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The Hemlock War

From north of Maine down through the Appalachian Mountains into the eastern part of Tennessee the Eastern Hemlock tree reigns supreme. Hemlock forests provide food and shelter for many wildlife species and help cool mountain streams. But today, many hemlocks are dying. The culprit is a tiny insect known as the hemlock wolly adelgid. Native to China and Japan, the adelgid ferociously attacked hemlock forests, spreading like wildfire from Virginia down through Tennessee. While saving the trees seems hopeless, biologists aren’t ready to give up the fight. As Wild Side Guide Ken Tucker discovered, now they have another weapon to use in the war, insecticide injected directly into the trees.

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Since their first release several years ago, scientists have found that the beetles are adapting to their new home and are having an impact on the infected trees. But despite these promising results and the new chemical treatments, the adelgid continues to spread and can now be found in 27 of the 40 Tennessee counties with native hemlock stands. Most recently, aerially applied fungal pesticides that treat larger numbers of trees have been used with some success.

Our thanks to the folks at Arborjet, who donated the insecticide being used during the taping of this story and trained the foresters and biologists in the injection process. Each tree that is treated will be documented and checked on, to see how effective the treatments are and provide more information that will help develop new treatments. You can find out more about Arborjet by visiting their website at

If you are interested in helping save the hemlocks, visit the Nature Conservancy website at

For more information on the adelgid, try these links: