally grow in lakes, ponds, and slow-moving streams when the water is warm and enriched with nutrients like phosphorus or nitrogen.

When environmental conditions are just right, blue-green algae can grow very quickly in number. Most species are buoyant and will float to the surface, where they form scum layers or floating mats. When this happens, we call this a “blue-green algae bloom.” In Wisconsin, blue-green algae blooms generally occur between mid-June and late September, although in rare instances, blooms have been observed in winter, even under the ice.

Many different species of blue-green algae occur in Wisconsin waters, but the most commonly detected include Anabaena sp., Aphanizomenon sp., Microcystis sp., and Planktothrix sp.   It isn’t always the same species that blooms in a given waterbody, and the dominant species present can change over the course of the season.

Swimming advisor levels have been developed by the EPA for the toxins microcystin

(8 micrograms/liter) and cylindrospermopsin (15 micrograms/liter) and may be used by local health departments as the basis for issuing advisories or closing public beaches.  Most local health departments in Wisconsin do not have the capacity to monitor blue-green algae toxins at public beaches, or treat any accumulation of blue-green algae toxins at public beaches, so treat any accumulation of blue-green algae with caution.  The best advise is When in doubt, stay out!

Can blue-green algae make me sick?

Yes, it is possible for blue-green algae to cause illness.  Blue-green algae are capable of

producing several different toxins.  People may be exposed to these toxins through contact with the skin (e.g., when swimming), through inhalation (e.g., when motor boating or waterskiing), or by swallowing contaminated water. Children may be at greater risk than adults because they may ingest water as they are playing/swimming, and also since they weigh less than adults a smaller quantity of toxin may trigger an adverse effect.

Can blue-green algae make my pet sick?

Animals are not necessarily more sensitive to blue-green algal toxins than humans. However, many animals, such as dogs and cattle, enjoy being in the water, even if there is an unsightly green scum layer floating on top. When such abloom is present, animals may consume large quantities of blue-green algae if they drink the water, and if those blue-green algae happen to be producing toxin(s), the animals can become very ill, and even die. Symptoms of blue-green algal toxin poisoning may range from lethargy and loss of appetite to seizures, vomiting, and convulsions.  Dogs are particularly susceptible to blue-green algal poisoning because scums can attach to their coats and be swallowed during self-cleaning.

  • Don’t let pets swim in, or drink, waters experiencing blue-green algae blooms or noticeably green water.
  • Keep dogs out of shallow, stagnant waters where blue-green algae may be growing on the bottom and dislodged by disturbance. If people shouldn’t swim there, dogs shouldn’t either.
  • Always offer fresh, clean water for pets to drink instead of lake water.
  • Always wash dogs off with clean water immediately after they swim, so they don’t lick any algae from their fur.
  • Supervise pets when they are outside, so they don’t eat algal scum accumulated on the shore, floating mats of algae or drink lake water.
  • If your pets eat grass, avoid using lake water for lawn irrigation if blooms are present.

For more information about blue-green algae, visit the WDNR website above or these other resources:

Jun 22 2021

2021 Essay Contest Winners Announced by FCAL

Forest County Association of Lakes (FCAL) is proud to announce this year’s essay contest winners from the 5th and 6th grades of Crandon, Laona and Wabeno schools. 

This year’s essay theme was “ Aquatic Invasive Species and How They Affect Forest County Lakes and Streams”.  The essays were judged by 12 volunteers from FCAL.  They were judged on content, composition and originality.  3 prizes are awarded to each school:  !st place wins $100, 2nd place wins $50 and 3rd place $25.  The Crandon 5th grade moved the judges for Crandon to create 2 honorable mention awards this year of $10 each.  In addition to these cash awards, the winners and their parents are invited to attend FCAL’s Fall Banquet in October where the winners will be honored by the FCAL members attending. 

And the winners are: 

Crandon: From left:  Auron Garrow HM, Kylie Thiel HM, Pam Schroeder FCAL President, Cilla Packard 3rd place, Lindsey Mihalko 2nd Place, Peyton Hauser 1st place.  
Wabeno: From left:  Kendric Allen 6th grade teacher, Addisyn Lochen 1st place, Torie Rosio 3rd place, Ava Hanmann 2nd place, Pam Schroeder FCAL President. 
Laona: From left:  Melissa Chrisman, Elementary Principal, Pam Schroeder, FCAL President, Cameron Tilton, 1st Place, Braiden Kelley, 3rd place, Mike Chrisman, 5th grade teacher. 
Laona: From left:  Dan Lazzeroni, 6th grade teacher, Melissa Chrisman, Elementary Principal, Pam Schroeder, FCAL President, Faith Novak, 2nd place, Michelle Ferm, 5th & 6th grade reading teacher. 

