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Woolly adelgid

The hemlock woolly adelgid is seen. Scientists and researchers are monitoring for this invasive insect, which could have a devastating impact to trees and water quality in the region. 

LAKE GEORGE — State and local agencies are planning for the worst and hoping for the best when it comes to an invasive bug smaller than the diameter of a toothpick — the hemlock woolly adelgid.

The insect is like a little vampire bug, sucking up the lifeblood of trees or sap. Eventually, nutrients stop flowing to its branches and needles. Within four to 10 years, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the unlucky tree will die.

While the bugs themselves are difficult to see, they often form egg sacks that look like white tufts collected at the base of pine needles on the underside of branches. Easily spread on the wind or carried by birds and other wildlife, state officials have been trying to halt their migration. The Hudson Valley and Long Island were the first New York areas to see the invasive in 1985, and slowly it’s crept up north and west. Last year, the invasive was spotted on Prospect Mountain near Lake George. The DEC and the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program used systemic pesticides to treat 218 trees within a seven-acre area.

No new or live adelgids have been discovered since, the Adirondack Park Agency said in a press release, but post-treatment monitoring will continue through 2020.

Meanwhile, the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District has started its own monitoring program this year. Senior District Technician Dean Moore said the organization ordered hemlock trees and distributed them to landowners in the area. The landowners will monitor the health of the trees and call the district if they see any signs of decline.

Moore said 20 hemlocks were planted in Warrensburg, 30 throughout Queensbury, 30 in the town of Lake George, 10 in Johnsburg and 10 in Hague. The district plans to distribute more trees next year to continue keeping a pulse on the invasive insect’s movements.

Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson said he and members of the Stop Aquatic inVasives from Entering Lake George group are planning a flyover of the Lake George corridor, too. Dickinson said aerial photos will be taken to show the hemlock tree cover prior to a potential infestation.

“I’ll be able to pick out the hemlock trees and set out a program to inspect them to see if they’ve arrived, and eradicate them,” Dickinson said. “It’s a serious threat.”

The Adirondack Park Agency, the invasive plant program and the DEC are also trying some new initiatives to control the bug’s spread. The three agencies updated the Inter-Agency Guidelines for Implementing Best Management Practices to Control Invasive Species on DEC Administered Lands of the Adirondack Park.

Those revisions include things like best management practices, collection and transport procedures and mitigation efforts to prevent an invasive from spreading. To learn more about the woolly adelgid, visit dec.ny.gov/animals/7250.html.

Reporter Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (518) 742-3238 or gcraig@poststar.com. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.

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