Tiny bug causing big problems for N.C. trees

For nearly two decades, North Carolina's Hemlock trees have been under attack, and it's a problem that's not going away anytime soon.

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — For nearly two decades, North Carolina’s Hemlock trees have been under attack, and it's a problem that's not going away anytime soon.

In the mighty mountains of western North Carolina, a tiny creature is killing the trees. That's why more than 100 scientists, researchers and forest managers are meeting this week in Asheville to talk about the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid.

“The damages (have) torn through the Great Smokey Mountains, but there (are) still some areas that are salvageable,” said Jesse Webster, a forester with the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

The Woolly Adelgid, an exotic insect accidentally brought over from Japan, first appeared in the northwest and northeast U.S. During the past two decades, it has found its way to North Carolina and the inviting Southern climate.

Now, it's even hitting close to home. The small Aphid-like creature has been spotted in the old growth trees of Cary's Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve, off Kildaire Farms Road. Birds may have carried it to those trees.

The town plans to start killing the Adelgids soon and might use natural predators of the pest, along with treating the trees.

Entomologist Rusty Rhea, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s forest service, says there is no substitute for the Eastern Hemlock Trees.

“Hemlock is a huge species, especially here in the mountains. It creates a niche and an ecosystem that can’t be replaced,” Rhea said. “When they go, there’s a whole ecosystem that’s going to go with them.”

Thousands of trees in the mountains have been treated and saved, but thousands more are being lost to the pest.

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Bill Leslie, Reporter
Richard Adkins, Photographer
Kelly Hinchcliffe, Web Editor

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