Appalachia Wildflowers & Trees Of Appalachia

Woolly Adelgid

Have you ever heard of Wooly Adelgid? Even if you haven’t heard the name-you’ve probably seen the damage done by wooley adelgids if you’ve spent any amount of time in forests which have a high percentage of Hemlock trees. See those little white spots in between the hemlock needles in the photo? Those little bits of white are evidence of wooley adelgids.

wool·ly a·del·gid
noun: wooly adelgid
1. any of several small aphidlike insects that feed on conifers, esp. hemlocks, spruces, and firs. By sucking the sap from young twigs, the insect retards or prevents tree growth and causes needles to discolor and drop prematurely.

According to the  Great Smoky Mountain National Park website, “The hemlock woolly adelgid has infested hemlocks on the Blue Ridge Parkway for about 10 years and in Shenandoah National Park since the late 1980s. In these areas as many as 80 percent of the hemlocks have died due to infestation.”

When The Deer Hunter and I first moved into our house we had the red clay landscape of new construction. We planted grass, and I gathered cuttings of flowers and bushes from Granny to help fill in our red clay expanse. One day Granny watched the babies while Pap and I went up the creek. I carried a 5 gallon bucket and Pap carried a shovel. We came back with a bucket full of hemlock saplings which we planted all over my yard. Some of them lived, some died. The ones that lived became infested with wooly adelgids.

After seeing the wooly adelgid devastation which has occurred in parts of western NC, The Deer Hunter said “Let’s cut them all down.” I said “But me and Pap planted them so long ago I don’t want to cut them down. Sigh….”

A few years later the girls had a field trip to the historic Glen Choga Lodge and I tagged along with their class. The caretaker took us on the grand tour-including the grounds. The towering hemlock trees that surrounded a small pond near the lodge were looking pretty puny. The caretaker said they had spent over $30,000.00 trying to save the hemlocks. He had high hopes the special treatment was working-but I sure couldn’t tell it by looking at them.

In the mean time, my argument about Pap won out and we left our white spotted hemlocks alone. The hemlocks Pap and I planted so long ago seemed to falter beyond restoration for a while, but suddenly the trees perked right up and started growing again. The hemlocks are still thriving till this day.

Recently I discovered our colder than usual winter has helped all the hemlocks affected by wooly adelgid. Turns out adelgids can’t take bitter cold-and scientists are hoping the low temperatures Appalachia has endured this year will stop the little buggers in their tracks-or at the very least slow their progress.


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  • Reply
    March 14, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    This is great news! I hated seeing the effects of this pest on our last trip to N.C. on those beautiful conifers.

  • Reply
    Patricia Page
    March 14, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    I love to hear stories about hemlocks making it. To me they are the symbolic tree of a mountain home. I have a giant one in my yard that became infested, implementing a plan devised by the county agent, I was able to save it. That was in 2006, it is still free of the wooly boogers!!

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    March 14, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    I grew up making tree houses in our
    big hemlocks. Now the Pine Beetles have
    killed them all. I never knew the name of the Wooly Adelgid. Years ago our government or Wildlife bunch turned loose those little speckled Voltzwagons on the high mountains. They were supposed to eat the larvie of the pine beetles, but most of ’em came to people’s houses. About every week I have to stop and move big limbs of hemlocks from my driveway.

  • Reply
    March 14, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    It is so sad to hike in the forests and see so many dead trees. What a pity.

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    March 14, 2014 at 11:27 am

    The Hawaiian Islands is a closed eco-system and has developed a remarkable variety of flora and fauna over hundreds of thousands of years. Much has been devastated by the encroachment of invasive species. The prime one being man. Hawaiian Royalty traded away the aromatic sandalwood treasured by the Chinese. Wild pigs have eliminated many of the native plants. The sugar growers imported mongoose to control the rats in the fields. Mongoose are active by day and rats by night; the two never met. The mongoose devastated the ground nesting bird population by eating the eggs. Many plants growing on the windward sides of the islands are threatened because of water diversion to support agriculture on the dry leeward sides of the islands. We have no snakes in Hawaii, but each year numerous snakes are seized from “collectors.” There is a concerted effort to end a seed corn growing operation here. It is feared that the gene manipulation of the GMO seed operation may effect native plants. The state and federal governments spends millions of dollars attempting to prevent the introduction of outside plants and animals.

  • Reply
    March 14, 2014 at 10:01 am

    We have a few hemlocks in our natural forest area. We treated them a couple of years ago as was suggested by foresters. So far they seem to be holding their own. I am happy to hear your news as one is so huge and beautiful. Maybe Mother Nature knows what she is doing with the winter you are having this year.

  • Reply
    Gina S
    March 14, 2014 at 9:59 am

    Damage by the wooly adelgid to the hemlocks on Mount Mitchell breaks my heart. In Black Mountain we don’t have a clear view to Mitchell even though as the crow flies we aren’t so far away. May the bitter cold of winter help to stop the destruction.

  • Reply
    March 14, 2014 at 9:33 am

    We don’t have a single live hemlock left in the woods surrounding our cabin. Sadly, they are just very tall skeletons. I see some saplings around, perhaps they will have a chance to grow. I didn’t know about deep cold affecting them, let’s hope Mother Nature has helped them out!

