Will our response help or make things worse?
Western Pennsylvania’s Eastern Hemlock trees are under attack by a small insect called the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid. Infected trees in our area have a high mortality rate, although it usually takes several years for a tree to die after getting infected with the pest.
While you may not know the tree by its name, the Eastern Hemlock is one of the most important trees in our region. If you’re familiar with any shady mountain pine groves or enjoy seeing snow weighing heavily on the branches of pine trees in winter, there’s a very good chance you’ve been enjoying our state tree.
While the trees provide many aesthetic benefits, they’re importance in the environment is even greater. They provide food and shelter for many animals.
Their shade helps keep mountain streams cool, which is beneficial for trout and other aquatic life that call Pennsylvania steams home. Their root systems even help prevent erosion of streambanks.
Without intervention, there is a very good chance we’ll lose many of our hemlocks to the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid. Efforts are already underway to combat the insect in some of the most environmentally or culturally significant stands of trees.
If you have your own Eastern Hemlocks, you can diagnose them by looking along the base of the branches for a clearly visible white substance with a fuzzy or wooly appearance.
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