Conservation District asking for help to save hemlock trees

December 29, 2022

Conservation District asking for help to save hemlock trees

SCOTTVILLE — The Mason-Lake Conservation District is asking property owners to check their hemlock trees for hemlock wooly adelgid. If there are tiny balls of a white, woolly material lining hemlock branches this winter, property owners are asked to contact the conservation district office. The material could indicate the presence of a tiny invasive insect, hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA). HWA has been moving north along Lake Michigan since 2016 and is now present in five counties along the lakeshore. HWA poses a significant threat to eastern hemlock trees in Michigan – an infestation can kill a large, otherwise healthy tree in less than a decade. Properties within five miles of the lakeshore and along river corridors are most at risk. Currently, the furthest north infestation is just north of Hamlin Lake.

MLCD conducts free, early detection surveys for private property owners each winter on thousands of acres of land in their service area to detect early infestations before they become severe. This survey effort entails checking the undersides of hemlock branches for the tell-tale white ovisacs in which HWA lays its eggs. Landowners interested in a free survey of their hemlocks should contact Bri Jasinski, project manager at MLCD, to sign up. She can be reached at (231) 757-3707 ext. 111 or by emailing bri.jasinski@macd.org.

During the spring and summer months, hundreds of eggs will hatch from each ovisac into ìcrawlersî, which are mobile larvae that can spread between trees via wind, birds, squirrels, vehicles, forestry equipment, nursery stock, and even clothing.†

HWA feeds by attaching itself to the undersides of hemlock branches, between the base of the needle and the stem, and sucks the sap out of the tree. The tree responds to this stress by cutting off sap circulation to those branches, weakening and eventually killing the tree in 4-10 years if the infestation is not remedied. Because infestations spread rapidly, HWA can quickly overtake hemlock-dominated forests. Along the East Coast where HWA has been present for 50 years, HWA has devastated hemlock populations.

 

If HWA is found during a survey, landowners may choose to opt-in to a free chemical treatment with MLCD to protect the trees. This free service is contingent on continuation of grant funding and overall state priority work areas. As part of the treatment process, a delimitation survey is first conducted, often in conjunction with Ottawa Conservation District, in which every hemlock†tree within an 800-foot buffer of an infestation is measured and tagged. Once this is completed, each tree is treated during the late spring and summer months with an insecticide to contain and eliminate the infestation. These treatments are typically effective for 5-7 years and prevent infestations during that time.†

Outside of Mason County, many other organizations are doing similar work to protect hemlocks all over Michigan, typically with extensive collaboration to help distribute the efforts required for such a large undertaking to be realized. Mason-Lake Conservation District HWA efforts are made possible through funding from the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program through the Department of Natural Resources.

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