Pest type: Insects
The hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) is a small, aphid-like insect with piercing-sucking mouthparts, which are used to suck sap from plants. For most of its life, it is covered by a white wooly substance that it secretes all over its body. They feed primarily on young branches, causing cessation of tree growth, discoloration and premature drop of needles, the dieback of branches and possible death of the tree in as little as one year.
Eastern hemlock ranges stretch south form Nova Scotia to Northern Alabama and west to northeastern Minnesota and eastern Kentucky. Carolina hemlock ranges extend from southern West Virginia down the east coast to Georgia.
The females are oval, blackish-grey, about 2mm in length and serve as the overwintering stage. The brownish-orange, very small, oblong eggs are laid in cottony white egg sacs (about 50 eggs per sac) on young twigs from late March to May. The presence of the egg sacs offers the most visible diagnostic evidence of infestation. The eggs hatch into reddish-brown crawlers (nymphs) from early April through early June and begin feeding on the sap of young twigs, maturing into adults in a few weeks. Some of the adults are wingless and remain on hemlock for a second generation, while the winged forms may fly to nearby hemlocks or spruces.
In eastern North America, it is a destructive pest that gravely threatens the eastern hemlock and the Carolina hemlock.
Do not disturb shallow roots with heavy equipment or by digging or tilling.
Keep hemlocks well-watered (apply about 1 inch / week around drip line) during droughts.
Don't place bird feeders among your hemlock trees in infested areas of your state, as birds can transport HWA crawlers to your trees. Heavily infested trees can act as resevoirs for uninfested trees, so be sure to remove them as soon as possible. If you can catch the infestation early enough, this may significantly slow the insect's spread and build-up.
Infestations can be detected early by periodically examining young twigs for the presence of the egg sacs and the presence of a white cottony scale on the hemlock branches. Egg sacs are readily observed in the spring before the eggs have hatched. Keep in mind that remnants of old egg sacs may remain on twigs long after the eggs have hatched and the insect has been controlled. Early detection is very important because injury to hemlock may develop quickly.
Do not apply nitrogen fertilizer to trees infested with HWA. Researchers have found five times as many HWAs on nitrogen-fertilized trees, regardless of whether fertilization occurred at infestation or six months later. If control measures fail, affected areas can be replanted with native speicies, such as eastern white pine, that are similar ecologically but are not affected by HWA.
Proper timing is key for control of HWA:
Horticultural oils and insecticidal soaps have shown to be very effective when sprayed during susceptible life stages. 100% mortality was obtained by both materials when sprayed in mid-July (when all individuals were present as dormant nymphs) and in late October (after the nymphs had resumed development).
Look at your product labels and try to avoid products containing those chemicals listed below:
(A = acute health effects, C = chronic health effects, SW = surface water contaminant, GW = ground water contaminant, W = wildlife poison, B = bee poison, LT = long-range transport)