CLAYTON — Nature enthusiasts can learn how to spot an invasive insect that harms hemlock trees and stunts their growth at an upcoming walk-and-talk Saturday at the Foster-Blake Woods Preserve.
Representatives from the St. Lawrence-Eastern Lake Ontario Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management, or SLELO PRISM, aims to teach attendees how to identify the forest pest hemlock woolly adelgid and report any signs of it using the mobile phone app iMapInvasives. The walk-and-talk will last from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Anyone interested in attending can register at wdt.me/sleloevents, and are encouraged to create a profile on IMapinvasives beforehand.
It’s really easy. It’s pretty intuitive,” said Megan Pistolese, education and outreach coordinator for SLELO PRISM.
The hemlock woolly adelgid insect, which originates from Japan, wounds a hemlock tree after piercing into a twig with its mouth, and when the tree isolates the wound, it impedes the flow of nutrients and water to its branches, according to Cornell University’s Hemlock Initiative. By inhibiting the spread of nutrients, the wounds the insect inflicts to a hemlock can prevent growth and kill the buds, and the tree will weaken until it eventually dies.
Ms. Pistolese said while the hemlock woolly adelgid, which is about the size of a sesame seed, can be difficult to see, it can be identified by the white fluffy material it secretes in the winter. The insect typically mounts itself at the base of pine needles.
While the insect has not been found in the north country, save a small infestation in 2017 on Prospect Mountain, Lake George, that was eradicated, it has been spreading, Ms. Pistolese said. The event at the preserve, 37373-37351 Route 12E, will help the efforts of SLELO PRISM’s early detection team by having volunteers keep a lookout along any trails or preserves they visit, she said.
“We’re just giving them the knowledge and asking them to apply that knowledge to places where they’re already going,” she said.
The organization will host other walk-and-talks to help volunteers identify hemlock woolly adelgid between this month and March, including one on Feb. 10 at the Wachmeister Field Station Kip Trail, Canton.
Hemlock woolly adelgid has spread to 43 counties in southern and western New York since it was found in the 1980s, and has caused extensive damage to trees in Long Island, the lower Hudson Region and southern Catskills, according to the Hemlock Initiative.
Cornell and other groups consider hemlock a foundational species, with the largest concentration located in northern New York, particularly in the Adirondacks and Tug Hill Plateau, Ms. Pistolese said. The Eastern Hemlock, in particular, provides a suitable, unique habitat for various animals, help warm forests in the winter and cool them in the summer, according to the Hemlock Initative.
“The loss of hemlock will dramatically transform our forests,” Ms. Pistolese said.
The Thousand Islands Land Trust owns and manages the Foster-Blake Woods Preserve. Alaina Young, education and outreach coordinator for the trust, said the event will provide additional initiatives and skills to preserve stewardship volunteers who help the group monitor the land it protects.
“It’s important that we’re able to protect our hemlock, but TILT staff can’t be at our preserves every day,” she said. “We’re just excited to be a partner as part of SLELO PRISM.”