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Explore our latest coverage of environmental issues, climate change and more.

This Cold Winter Is Too 'Woolly' For Hemlock Pests

Chuck Burton
The wooly adelgid, shown here invading a hemlock tree in North Carolina in 2006, threatens hemlocks from Georgia to Maine. This frigid Vermont winter is good news, at least temporarily, for those combatting the pest in the Green Mountain State.

We are finally coming out of the deep freeze that we were in for pretty much all of February. Forty-three days below freezing in some parts of the state, 5-degree averages in Montpelier and Rutland. There will be some casualties of the cold weather – but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

In fact, this winter’s harsh weather is good news – at least temporarily – for those combating a pest that threatens Vermont’s hemlock trees.

The Hemlock Woolly Adelgidis a tiny insect, but a big problem that threatens hemlock trees from Georgia to Maine. The pest is currently found in Southern Vermont.

"Between 97 and 99 percent of the adelgids that were active through the early winter have been killed by this cold that we've had." - Jim Esden, Vermont Fish and Wildlife

Forester Jim Esden of Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation says the timing, duration and bitterness of this winter’s cold weather has resulted in a very high mortality rate for the insect.

“Between 97 and 99 percent of the adelgids that were active through the early winter have been killed by this cold that we’ve had,” says Esden.

Unfortunately, Esden says, any surviving insects can reproduce quickly, because adelgids are female and their eggs don’t need to be fertilized.

But Esden believes the cold will at least hamper the spread of the pest in coming months.

Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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