RED HOUSE — A threat to Allegany State Park’s old-growth hemlock trees has been found and steps have been taken to control the invasive insect — the Hemlock Wolly Adelgid (HWA) — that can suck the life out of infested trees.
Brad Whitcomb, director of the Allegany Region of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, said volunteers trained to detect HWA combed the park’s hemlock forests recently looking for the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, an aphid-like insect.
Two hemlock trees in the Quaker area of the park off ASP Route 3 near Quaker Lake, and a hemlock behind the Red House Administration Building were found to have a fuzzy white mass at the base of some of its needles, a sure sign of HWA infestation, Mr. Whitcomb said late this week.
The New York Invasive Species Clearinghouse stated HWA are most easily recognized by the white “woolly” masses of wax, about half the size of a cotton swab, produced by the female insects in late winter. These fuzzy white masses are readily visible at the base of hemlock needles attached to twigs and persist throughout the year.
Mr. Whitcomb said park foresters and crews removed and burned the trees, while treating surrounding hemlock trees to resist the invasive pest.
State Park officials are asking the public to look for similar infestations on public and private land.
“Thanks to an early detection of this insect by park volunteers, State Park has taken immediate action to eliminate the detected HWA populations, and step up efforts to search for additional infestations within the park,” State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said in a press release. “We are hopeful these efforts will limit further spread of HWA in Allegany State Park and neighboring property.”
The HWA was found by trained citizen scientist volunteers at two locations while performing area searches within the park, the commissioner said.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “The Department of Agriculture and Markets will work with our state partners to further identify these threats to ensure the continued health of hemlock trees across the state.”
Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens said, “DEC continues to monitor for the presence of this major pest on private and public lands throughout the state.”
Allegany State Park contains large ecologically important hemlock stands and documented old-growth hemlock communities. This aphid-like insect kills hemlocks by attaching its mouthparts to the underside of the needles and sucking the nutrients from the tree, and poses a significant threat to all of the hemlocks in the region.
State Parks has recommended people become familiar with the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid and be on the lookout for signs on any hemlocks on public and private lands.
HWA are most easily recognized by the white “woolly” masses of wax, about half the size of a cotton swab, produced by females in late winter.
These fuzzy white masses are readily visible at the base of hemlock needles attached to twigs and persist throughout the year, even long after the adults are dead. Additional information on HWA is available at NY Invasive Species Clearinghouse.
State Parks welcomes volunteers to assist in forest pest surveys to detect HWA and other invasive species.
More volunteers are needed to cover the large amount of terrain containing hemlocks in the 66,000-acre Allegany State Park, the largest park operated by State Parks. Anyone interested in training or having questions should contact the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Environmental Management Bureau’s Invasive Species Team by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Contact reporter Rick Miller at email@example.com)