  • Reply
    March 14, 2014 at 9:19 am

    I have always heard that a really cold winter freezes out all the pests. I have no scientific evidence, but seems the bugs and pests are at a minimum in the garden following a really frigid winter. My Dad always mourned the loss of the American Chestnut, and he used to point out the logs. We certainly value our trees.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    March 14, 2014 at 9:01 am

    Sorry, but I couldn’t stand it! I’m back….
    I read that near Indian Woods, Birdie County North Carolina, a (giant) 500 lb. Russian Wild Boar was killed by an avid hunter…
    Good for him! The boar tipped out the 500 lb limit of the tobacco scale they were using to weigh him!
    These non-native species of wild boar are devastating our loved Smokey Mountains as well. They are routing out the rare as well as common wild flowers. The Smokey Mountains are known for the flora that doesn’t grow in other areas…The change in the elevations are condusive to the many species growing here…and I might say we have a special privilege to (mostly) have access to by walking trails.
    It scares me, as the wild boar has been seen in our county. Not far from our small cities and towns.. My husband and I on a trip to the far end of our county on a lonely county, ran smack dab into one of the “wild boar devils” early one morning crossing the road! They have no enemys to speak of…I don’t want them on our 28 acred woods…routing up what few wildflowers we have here….
    I am afraid they are on there way!
    Of course, as many other non-native species have been introduced, our ancestors were the ones who brought the Wild Boar here for elite private hunting club purposes!…If we had only known…they would escape and cause this devastation!
    Thanks Tipper,
    I’ll go now…this is a small part of our heritage that bothers me alot!

  • Reply
    March 14, 2014 at 8:30 am

    Judy Mincey, we’re neighbors. My hemlocks (transplanted from Bryson City) have also had the adelgid, but I treat them. Seeing the skeleton remains of those once-magnificent trees is a sorrowful thing.

  • Reply
    March 14, 2014 at 8:21 am

    Well I certainly hope so. My wife and I always have loved the mountains and ever since we’ve been married our visits to the Smokey Mountains has been sadden to see the devastation those little buggers have done to the forest.. In our area the pine beetle has done as much damage as the wooly adelgid, I use to Turkey hunt in the Bankhead National Forest close to here but the dead fall had become so bad it was hardly worth it climbing over and over the trees..

  • Reply
    Judy Mincey
    March 14, 2014 at 8:01 am

    I, also, love the hemlocks. I transplanted one to Woodstock, GA from NC and it lived and grew well. I have not checked on it in a few years as I no longer live there. I hope the scientists are right about the cold weather slowing the adelgids down. Every cloud has a silver lining, you just have to look for it.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    March 14, 2014 at 7:58 am

    While I have never heard of them I have seen them. Infestations of this sort are usually brought in from somewhere else and do great destruction to our environments. I hope you find a way to rid your trees of this problem.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    March 14, 2014 at 7:30 am

    I wish everyone could ride along with me in our old 1940’s Packard across the mountains from East Tennessee to Western North Carolina. I feel like everyone would be in awe as I was when gapeing out the car window at the beautiful tall almost giant-like Hemlocks. I really think that was where I got my love of trees…After the Intersate was completed we didn’t pass so many as back in the forties.
    My heart broke when I heard and then saw after a trip the old way we used to go of the distruction of he Hemlock. I literally cried!
    The shags and snags were just standing there dying!
    Years later my son and I rode up the mountain at Newfound Gap…As everyone was looking over the overlook, which I grew up with, I was inspecting trees. When the family came back to the car, I told them about the “Wooly Aldgid” and said that I wanted them to come over to this particular Hemlock to see one/them! They had heard of them, since an article had been written and we briefly discussed them at the time. They were amazed that something so small could kill the beautiful trees…
    Not to “bust your bubble” but the Knoxville News Sentinel read a note that the cold weather would not have much of an effect on the bugs, like ticks, beetles, etc.
    I thought why not! It hasn’t been this cold in many a winter. It takes several days of this type of cold to penatrate their hiding places, so it’s said!
    Everytime I see one of those “bad boogers” and I have seen them around here. I kill it! If I’d had wings and could fly and I knew back then, about the devastating “Wooly (Booger) Alelgid” I would have carried my “soapy killer solution” and spritzed along the limbs of every tree I found them in! No Kidding!
    That is how much I love the giant Hemlocks of Tennessee and North Carolina!
    Thanks Tipper,
    I’ll get off my soap box now!
    PS….Years back when some of the trees were dieing, it was thought to be caused from pollution. I still think some pollution causes the death of some trees…Our Canadian neighbors claims that “fly ash” is killing their trees as it drifts North!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 14, 2014 at 7:28 am

    Yes, I knew about the Woolly Adelgid, but I didn’t know about the very cold weather killing them. I also know that the the very cold weather in winter helps maintain our balance in nature. It lowers the population of pesky critters like fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes, and I am all for lowering the population of those guys. I would vote for them going away and never coming back but that would probably upset something else in nature’s process!

  • Reply
    March 14, 2014 at 7:14 am

    Well, that’s the best news I’ve heard all day! Maybe you can figure out a way to give them a cold shot a couple of times each year.

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