Jun 17 2021

Conservation Corner

Conservation Corner is a weekly article produced by the Forest County Land &Water Conservation Department. For more information contact Steve Kircher, County Conservationist-Land Information/GIS Director at 715-478-1387 or by e-mail at

As a musky fisherman, I consistently hear walleye fishermen stating that they’d catch more walleyes if it weren’t for the muskies eating them all.  They’ll say, “if we’re not catching walleye, then something else must be.”  But, people’s beliefs about who’s eating who often venture into the “myth” level of misunderstanding.

Let’s start with the big bad muskellunge. As our largest predatory freshwater fish in Wisconsin, it’s easy to picture a “musky” gobbling up all the little walleye in a lake. But, research has shown something very different. While walleye do show up in musky diets on occasion, great musky lakes in Wisconsin are often some of the best walleye lakes as well. This doesn’t mean that the two species are best buddies or that they have a symbiotic relationship. More likely, it is evidence that both species do well in the same general habitats. In most big, deep, cool lakes you’ll find both species doing pretty well. It is certainly not a “one or the other” scenario.

There is a somewhat different story with largemouth bass, but even this interaction is more complicated than it may seem on the surface. Largemouth bass abundance has been increasing in many Wisconsin lakes, while at the same time walleye have decreased. There are a number of likely factors driving this relationship. Climate change is making lakes warmer, sometimes weedier, and often clearer.  

Largemouth bass, on the other hand, thrive in warm, weedy lakes. While the two species may have some direct interactions, we are really seeing entire lakes shifting towards more of a home field advantage for largemouth bass. This is especially true on lakes that were already on the smaller/clearer/shallower end of the spectrum for walleye lakes. f you are a little disheartened after reading these myths, I wouldn’t blame you. But, managing expectations and setting a baseline level of understanding about the species is an important first step before the real work can begin.

The DNR will be working hard this year to update Wisconsin’s Walleye Management Plan to provide the best strategies to meet these and other challenges walleye face. They will also be identifying key areas where partner groups, like lake associations, can help with maintaining great walleye fishing opportunities across the state.

Jun 07 2021

Conservation Corner

Conservation Corner is a weekly article produced by the Forest County Land &Water Conservation Department. For more information contact Steve Kircher, County Conservationist-Land Information/GIS Director at 715-478-1387 or by e-mail at

 Tips for helping to prevent oak wilt disease

It’s best to avoid cutting, pruning or damaging oak trees this time of year to prevent the spread of oak wilt disease.

Oaks are most vulnerable to the disease during the growing season, especially from April 1 to July 15.

“Disease prevention is key,” said Ben Walker, a silviculturist with the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. “Once oak wilt becomes established, it can kill otherwise healthy trees in as little as three to four weeks.”

Oak wilt is a fungal disease spread by sap-feeding beetles and underground root grafts. Through mid-July, the beetles fly and feed on new cuts and wounds on oak trees. They can pick up fungal spores from an infected tree and carry them on their bodies to healthy trees.

Oak wilt can be very difficult and costly to control once a tree is infected. Underground spread through root grafts is common and many oaks can be lost quickly. Once established in an area, if not controlled quickly, spread to other nearby areas is almost inevitable.

Transporting firewood also creates a chance for fungal mats under the bark to carry oak wilt to new locations.

Silviculurists recommend using local firewood and following Wisconsin firewood rules.

While oak wilt has been established in the forest’s Lakewood- Laona Ranger District in northern Oconto County for more than 20 years, it was discovered more than 100 miles away in the Great Divide and Washburn ranger districts in Bayfield and Sawyer counties in 2018. Chance for control and containment in the northwest counties stand a better chance since infections are relatively new and more localized.

Oak wilt can reduce property values and recreational opportunities, while the forest products industry can also see reduced timber values.

“All landowners can help with prevention,” Walker said. “The most important thing we can do is protect oak trees during the growing season.”

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