NEAL P. GOSWAMI
POWNAL -- Vermont officials say an invasive species from Asia has been found for the first time in Bennington County.
The hemlock woolly adelgid, which feeds on the sap of hemlock trees, was detected on municipal land in Pownal by a volunteer Forest Pest First Detector. Officials believe the insect spread there naturally from nearby Massachusetts.
Hemlock woolly adelgids were first discovered in southeastern Vermont forests in 2007, according to Jim Esden, Forest Protection Forester with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation. But until now, infestations of the insect in Vermont had been limited to nine towns in Windham County. The Pownal find is the most recent of numerous new detections in 2012.
"Our monitoring studies indicate that the warm winter weather increased survival of this damaging pest," Esden said.
The Forest Pest First Detector program trains volunteers in communities throughout Vermont to increase the public’s awareness about the tree pests, assist government partners in responding to inquiries about suspect bugs, and help communities prepare for and respond to a pest infestation.
Michael Rosenthal, a retired high school teacher from New Jersey and amateur botanist, found the adelgid in Bennington County. He said he has a strong interest in the natural environment.
"I’ve seen the damage from the hemlock woolly adelgid when I lived in New Jersey. I would like to do what I can to help protect Vermont’s natural communities. I have a good knowledge of the land in my locality. I hike throughout the area several times a week," he said.
The department says hemlock is an important native component of Vermont’s forests and is valuable for both timber and wildlife. To protect this tree, the state has a quarantine preventing movement of the tree into Vermont from infested counties elsewhere, according to Tim Schmalz, a plant pathologist with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets.
"It’s important not to move potentially infested trees and branches off-site," he said. "Under the State of Vermont Invasive Forest Pest Action Plan, hemlock woolly adelgid is managed to slow its spread to uninfested areas." Citizens who think they have seen the white woolly insect on hemlock twigs are asked to report their observation to a local office of the Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation.
More information on the Web: http://www.vtfpr.org/protection/forestpestsfrontpage.cfm
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