This site is for people who like plants -- growers, enthusiasts, aesthetes, novices and professionals, those who appreciate wild things and those who appreciate the cultivated. I garden in Chelsea, and I've been visiting people's yards for 20+ years in the course of my work. My goal is to make this blog a community project, so if you share my interests, please consider becoming a participant and contributing content -- Guerin. Info:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Waiting for the next invasive pest

Don't think we're out of the woods, now that emerald ash borer has swept through. There are plenty more exotic pests at the state's borders, and who-knows-how-many more that can hitch a ride on packing materials from Asia, Africa and Europe. Two species that have the entomologists' attention are the sirex woodwasp and hemlock wooly adelgid.

Native woodwasp (or horntail) species are common and attack weakened pines and other conifers. The sirex woodwasp operates similarly in its native Europe and Asia. However, bring it to North America or the southern hemisphere, and it does a lot of damage to healthy living trees. 80% mortality has been recorded on tree plantations south of the equator. An Ohio Extension entomologist reported to a group of Michigan arborists last month that this pest is now present and active in that state, where it has been killing white pines. In 2007 and 2008, specimens were collected in Macomb and Sanilac Counties in Michigan, but we have heard of no further activity here. It's quite possible that it's just a matter of time.

Entomologists are also on the lookout for the hemlock wooly adelgid, an aphid-like insect that has been present in the U.S. since 1924. The pest has decimated hemlock forests along the east coast, and there is a quarantine underway to prevent its spread into Michigan. Since hemlock is not a particularly common landscape plant in southern Michigan, and since the pest is relatively easy to control on individual specimens, the introduction of the pest into our immediate area will only have a small impact. But up north, where hemlock is plentiful, it would represent another ecological disaster.  The adelgid has been found at least twice in Michigan, resulting in the close inspection of tens of thousands of other hemlocks nearby. It seems that so far we've been lucky.


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