Over the winter months, students in JB Kavaliauskas’ Environmental Science classes discovered an invasive insect pest during their field work in Baxter Woods. The classes were invited to participate in a survey by the Portland Forestry Department to determine if, in fact, the species existed in the nearby woods. The students were trained by a professional from the Maine Forest Service on how to identify the pest in its winter stage of life.
The invasive species, Hemlock Woolly Adelgid — commonly known as HWA — has spread throughout the hemlock forests in the eastern United States from southern Maine to northern Georgia. The entire range of eastern hemlocks are currently at risk. The natural spread of Hemlock Woolly Adelgid is primarily by wind, birds, small animals and domestic pets.
McAuley students reported their findings to the Maine Forest Service and Portland’s Forestry Department, who applauded their discovery. On Thursday, May 29, McAuley students released a special breed of beetles into Baxter Woods that feeds off of HWA and, therefore, assists in its eradication.
How quickly hemlocks die once infested is variable, but it generally ranges from 3-10 years or more. Students are hopeful that, because of their work, the old hemlock growth of Baxter Woods will be saved.