from the Lumpkin Coalition
(Ed. Note: Lumpkin Coalition is a non-profit organization in Lumpkin County.)
Our forests are threatened with the loss of our native hemlocks, eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and Carolina hemlock (T. caroliniana). They are being decimated by the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA), a tiny, aphid-like insect accidentally introduced to the east coast from Asia in the 1950s. The HWA attaches to the stems at the base of the needles making an incision and draining the tree of its sap. The tree often dies within just a few years. The devastation from this tiny parasite has spread from Virginia, north to Maine, and then south to Georgia. Infestations of the HWA have already reached Rabun, Towns, Habersham, Union, White, Fannin, Whitfield, and Lumpkin Counties and are traveling fast. If nothing is done to combat HWA, more than 80 percent of our hemlocks may die in the next six to 12 years.
The Lumpkin Coalition, which is working to educate the public about this threat, is warning us to be on the lookout for infestations in hemlock trees and to take action if this pest is found. Their Hemlock Hotline website link (http://lumpkincoatliton.org/hotline.htm) offers tips and information about the HWA threat.
During the months of March through June, the “crawlers” are active and most easily seen on the underside of hemlock branches. They look like tiny cotton balls at the base of the needles. In one year, one bug can produce as many as 90,000 offspring. In as little as two to three years, your hemlocks can die. More information about the hemlock woolly adelgid, as well as photos, can be found at the Lumpkin Coalition website, www.lumpkincoalition.org.
Fortunately, the Lumpkin Coalition says there are steps you can take to prevent this calamity:
- If you have a few small trees (up to 8 feet tall), you can spray them with insecticidal soap, horticultural oil, or any insecticide that kills aphids. These chemicals are available at most hardware stores. Be sure to coat the whole tree, including the underside of all limbs and leaves. The best times to treat them are April to June and October.
- If you have just a few large trees on level ground, you may use Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub insect control as a soil drench. This product is available at most hardware stores. Follow the directions on the label carefully.
- If you have many large trees and want to keep your costs down, you may borrow a Kioritz Soil Injector from the Forestry Commission in these counties: Lumpkin, Union, Habersham, and Towns. You will have to pay a $250 refundable deposit, and staff members will show you how to use the injector and tell you where you can purchase the chemicals for it.
- If you and your neighbors want to join forces to protect large numbers of trees, you may call Scott Griffin, the Forestry Commission’s Forest Health Specialist. He will come to your group and provide training on how to use the injector and how to plan your preservation efforts. Scott can be reached at 770-531-6043.
- If you have limited time and/or want to avoid handling the chemicals involved in treatment, you may call a professional. There are two individuals in North Georgia who do this kind of
work at a reasonable cost and are willing to travel to your property: Kevin Johnson of Grow It Green in Blue Ridge at 866-883-2420 and Mark Shearer in Dahlonega at 706-864-4787. These individuals will inspect your trees and give you an estimate for treating them. They will also
advise you on when you will need to re-treat your trees, since the chemicals are effective only for up to three years. For more information about the hemlock woolly adelgid and the Lumpkin Coalition, visit their website.