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hemlock wooly adelgid

The hemlock wooly adelgid is an invasive species that attaches near the needle bases of eastern hemlock trees.

Just a few weeks ago, hemlock wooly adelgid was found on the eastern side of Owasco Lake. The infestation was already very well-established, but it was in an area where we had not already known about it. The ravines where hemlocks thrive are majestic; the towering trees with their stunning green foliage are a staple of our region. Seeing an HWA infestation and realizing the threat this poses to such a wonderful environment is frustrating.

Still, thanks to a watchful landowner who noticed something on his trees, looked into it, and called us at Cornell Cooperative Extension, it is yet another known site. Knowing about threats earlier on can expand your management options and increase the likelihood of success, regardless of whether the threat is HWA, emerald ash borer, or even something as broad as climate change. In addition, early awareness can reduce cost of management.

Just this summer I bought and planted several new trees. I had just moved, and was eager to spice up my landscaping. I picked the trees thoughtfully, and planted them with careful consideration — away from power lines, deciduous trees to the south of the house, trees with weaker branches away from the house. After a lot of shoveling and planting, I sat back, relaxed, and waited for my trees to grow.

Well, about two days later I woke up to find many of my newly planted saplings shorn down by browsing deer. I had just bought these trees, and they were pretty severely damaged. Then I realized what a mistake I had made. If I had paid a little bit more attention, noticed how many deer were around my area and took the necessary precautions, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble. By paying closer attention to my environment, I could have limited or even avoided the damage.

Many environmental management responses depend at some point on everyday individuals rather than professionals, particularly at the initial identification. One’s experience can range from knowing nothing about plants to having studied biology, but either way, our environment relies a lot on individuals to see, notice, notify and assist. It might be that you find an invasive in your backyard or a local park, but being informed and keeping a keen set of eyes are excellent ways that all of us can be stewards for the environment.

To help monitor invasive species in New York state, it helps a lot to know what you’re looking for. The website nyis.info provides excellent descriptions, pictures, and maps.

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Stefan Lutter is an environmental resource educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County.

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Features editor for The Citizen and auburnpub.com. I also cover local arts and culture, business, food and drink, and more.