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Collaborative Forest Pest Project Update

Posted on Jan 27, 2015

They always say, pictures are worth 1,000 words. And in most cases I would agree with that. There is always an interesting story behind each photograph we take or view. Photographs can capture a joyous or disheartening scene, appeal to our emotions or bring our attention to someone or something in need. This past weekend, as a part of our joint Forest Pest Outreach Project with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County, Betsy Burgeson, my husband Tyler and I all got out to North Harmony State Forest to erect signs on Eastern Hemlock trees along the main snowmobile trail and cross country ski trail intersection to raise awareness about the encroaching Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. Here are some photographs to explain the project and what our hemlocks are facing as a species in our region and in other parts of the country…

Help Me! Hemlock

Eastern Hemlock Trees are valuable keystone species to our forests, meaning that their presence or absence can seriously change a forest ecosystem. Hemlocks are under the threat of an invasive insect known as Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA), which has wiped out thousands upon thousands of hemlocks in southern states and even right here in New York State. As HWA moves closer to our area, being recently found in Fredonia, the hemlocks are in need of assistance from us to comb through their soft needles and insure HWA hasn’t gotten to them yet.

Why Do These Trees Need Help

The first step we can take in order to help local hemlocks, is to educate ourselves on its potential attacker. Through our joint project, we have created these signs and put together information, accessible through RTPI’s cell phone tours, for people to learn more about HWA, hemlock trees and how they can help the hemlocks.

HWA Search

In order to spot HWA, we have to get up close and personal with a hemlock’s needles and search for little white woolly dots at the base of the needles. These little woolly balls are about half the size of a Q-tip and are most easy to see during the winter season. If they are found they can be reported through the cell phone tour by leaving on comment on the mobile webpage of the tour stop or by calling in and recording an audio message. Both positive and negative results are important to hear about!

Forest Pest Sign Erection

Furthermore, anyone can help the hemlock trees by looking for HWA. It doesn’t matter if you enjoy slower paced skiing or snowshoeing or faster paced snowmobiling, all of us can take a moment to stop and peek at a hemlock near the trail and report our findings through the signs erected or through other means.

Hemlock woolly adelgid HWA winter eastern hemlock-0326

What we want to avoid is seeing hemlock twigs covered with HWA, like this hemlock found by our Conservation & Outreach Coordinator Scott Kruitbosch in Connecticut.

Dying Eastern Hemlock trees-0299

If we do not educate ourselves, search for this particular pest, report any early sightings and just allow HWA to spread more and more into our properties, state lands and beyond our forests could eventually look like this.

So rather than hibernating this winter, get out on the trails and check out the signs posted in North Harmony State Forest. As the winter progresses we will be working to get more signs up throughout the area in order to raise awareness throughout the county about this invasive pest as well as EAB or Emerald Ash Borer, another forest pest that has caused major destruction of valuable trees. We can slow the progress of these invasive pests and help our forest trees and yard trees, as well as hundreds of other species that depend on them.

Elyse Henshaw
Conservation Technician