Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet
Hemlock woolly adelgid suspected in Harlan County

Press Release Date:  Wednesday, April 12, 2006  
Contact Information:  Gwen Holt or Diana Olszowy, (502) 564-4496  


FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 12, 2006) - The Hemlock woolly adelgid, an aphid-like insect that has infested and killed hemlock trees in Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee, may have reached Kentucky, the Kentucky Division of Forestry (KDF) reported today.

Dr. John Obrycki, state entomologist and chair of the University of Kentucky Department of Entomology, contacted the division last week to report a suspected infestation in the Rebel Rock area of Harlan County, within about 1,000 feet of Kentenia State Forest. A specimen has been sent to the Smithsonian Institution for verification.

"We have been watching for this pest for several years and anticipated that it would be here soon," KDF Director Leah MacSwords said. "We are very concerned about this pest. Hemlock trees play an important role for wildlife and ecological diversity."

KDF forest health specialist Tim McClure will survey the area this week to determine the extent of the infestation. How the infestation will be addressed depends on its location and the most appropriate control method. The Kentucky Forest Health Task Force plans to meet this week to develop a plan of action.

The adelgid attacks only hemlocks and literally sucks them dry. Once infested, a tree usually is dead within a few years. An adelgid lives on the underside of hemlock branches inside a white, woolly mass.

Other than early detection, control methods are limited. Chemical treatment is impractical in a forest but may work in a landscape setting. Biocontrol options include predator beetles, bacteria, fungi and the development of hemlocks resistant to attack. But those options take time. Predator beetles show promise but can’t be raised as fast as the adelgid is spreading.

Anyone spotting an adelgid infestation should call KDF, (800) 866-0555, and ask to speak with Tim McClure, forest health specialist. Do not attempt to remove a tree. Cutting down the tree and dragging branches may accidentally spread the insect. The division and your local cooperative extension service will assist you with control options.

For further information on this insect, visit the Kentucky Division of Forestry’s Web site at <http://www.forestry.ky.gov/programs/health/Insects.htm>