A silent killer is blazing a trail through the Appalachians, leaving countless dead hemlocks in its wake. The assassin is a tiny invasive insect from Japan, the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA).

It is stealthy and brutal, causing 80-90 percent mortality of eastern and Carolina hemlocks. Many fear the loss of these ecologically significant and charismatic forest species altogether.

Just as destructive is HWAs evil stepsister from Central Europe, the balsam woolly adelgid (BWA). BWA causes significant damage to true fir forests in the eastern and pacific northwestern areas of the United States.

In the southeastern United States, BWA specifically infest Fraser firs, North America’s most popular Christmas tree, and in the past four decades, BWA has spread to every fir stand in the southern Appalachians. The effects of BWA coupled with increasing air pollution has resulted in the death of over 95 percent of mature Fraser fir trees.

Read the rest of the blog post…(written by Erin Mester)