>State battles woolly pest to save evergreens

>Crews inject pesticide, cultivate beetles to protect hemlocks

By Timothy B. Wheeler, The Baltimore Sun

11:31 p.m. EDT, May 11, 2011
OAKLAND —— Survivors for more than three centuries, the towering hemlocks in Swallow Falls State Park are a remnant of the primeval forests that once blanketed much of Maryland before European settlers arrived.

But after evading loggers’ saws, storms and fires through the years, these evergreens now face a new threat — the hemlock woolly adelgid. A tiny insect from Japan no bigger than a pencil point, it coats hemlock twigs with a snowy waxy substance and slowly sucks the life out of the tree.

Nature Determined to save the largest stand of virgin forest left in Maryland, a small army of state workers and volunteers fanned out Wednesday in the Garrett County park in a bid to hold at bay this exotic pest, which has devastated hemlock stands elsewhere in Maryland and throughout the East.

“Hemlock woods are just a special place,” said Biff Thompson, a forest technician with the Maryland Department of Agriculture overseeing the effort. Their sheltering boughs cool the ground and water around them, he explained, and they’re home to upwards of 900 different species of insects, flies and other organisms. “There’s just a richness of life.”

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