Hemlocks & The Woolly Adelgid

click to view more photos
Morgan Mellette attended the bi-monthly Oconee Chapter SAF meeting on July 25, 2013. Jim Wentworth, Wildlife Biologist for Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests and Dr. Paul T. Arnold, Professor of Biology Chair, Biology Department Young Harris College presented information and updates on the status of the woolly adelgid infestations and control efforts in North Georgia.
 
The hemlock woolly adelgid, a non-native insect, is killing the two eastern US species of native hemlock; the Carolina hemlock and the Eastern hemlock in Georgia. The hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae) is an aphid-like insect that covers itself with a white, waxy "wool" which acts as a protective coating for the insect. Adelgid infestations are easily recognizable by the appearance of tiny "cotton balls" at the base of hemlock needles. The "wool" is most conspicuous on the undersides of branches from fall through spring. The adelgid was first discovered in Georgia in the Chattooga River gorge on the South Carolina-Georgia border in 2002.
 
Mr. Wentworth opened the meeting by providing a bit of background information about the spread of the adelgid. A native of Japan, the insect made its entry into America via an ornamental hemlock brought to Richmond, VA in the 1950’s. Infestations spread rapidly since the adelgid has no natural predators in the US. Unfortunately, the ideal climates of the southeastern forests create perfect conditions for this insidious pest. However, Georgia is taking the lead among the eastern states in terms of aggressive research and control of the pests. The Forest Service has established 144 stands deemed hemlock conservation areas in the National Forests and control the adelgid with a multi-faceted approach: chemical treatment (soil injections of Imidacloprid) and predator beetle releases. Imidacloprid (sold under several different trade names) is the active ingredient found in tick and flea medication for dogs. It may be purchased by private landowners
 
Dr. Paul Arnold, a professor of biology at Young Harris College, began the Hemlock Project in May 2005. Community members and students volunteer their time and energy to help raise Sasajiscymnus tsugae, a tiny ladybird beetle that is one of the few natural predators of the HWA. The organization collaborates with U.S. Forest Service, Ga Forestry Commission, Save Georgia’s Hemlocks, other colleges and universities to help monitor outbreaks, gather data, as well as release the beetles.
 
Currently there are four different species of beetles used in adelgid control. The most successful predator seems to be the Sasajiscymnus tsugae (ST) that Dr. Arnold raises in the YHC lab. This beetle was obtained from the area in Japan that was home to the original adelgid brought to the US. The ST beetle’s sole diet is the woolly adelgid. The other three beetles used in biocontrol are species of Laricobrios sp. beetles and a west coast beetle (Scymnus Sinuanodulus).
 
 
Private landowners may ‘rent’ soil injectors from the Georgia Forestry Commission to treat their trees with insecticide. The injectors are loaned out free of charge but a $250 deposit is required. The deposit will be refunded if the injector is returned in suitable condition. The injector is loaned out for a maximum of 5 days/user.
 
How you can help or for more information:
 
Georgia Forestry Commission: www.gfc.ga.us/forest-management/forest-health
 
The Hemlock Project at Young Harris College is funded through donations from individuals, foundations, and corporations.  For more information about the YHC Hemlock Project and how you can help in the battle to save the north Georgia hemlock trees, please contact Dr. Paul Arnold at (706) 379-5131.
 
 
Save Georgia’s Hemlocks
 Hemlock Help Line 706-429-8010
 SAVE GEORGIA'S HEMLOCKS
 37 Woody Bend
 Dahlonega, GA  30533
 donna@savegeorgiashemlocks.org
 
 
James M. Wentworth, Wildlife Biologist
Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, Region 8, Blue Ridge Division
706-745-6928
Jwentworth@fd.fed.us
 
Dr. Paul T. Arnold
Hemlock Project at Young Harris College
(706) 379-5131
ptarnold@yhc.edu