By Gwendolyn Craig
A partnership of organizations is asking for the public’s help to search the Lake George area for hemlock woolly adelgid, an invasive bug that kills one of the area’s most prolific and iconic trees.
A citizen scientist found the invasive insect, originally from Asia, on the eastern shores of Lake George last summer. Surveys show it has spread to around 250 acres. The state Department of Environmental Conservation has reported findings of the adelgid near the Shelving Rock Special Management Area, Buck Mountain Trailhead, Dome Island and Glen Island Campground where it was first reported in August.
Tammara Van Ryn, manager of the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, said a private landowner on the southeastern shore of Lake George has also confirmed woolly adelgid on their property.
And it’s not just Lake George where this tiny pest has cropped up. Before last year, Troy was thought to be the northernmost part of the region where adelgid was located, before it was found in Lake George. But now, Van Ryn said, the woolly adelgid has been spotted even further north than Troy in Saratoga County at Moreau Lake State Park.
So far, surveys do not show that the adelgid spread across Lake George to the western side, but Van Ryn emphasized it takes a significant number of hours to thoroughly search an area.
Mark Whitmore, of the New York State Hemlock Initiative, also has theorized and believes the Lake George infestation proves, that the bugs spread on the wind, catching up in the hemlock treetops. Over time they spread further down a tree. That can mean finding the adelgid is not as easy as examining the closet branch to the ground.
“At this point we do not think we can eradicate hemlock woolly adelgid from the entire Lake George watershed,” Van Ryn said. But, she added, more eyes and ears on the ground will help experts know where it is and hopefully contain it.
The Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program is working with the New York State Hemlock Initiative, Invasive Species Management of the Adirondacks and the Capital Region, the Lake George Land Conservancy, Adirondack Mountain Club and iMapInvasives to encourage more members of the public to help spot the woolly adelgid.
Using a custom-created trail map, the groups hope volunteers will survey specific trailheads on public lands. The effort is ongoing through April 15. It stops at that time, Van Ryn said, because the adelgid’s life cycle around that time turns into a very hard-to-see crawling stage. They do not want volunteers to inadvertently spread any tiny hitchhikers.
For those interested in participating, please see the survey protocol linked here. The survey map on public lands can be view at bit.ly/adkhwahunt. The Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program also hosted two workshops on hemlock woolly adelgid and how to identify it. To learn more, watch the videos of those workshops below.