Thursday, April 09, 2009

Researchers hope new beetle can save hemlocks

Central and Southern Appalachia's hemlock trees are being threatened by woolly adelgids, a tiny insect that has virtually wiped out the species in many places. But researchers are hoping that the introduction of a new beetle from the Pacific Northeast will control the infestation in Kentucky, where it was recently found.

Woolly adelgids, believed to have been imported with plants from Japan in the 1920s, have no natural predators in Appalachia. But after releasing 2,000 beetles in a test run, researchers were hopeful they would help curb the damage done by the insect. "It looks promising," University of Kentucky entomologist Lynne Rieske-Kinney told Roger Alford of The Associated Press. "We saw them go right after the adelgids."

Researchers say that they hope to introduce additional species to help control the pests. "It's going to take several species working together to establish control," said Rusty Rhea, a U.S. Forest Service epidemiologist. "There's not going to be a silver bullet." (Read more)

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