Eastern Hemlock Trees at Risk Due to Invasive Insect
One of the most common trees across the Appalachian Mountains is the Eastern Hemlock, but many of the trees are at risk of dying due to a small invasive insect called the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid.
"The insect that is attaching them is called the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid and it's been known to be in the state since 1992, so 22 years," said West Virginia Department of Agriculture Forest Entomologist Tim Tomon.
At first glance, the insect is hard to find as they look like a small ball of cottony material. They do not move once they find a place to feed and only travel if they are picked up by animals or hikers.
"These things are so tiny that you don't realize they are even on you," said Tim Tomon. "but I've had them all over me and you don't even feel them."
Currently, officials are treating affected trees through various methods such as inserting pesticides in the tree's base and releasing a beetle that eats the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid's. While treatments are working, it is hard to save them because the forested area of West Virginia is so large.
"It is slowing the progression of the mortality, but I think overall eventually we are likely to see the disappearance of the species unless technology and science comes up with something that is effective," said Blackwater Falls State Park Superintendent Rob Gilligan.
Hemlock Woolly Adelgid's are landing in many people's backyards. But, it is easy and affordable to save your trees at home.
"Home owners can do treatments for Hemlock Woolly Adelgids on their own you know for a handful of trees very cheaply," said Tomon.
You can find Hemlock Woolly Adelgid's in your backyard by flipping over a tree's branches. The insects usually start at the top of the tree, and work their way down, and if not treated a tree will die in four to ten years. For help and assistance both with identifying Hemlock Woolly Adelgid's as well as ways the state can help pay for treatment, call the West Virginia Department of Agriculture at (304)-558-2212.