For Immediate Release - June 2, 2004
Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Insects Devastate Trees
from Massachusetts to Virginia
“This is one of the most devastating insect problems we’ve seen in the last 50 years,” according to Michael Schoeni, International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborist with SavATree. “We’re facing a very serious situation that threatens to decimate an entire species.”
One reason the hemlock tree, one of the most popular ornamental plants, is susceptible to such disaster is the nature of the plant itself. Hemlocks are conifers, often referred to as evergreens. Conifers naturally shed and replace just 20% of their needles each year. Deciduous trees like oaks and maples, on the other hand, generally lose all of their leaves each fall. That’s why, says Schoeni, “Trees attacked by gypsy moths are able to recover provided they are not attacked repeatedly. Hemlocks have a tougher struggle.” In addition, conifers store much of their food supply in their needles. The inordinately large loss of needles that accompanies an adelgid problem seriously weakens the tree.
While concerned homeowners cannot prevent adelgid from invading their landscapes, they can take steps to strengthen their trees and combat the invasion when it strikes. SavATree, an industry leader in Northeast tree and shrub care provides the following tips and recommendations:
Tip#1: Inspect hemlock trees for telltale white, dry cottony masses on the stems and undersides of the needles. “These masses, which look like the tip of a cotton swab, contain clusters of eggs. After they hatch, the nymphs or “crawlers” pierce the stems with their mouthpart, and remove plant fluids, literally sucking the life out of the tree,” Schoeni notes. Scientists now know that toxins are injected into the tree during the feeding process. Needles on affected trees change color from the hemlock’s natural deep green to a greyish green, and soon drop off.
Tip#2: Avoid fertilizing affected trees with standard “off the shelf” products. Use of high nitrogen fertilizer stimulates new growth on which the insect thrives, and can actually cause an explosive increase in the pest population. After the pest is brought under control, Schoeni recommends using an organic biostimulant, such as ArborKelp® that will enhance root growth rather than encourage new stems and needles.
Tip#3: Move bird feeders away from hemlocks to other locations in the yard. A tiny insect, the adelgid is dispersed by wind, birds and mammals. Repositioning bird feeders to other trees is an easy way to help contain potential infestation.
Tip#4: Give your hemlocks good growing conditions. This can be as simple as making sure trees are watered thoroughly. Since hemlocks have shallow roots, they are prone to drought stress. This is particularly true of newly planted trees, whose root systems haven’t fully developed. An inch of water per week, including rainfall is sufficient.
Tip#5: If you spot trouble, contact a certified arborist right away to arrange for a management program. Arborists can recommend treatments, such as the application of horticultural oil or the introduction of systemic compound into the roots of the infested hemlocks.
About SavATree: This premier tree, shrub and lawn care company has been providing environmentally sensible tree, shrub and lawn care to residents, businesses and historic properties for over 20 years. They currently operate in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and Washington D.C. Industry certified arborists provide clients with expertise in tree care and help clients maintain a healthy, safe and beautiful landscape. Services include pruning, disease diagnosis, removal, insect and mite treatments, organic lawn care, integrated lawn care and more. For more information, please contact us.