“We’re just trying to get the residents ready for these infestations,” said Daria Gosztyla, project coordinator for the Ottawa Conservation District and West Michigan Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area. “Residents have an opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback on the location of hemlock stands.”
The first public meeting took place last week in Whitehall. Additional meetings will take place at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 8, at Ludington City Hall; 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 20, at Benona Township Hall; and then at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 15, at Ottawa County’s Hemlock Crossing Park in West Olive.
Hemlock woolly adelgid has been identified in four West Michigan counties since 2015: Ottawa, Allegan, Muskegon and Oceana.
“Ottawa County was the first established infestation,” Gosztyla said. “A lot of residents already know about hemlock woolly adelgid in Ottawa County.”
The tiny insect is native to Japan. It attaches to hemlock trees and feeds at the base of needles where they suck moisture and nutrients away from the tree.
Experts say landowners can identify the bug by looking for white, cottony masses about one-quarter the size of a cotton swab on the undersides of hemlock branches, as well as needle loss, gray-tinted foliage and branches dying back.
Understanding where the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) is located and how much it has spread is important in determining a course of action to be taken for controlling the pest. Once a more complete map of infestations has been created, officials can begin to prioritize areas for control, which will likely begin in late spring.
To help with the mapping process, landowners in Whitehall, Montague, Ludington, Pentwater and Stony Lake have been asked for their permission to survey their properties for the bugs.
“It’s important for people to fill out their permission forms for the survey because that is really going to allow us to figure out where HWA is on the landscape, and that is going to guide our control effort,” Gosztyla said.
West Michigan Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area and GEI Consulting are sub-recipients of a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant awarded to the West Michigan Regional Shoreline Development Commission. Survey efforts will continue with support from the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program.