By Sarah Plummer
A West Virginia Department of Agriculture program launched last year to combat a pest that is slowly killing the state’s hemlock trees will be expanded to additional counties this year.
Commissioner of Agriculture Gus R. Douglass announced the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Cooperative Pilot Project will now be offered in Summers and Raleigh counties in addition to Fayette and Nicholas.
The pilot expansion has occurred, in part, because some landowners in counties outside the pilot area expressed interest in participating, said Douglass.
“This is the first attempt by any state to assist private woodlot owners with hemlock woolly adelgid control,” said Quentin “Butch” Sayers, assistant director of the West Virginia Department of Agriculture’s Plant Industries Division.
“The cooperative aspects of it were modeled after our highly successful gypsy moth program, which enlists the resources of the WVDA, West Virginia Division of Forestry, National Park Service, USDA-Forest Service and private landowners.”
Tim Tomon, a forest entomologist with the WVDA, was with a team treating trees Wednesday at Little Beaver State Park.
Without long-term control of this evasive pest, the hemlock will be significantly reduced, if not eliminated, throughout its natural range, he said.
Tomon explained that the evasive adelgid creates bright, white fuzzy balls, like the ends of Q-Tips, on the underside of hemlock branches.
The state has been treating for the adelgid since 1992, but only three woodlot owners in the pilot area took advantage of this cooperative program last year, Tomon said.
Tomon explained that the systemic chemical can be administered to the tree by burying pellets in the ground, injecting the tree, or giving the tree a kind of tree I.V., depending on the size of the tree and its location.
The WVDA team can treat between 200 and 300 trees in two days.
So far the state has treated trees at Bluestone State Park, Camp Creek State Park, Pipestem Resort State Park, Greenbrier State Forest and other state property where hemlocks are prevalent.
Treatments should protect trees for four to five years, and will be conducted by WVDA staff.
Landowners accepted for the program must pay for a portion of the treatments; however, applying for the program does not obligate landowners to participate.
Landowners must apply for the program by Oct. 31, provide WVDA with a map of their property and allow WVDA to evaluate their site to ensure it meets the project qualifications.
The land must be private with more than 50 percent of the canopy cover hemlocks and be a minimum of five acres.
Trees on the lot must have more than 50 percent foliage and trees cannot have been treated within the last four years.
For more information, contact Sayers at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-788-1066; or Shawn McCauley at email@example.com, 304-573-0768.
Applications and brochures may be downloaded at www.wvagriculture.org/images/Plant_Industries/About_Us.html.
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org