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Thousands of Hemlocks in WV Being Treated for Asian Pest

The West Virginia Department of Agriculture is treating thousands of hemlock trees throughout the state to help protect them from the hemlock woolly adelgid, according to Agriculture Commissioner Gus R. Douglass.

“This is one of our ongoing forest health programs, and HWA is just one of many non-native organisms threatening our ecosystem,” says Douglass.

The program plans to treat thousands of hemlock trees in state and national parks and forests, said Quentin “Butch” Sayers, assistant director for WVDA’s Plant Industries Division.

“We are using various control methods to kill any HWA feeding on the hemlocks including biological control and targeted chemical suppression with EPA approved treatment materials. These treatment materials are injected into the soil at the base of the infested tree or directly into the tree,” says Sayers.

The hemlock woolly adelgid is native to Asia and was first reported in the Eastern United States in 1951 near Richmond, Virginia. By 2005, it was established in portions of 16 states from Maine to Georgia.

Hemlock decline and mortality typically occur within four-to-ten years of infestation in the insect’s northern range, but can occur in as little as three- to-six years in its southern range.

Eastern hemlocks are an important component of West Virginia’s forests. They comprise about one percent of forested land statewide, and up to nine percent in some counties. Hemlocks have exceptional aesthetic value and provide a beautiful backdrop to some of West Virginia’s most popular recreation and tourism areas.

Hemlocks are relatively large, long-lived and shade-tolerant trees. They form dense canopies under low light conditions creating distinctive wildlife habitat. In addition to providing shade critical for maintaining the water temperature of many native trout streams, they provide food and shelter for birds and a variety of mammals.

The WVDA has five priorities of its current HWA program:
- Survey and detection.
- Education and outreach.
- Permanent plot monitoring.
- Biological control.
- Chemical suppression.

New biological control agents and other technologies will be evaluated as they become available. Tree selection for chemical suppression will be directed, in part, by the results of the WVDA Hemlock Stand Priority Survey.

For more information on the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Program in West Virginia, contact Sayers at 304-788-1066 or qsayers@wvda.us.

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