In April, the woolly adelgid, an exotic small insect, was found for the first time feeding on hemlock trees in southeast Kentucky. Since then, more than 100 locations where hemlocks grow in Kentucky have been searched for the pest, and only one site beyond the initial location has been found.
“In April, hemlock woolly adelgid was found on Laden Trail near Rebel Rock,” said Jeremy Williams, Harlan County's UK Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources. “In June, it was discovered on the grounds of Pine Mountain Settlement School. The public needs to be informed about this pest - about what to expect if it affects hemlocks on their properties.”
In an effort to better prepare property owners about the possible harmful effects of the insect, a meeting will be held July 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Harlan County Cooperative Extension Service office.
Williams, along with UK entomologists Lee Townsend, Lynne Rieske-Kinney and Tim McClure with the state forestry service, will be conducting the meeting.
Woolly adelgid is a small, aphid-like insect that uses its mouth parts to feed on hemlocks and has devastated hemlock trees along the Eastern Seaboard. Kentucky officials hope with their proactive approach of monitoring hemlocks, necessary treatment and education will enable them to maintain control of the insect.
John Obrycki, chair of the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture's Department of Entomology and state entomologist, confirmed a few more trees around the initial find in Harlan County have been determined to have the insects.
“It is still fairly localized,” Obrycki maintains. “I think we have a good sense that it is not widespread.”
According to Williams, hemlock woolly adelgid is of Asian decent and is a reddish-purple insect measuring about 1/32 of an inch in length. It lives in its own protective coating, which is a white, cottony mass that shelters the sap-feedig insects.
A hemlock tree that is infested with woolly adelgid will have a noticeable presence of the white sacs, which resembles cotton balls, at the bases of hemlock needles.
“Hemlock woolly adelgid is a threat to the Eastern hemlock forest, and Harlan County has a significant amount of hemlocks that could become infested,” Williams said. “The insects feeding on the hemlock trees reduces new growth and causes graying-green foliage, premature needle drop, thinned crowns, branch tip dieback and eventual tree death.”
For more information, concerning the meeting, contact Williams at 573-4464. A new information sheet on the pest can be found at www.uky.edu/Ag/Entomology/entfacts/trees/ef452.htm.