ALBANY — New infestations by two devastating forest pests have been detected at opposite ends of New York state, endangering pines in Long Island and hemlocks in a rugged canyon south of Buffalo.
A Cornell Cooperative Extension scientist discovered a tree infested by hemlock woolly adelgid this fall in Deer Lick Conservation Area in Cattaraugus County. It was the first appearance in western New York of the insect that has devastated hemlocks in the Hudson Valley and Catskills.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation said Wednesday it plans to treat the infested trees and 600 surrounding trees with two systemic pesticides. The goal is to prevent the insect from spreading further into the Zoar Valley, a scenic region of towering shale cliffs and old-growth hemlock-hardwood forest featuring some of the largest trees in the Northeast.
“Hemlock is a very important species ecologically, and we have seen the devastation that the adelgid can cause in places like the Hudson Valley, Catskills, the Finger Lakes, and neighboring states like Pennsylvania,” State Forester Rob Davies said. “DEC will act quickly to protect these trees and knock HWA out of one of the most unique areas of our state.”
The woolly adelgid looks like tiny cotton balls at the base of hemlock needles. It multiplies rapidly and kills a tree within five to 10 years, taking moisture and nutrition from the twigs.
On Long Island, the DEC and U.S. Forest Service have confirmed infestations of southern pine beetle for the first time in New York. The beetle has been verified in dying pine trees in the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge, Connetquot River State Park and the Henry's Hollow Pine Barrens State Forest.
“The Long Island Pine Barrens is a unique and precious natural resource which provides critical environmental, social, recreational and economic benefits to Long Island residents and communities,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. “Its signature pitch pine resource is seriously threatened by this newly discovered, non-native insect.”
The black beetle, about the size of a rice grain, is considered one of the most destructive forest pests in the United States, attacking all species of pines. An estimated 1,000 new acres of pine forest in New Jersey have been destroyed each year since the beetle was found in that state in 2001, according to DEC.
Aerial surveys are planned in the coming weeks to pinpoint areas of infestation, and management plans will be developed over the winter while the beetles are dormant.