The pests originally were brought from Asia to Canada and have been spreading south rapidly because there is no local natural predator. The insects cannot fly, but spread by floating on the wind, and hitching rides on birds, animals or people.
“Trees that are infested can live around two years, and that is where we are now,” said Jimmy Stewart, a professional garden designer and community volunteer. If not treated, it is inevitable a tree will die, he said. The good news is that there are effective treatments that can save a tree even after it is covered in the insects. It is important to treat trees that already have the adelgid, to kill them, and to treat the ones that are not yet affected, to help prevent the spread. Once treated, he said, results can be seen within months. It is the responsibility of homeowners to treat trees that are in their yard, and of the towns of Lookout Mountain, Tenn., and Ga., to treat those on municipally-owned property. “Everybody needs to do their part,” Stewart said.
To help the community identify and become aware of the quantity of diseased trees, Stewart plans to mark some of them with yellow caution tape. A note to homeowners who find their trees flagged will be left near mailboxes to explain the yellow streamers. He also is planning to conduct two public meetings, on April 15 and April 29, where he will demonstrate how homeowners can adminster the treatments themselves. The April 15 lesson is at Temple Park from 9 a.m.-noon. On April 29, he’ll teach another class at Fairyland Club from 9 a.m.-noon.
The attempt to eradicate the hemlock woolly adelgid can be done by either professionals or homeowners. Stewart said there are two very effective systemic products that are recommended if individuals want to treat the hemlocks themselves. One is sprayed on the lower 5 feet of the trunk and will be absorbed through the bark. The other is applied as a soil drench. Both are safe for humans and pets once they dry and when used as directed, he said. The spray he recommends is not harmful to bees as long as it is sprayed directly on the trunk of the trees. These treatments offer protection from two to five years. Stewart said trees should be checked each year, and the ones where the insects are still present should be treated again yearly.
The hope for a long-term solution is that a predator beetle can be found to create a natural balance. Beetles have been bred and released in other areas around Chattanooga, but this method is not working yet because the beetles have died. The University of North Carolina and University of Georgia are both actively trying to breed beetles that will survive here. There is an experimental breeding station now at the Lula Lake Land Trust.
Flyers about treatment options that include a list of licensed contractors for treating the hemlocks will be available at the post office, at both town hall buildings and from the garden clubs on the mountain. Recommended companies that service both Tennessee and Georgia include: Lawn Doctor (423) 708-7900; W.D. Scott Company (423) 622-0320; ABC Tree Company, (423) 344-8732; and Green Tree Specialists (423) 508-5883.
The website www.SaveGeorgiasHemlocks.org is recommended for additional and reliable information. The Hemlock Help Line number is (706) 429-8010, or you can email donna@SaveGeorgiasHemlocks.org for more information. Jimmy Stewart is also available and willing to talk to homeowners and can be reached at (423) 413-6420.