An invasive insect that kills hemlock trees is threatening one of Ohio's most-popular tourist attractions. The discovery of hemlock woolly adelgids in about 50 trees within 1 acre of Hocking Hills State Park is the start of a big problem for state and local tourism officials, who say they knew the pest's arrival there was merely a matter of time.
An invasive insect that kills hemlock trees is threatening one of Ohio’s most-popular tourist attractions.
The discovery of hemlock woolly adelgids in about 50 trees within 1 acre of Hocking Hills State Park is the start of a big problem for state and local tourism officials, who say they knew the pest’s arrival there was merely a matter of time.
Hemlock is “one of the dominant trees in key feature areas of the park,” said Stephanie Downs, an Ohio Department of Natural Resources forester.
Rick Webb, president of the Hocking Hills Tourism Association, said his group began preparing for the adelgid’s arrival after infestations were reported in Meigs and Washington counties last year.
“We were hoping we might have several years to prepare,” Webb said.
As they survey the park’s Cantwell Cliffs area for more infested trees, Natural Resources and Ohio Department of Agriculture officials said they are looking for the best way to manage the adelgids. That’s because there is no way now to exterminate them. Downs said that even if all the adelgids in the Hocking Hills area were killed this year, it’s likely more would hitch a ride on birds coming in from infested areas in West Virginia.
Known for the cottony sac shelters that they weave on branches, the aphid-size adelgids feed on the nutrients that hemlocks store at the base of their needles. Adelgids can kill an adult tree in a few years.
Officials say the insects likely came into the United States from hemlocks imported from Japan. They were first found near Richmond, Va., in 1951. They since have spread to 18 eastern states, from Maine to Georgia.
Karen Raymore, director of the Hocking Hills Tourism Association, said her group plans a fundraising campaign to buy insecticides that can protect hemlocks from adelgids for as long as seven years.
“We’re hopeful that we will be able to treat a large number of trees and preserve the ones that are the most critical to this area and our environment,” Webb said.
Webb said treatment costs range from $20 to $50 per tree. He said the group hopes to raise $20,000 to $50,000 to start treatments.
Tourists spent about $115 million in Hocking County in 2011, Raymore said.