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The Harsh Truth Behind Those Cute Dancing Fluffs

Did you know the Hemlock trees in the Eastern region of the US are threatened by an incredibly destructive, invasive insect?

The catch? The adorable fluffy specks appear to be perpetually "dancing," but don't be fooled! These bugs are no fun, especially for our ecosystem here in North America.

This summer we loaded up the airstream and traveled north from North Carolina to spend some time in New England. On our first day in Pennsylvania I was admiring the Eastern Hemlock trees that towered over our campsite.



I walked into the forest beneath the Hemlock's thick canopy and spotted a fruiting of "Brick Cap" mushrooms(Hypholoma lateritium). I saw what looked like a speck of dust on the cap of one small msuhroom and realized I was face-to-face with the dreaded Hemlock Wooly Adelgid (see video above).


And what's worse? Turns out those fluffy white specks were the egg sacks...


Native to Asia, the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid (HWA) is an aphid-like insect that feeds on North American Hemlocks and Spruce trees (NYDEC). An adult HWA is typically .8 mm long, brown in color, and oval shaped (wiki). They use their "stylet," or mouthpiece that is three times the length of their body, to feed by sucking sap and nutrients from the trees while likely injecting toxins during feeding.

"As of 2015, 90% of the geographic range of eastern hemlock in North America has been affected by HWA..." (Gatton et. al)

The HWA was first introduced to the Western United states in the 1920's and was spotted in the Eastern region by the early 1950's. Now, these insects are found from Georgia to Maine and have already affected over half of the Eastern Hemlock population.



 

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