[UPDATE] - NS Hemlocks, the Killer Bug and You

(c) @livelifeintents

[UPDATE] NS Hemlocks, the Killer Bug and You

The tiny insect that kills our giant hemlock trees will soon be coming out of winter hibernation and will continue its destruction in Nova Scotia.

Although the news cycle would suggest it's been quiet, the reality is -- unfortunately -- this problem is going to be with us for a long, long time.

What can you do?  Join us online during the week of March 8th for an update and learn what actions you can take to make a difference:

* * * * * 

The complete series follow

DAY 1 - What is the tiny insect affecting Nova Scotia's giant hemlocks?  

Called the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (or HWA), it is an aphid like bug first detected in Nova Scotia during the summer of 2017

HWA is slowly moving eastward across the province as shown by the following maps.

HWA Sightings - 2017-2018

HWA Sightings - 2017-early 2021

DAY 2 - Hemlocks are found in every County in Nova Scotia

As you can see from the following map, some Counties have more than others but every County has some.

Hemlocks in Nova Scotia

DAY 3 - HWA can kill all Hemlocks in its path

The Eastern US has been dealing with the hemlock bug for fifty years.  The following two pictures are examples of what can happen -- the elimination of hemlocks.

(c) James M. Davidson/Orchard Hill Media - Asheville, North Carolina

 (c) Steve Norman, Ph.D. - Research Ecologist - USDA Forest Service - Asheville, NC

DAY 4 - Know hemlocks, know this tiny insect

Hemlocks may not be the biggest but they are our oldest trees, some reaching 500 years.

Hemlock branch and cones

To identify a hemlock : its an evergreen tree with flat needles and small cones, often found along lakes and rivers.

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA)

To identify the bug : you need to find its home.  Look for little cotton balls on hemlock branches and needles.  If you see something like this, get a pic and send it to us.

Some of the areas in South Western Nova Scotia have experienced a similar fate -- entire stands of NS hemlocks have been killed by this tiny insect.

DAY 5 - The tiny insect that kills hemlocks is coming out of hibernation.  May to September is its most active and most easily spread by people

What can you do?  You can help by making sure you do not give this tiny insect a free ride

Are you a camper?  Acquire your firewood where you burn it because this tiny insect will hitch a ride on wood

(c) @acorn_art_photography

Do you own a dog?   Your pooch can pick up the tiny insect on their fur when you are out walking in an infected area.  You can reduce spread by patting down your dog with a lint brush

(c) @jonhinesmusic / @tmacdonald2614

Do you fish, hike or spend time in the forest?  Giant hemlocks are often found at your favorite fishing and hiking spots.  That is one reason you love those spots.  Look for cotton balls where the needles meet the branches and send us a pic.  Please change your clothes before moving from an infected stand to an non-infected hemlock stand.  A quick spin in a hot dryer kills this tiny insect

(c) @thewadingwanderess

Do you work in the forest?  This tiny insect often first attacks at the top of a hemlock tree.  When you bring one down, you have an excellent opportunity to see it before anyone else.  Look for cotton balls and send us a pic

(c) @westernwoodlotcoop /  Andrew Oliver

We all have a role to play to prevent the spread of HWA


The tiny insect that kills our giant hemlock trees is called the hemlock woolly adelgid or HWA.  Without any predators in Nova Scotia to control its numbers, this non-native invasive species can spread very quickly.  It was first discovered in Nova Scotia in 2017.  

Many thanks to Ron Neville from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for his assistance.  And a shoutout to the folks at Keji Park, the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute and the Medway Forest Coop for their work to prevent the spread