Predator beetle attacks woolly adelgid in Appalachian hemlocks

By Peter Kent

two researches looking at grassA bug smaller than a sesame seed is killing off hemlocks in the southern Appalachian Mountains. The hemlock woolly adelgid sucks fluid from the base of hemlock needles, causing them to drop off and the branches to die.

Experts point to climate change. The drought has weakened the trees, and milder winters have allowed the invasive pest to spread as much as 20 miles per year. Losing hemlocks would be an ecological tragedy. Their shade protects rivers and streams, providing the cool water needed by mountain trout.

The adelgid has no natural enemies here; but Clemson is one of a handful of research centers raising predatory beetles from Asia and the Pacific Northwest. Since 2002, nearly 750,000 beetles have been released in North and South Carolina and Georgia.

The effort, led by entomologist Joe Culin, is supported by the Jackson-Macon Conservation Alliance, Chattooga Conservancy, National Forest Foundation and several South Carolina and federal agencies.

For information: Joe Culin, 864-656-5041,