Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet
Division of Forestry needs public's help
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Feb. 13, 2006) - A winter walk through eastern Kentucky’s forests is uniquely rewarding, in part because of a tall, stately and vital evergreen that stands out against the winter landscape of Appalachia.
That evergreen, the hemlock, plays an important role for wildlife and ecological diversity. The tree, identifiable by two parallel white lines on the underside of the leaf, is found in cool, moist areas, typically on steep slopes and in shady ravines near streams and creeks. In winter, it can be easily spotted from northeastern to southeastern Kentucky.
Now imagine eastern Kentucky without hemlocks. It could happen, and that’s why the Kentucky Division of Forestry is asking for your help.
Our forests are threatened by a number of insects and diseases. One pest, the Hemlock woolly adelgid, is of particular concern. It attacks hemlocks - only hemlocks - and kills them by literally sucking them dry. Once infested, a tree usually dies within a few years.
The adelgid, an aphid-like insect, has not been sighted in Kentucky but is not far away. It has reached Virginia and southern West Virginia, just one county removed from the Kentucky border at one point. Kentucky is in a watch zone for the adelgid. Its reaching eastern Kentucky is thought to be just a matter of time.
Early detection is key to controlling this pest. The Division of Forestry is asking private landowners, public park managers and the general public to help locate stands of hemlocks and to be on the lookout for adelgid infestations.
The insect remains active during cold weather and is easy to see. Adelgids are found on the underside of hemlock branches. The insect creates a white, wooly mass in which it lives. Large populations are readily visible. Binoculars are useful for examining branches more than 20 feet from the ground. The adelgid does not bite or sting. It lives within the woolly mass and feeds on the tree.
Other than early detection, there are few alternatives for controlling the Hemlock woolly adelgid. Chemical treatment is impractical in a forest. Biocontrol options include predator beetles, bacteria, fungi and developing hemlocks that are resistant to attack, but those options take time. Predator beetles show promise but can’t be raised as fast as the adelgid is spreading.
Lichens on trees often are mistaken for Hemlock woolly adelgids. Lichens are usually found on the top side of branches and along the trunk of the tree while the adelgid is found only on the underside of branches. Lichens consist of algae and fungi growing together and usually are not harmful to the tree.
Anyone spotting an adelgid infestation should call the Kentucky Division of Forestry, (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 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>