The little insect that’s bugging local park officials

Right now, there’s a war on an invasive species that’s happening right under your nose. You probably don’t even notice it, but it’s really bugging officials with the Mill Creek Metroparks.

Sometimes the biggest problems come from the smallest of sources.

“You would need a microscrope to really look at them. So it’s a very, very small insect,” said Nick Derico, Mill Creek Park natural resource manager.

Since 2020, the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid has been calling the Mill Creek MetroParks home. The only problem is wildlife officials don’t want it taking up residence.

“It feeds on the hemlock trees, and over time it can cause pretty significant decline or even death in the tree,” Derico said.

Native to Asia, the bug is a nuisance, attacking North American Hemlocks since it was first introduced back in the 1950s.

“How it got here to the MetroParks, hard to say,” Derico said. “It could’ve came in on an ornamental tree or carried by birds.”

Park officials are fighting back against the insect with insecticides, tagging trees that have been treated. But it takes about 18 months before they start seeing any results.

The pest appears like a small wool bundle, not much bigger than the size of a pinhead. Left untreated, infested trees can die within four to 10 years.

“The hemlocks play a super important role in the ecosystem,” Derico said. “They’re a keystone species. … They’re vital. They create very unique habitats, especially in these creekside habitats.”

Wildlife officials say they keep finding new populations every year and are treating the outbreaks as they find them.

“Once treated, the chemical will stay active in the tree for about seven years,” Derico said. “The unfortunate reality is we probably won’t be able to save every tree.”


Read the original article at WKBN.