Every species has a role in our natural ecosystems. This week’s guest, Carole Cheah, research entomologist with the University of CT Agricultural Extension Service shares her research findings concerning Eastern Hemlock and its pests that contribute to its demise in our eastern forests.

Eastern Hemlock: Tsuga canadensis is known as “the redwood of the east”. Tall and majestic, it lives quite long. Do not mistake its size for age. Many young appearing saplings can be quite old as they wait for the forest canopy to open and become flooded with sunlight. Then they shoot up, reaching for sunlight as fast as they can. Its ladder like branches provides habitat for many species. As an evergreen, the needled branches provide shelter in winter and keep the forest cool in summer. They like water and are often found by streams and waterways. Many species depend on them. Not just the tree itself but the ecosystem habitat they sustain in our forests.

However, our Hemlocks are beset with two troublesome pests. Today I am sharing a photograph of what the HWA or hemlock woolly adelgid egg mass and elongate hemlock scale look like on hemlock needles. A picture, they say is worth a thousand words. I hope you agree. The bug surrounds itself with its egg mass and it looks like leftover snow on the branches. Or maybe like cotton tufts which make it very easy to spot on branches especially by the tips of branches as they munch on new growth.

For those of you who want more detailed information, especially for the east coast, I recommend this article: http://www.ct.gov/caes/lib/caes/documents/publications/fact_sheets/entomology/hemlock_woolly_adelgid_2014.pdf

What I also learned from Carole is how the weather affects some of our pests. In this instance, a deep New England freeze can actually harm the pest and decrease its numbers. If you want more information, where to purchase the beneficial pest that helps eliminate HWA, contact your State University Agricultural Station or your Master Gardener program also run by the University Ag station.

Hopefully, you are inspired to keep a closer eye on your hemlocks. I know I am. Check them in late winter, early spring.  Lower branches can be removed or rub the egg mass off. Check with your county agricultural station. They may have folks like Carole monitoring the health and status of hemlocks in your geographic area, offer pest control advice and more.

Old and sentient, these trees have been around a long time, provide invaluable habitat, diversity, and integrity to our forests. Our forests are holistic. Droughts or intense rains place stresses on our natural plant populations. Intense research efforts are being made to preserve our precious native species such as the eastern hemlock.

I appreciate your comments. Please share. Thanks.

Enjoy. Judith

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