ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — During the colder, winter months there’s an invasive insect killing Hemlock trees in the area; some that could be in your backyard. While this has been a known problem for Rochester and the Finger Lakes for several years, the infestation only keeps marching on.

The Hemlock Wooly Adelgid is an invasive species that’s been impacting Hemlock trees across the state for over 20 years by feeding on the twigs where the needles are, slowly depriving them of nutrients to thrive. Forest Entomologist Mark Whitmore says the pest is actively growing during the winter, which is unusual for insects but makes them easier to track down as they’re more tolerant of the colder temperatures. 

“It’s easy to spot in the wintertime especially, because it looks like there’s a bunch of Q-tips you know the “cotton-y” Q-tips glued to the twigs near the base of the needles. From a distance it gives the trees sort of a “gray-ish” tinge as opposed to the bright green that you see,” Mark says. 

Mark tells me that he’s already seeing mortality in some of the biggest Hemlock trees like right here at Durand Eastman Park, and he considers Monroe county as a whole to be generally infested with the insect. 

“…we’re working closely with the state DEC, and state parks identifying valuable hemlock resources like in Letchworth park and other state parks and getting in there and treating the trees so we’re saving the big old trees in those areas, and at the same time implementing the biological control so hopefully after a certain amount of time we can get away from using the insecticides,“ Mark says.

A combination of introducing natural predators and systemic insecticides are the two main management techniques, but those who have eastern hemlock trees on their property, or out and about at local parks in the area are encouraged to report them to the DEC. The more collaborative the effort, the quicker the problem can be resolved.