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Volunteers needed to save Eastern hemlocks


Though generally hardy, Eastern hemlocks are under attack by the tiny woolly adelgid, an invasive insect that has decimated hemlocks from Pennsylvania to Georgia. The insects have now been spotted on hemlocks around the Canandaigua Lake area and in Rochester.

The Finger Lakes Hemlock Initiative says that a network of volunteers is needed to learn how to identify and report local infestations, which make the trees look like they're covered in fuzzy white balls.

Attendees at a meeting on Wednesday, April 6, will learn how to report their findings to a statewide system. The meeting will be held at 1 p.m. at Finger Lakes Community College, 3325 Marvin Sands Drive, Canandaigua.

If you've spent time in Highland Park or along the many hiking trails that weave through the Rochester area, you've no doubt seen Eastern hemlocks. The majestic conifers, with their almost feathery limbs, are often the rich green pillars of a forest.

Caroline Marschner, Cornell Cooperative Extension associate and regional coordinator for the Initiative, says that Eastern hemlock is a foundation habitat tree that performs important functions that few other trees can. Their sweeping branches help slow ice-melt in the spring, she says, and keep streams cool for trout and salmon. And they provide shelter for wildlife, Marschner says.

"There would be a big hole in our landscape and ecology without them," she says.

People who attend the meeting will learn about a chemical control option to eliminate woolly adelgids, Marschner says. And two biological control options are being developed: a small beetle and a fly's larva. Both feed on woolly adelgids, but getting sufficient numbers of them to the hemlocks in time to save the trees presents some challenges, Marschner says.

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