April 12, 2006 | By: Laura Skillman

Efforts are under way to determine the degree of infestation and plan protection treatments for Kentucky’s hemlock trees from the hemlock woolly adelgid.

The exotic small, aphid-like insect uses its mouth parts to feed on hemlocks and has devastated hemlock trees along the eastern seaboard. Within the past few weeks, the insects have been found in eastern Kentucky, said John Obrycki, chair of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture’s Department of Entomology and state entomologist.

With the find Kentucky is planning a proactive approach and will first conduct a survey to determine where the insects may be and to identify old growth hemlock forests in the state, he said. Southeast Kentucky, in particular, has a number of old growth hemlocks in Blanton Forest, Pine Mountain and other areas, and efforts will be made to protect them.

Obrycki has been in contact with the specialist who is working to control the spread of the hemlock woolly adelgid in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At the park, they are using a soil insecticide that the trees will take up into their root system, killing the insects on the tree at the time and providing a good residual protection for two to three years.

While all the forests cannot be protected with this insecticide, this approach will be used to limit the spread of localized infestations and to protect old growth hemlock trees. In addition, there will likely be the release of predatory beetles that specifically feed on the hemlock woolly adelgid, Obrycki said.

With this three-pronged approach – survey and identification, selective use of insecticides and release of predatory beetles – Obrycki said he hopes there will be adequate protection for the many hemlock trees that grace the forest landscape of Kentucky.



John Obrycki, (859) 257-7450