Joe Culin: Protecting the Hemlock
The work that we’re doing here in my lab is to look at rearing some predacious beetles to release in the hemlock forests in the southern Appalachians to control the hemlock wooly adelgid. It’s an invasive pest that was accidentally introduced, they think, around Richmond, VA in the early 50s and first showed up around Burl’s Ford, the Whitewater falls area, fish hatchery area in about 2001 here.
Basically, the way they kill a hemlock tree is by defoliating it. In the northern end of the range, when we first started looking at this problem, when it showed up here in the early 2001 – 2002 range, the Forest Service folks were saying it was taking somewhere in the neighborhood of about 8 – 10 years to kill hemlock trees. In the southern end of the range, down here, it’s taking as little as 4. So they can kill hemlock trees very quickly.
There are a lot of areas where the hemlocks are essentially gone. We’re hoping that in the southeast, we got started about the time the infestation started showing up; and hopefully because of that, we’re kind of ahead of the curve from what they’ve seen up there because the adelgid had been in their forests for 20 – 25 years before they started these mass releases of predators up in say VA, PA and NY.
Here in the southern Appalachians there are some areas, along the Chattooga especially, where we first started making releases where the hemlock trees are in pretty good shape. Hopefully we’ll keep some of the hemlocks that we have in Oconee, Pickens County and a little bit in Greenville.
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