Fighting off an invader on Lake George

Mark Mulholland
Updated: October 22, 2020 08:17 PM
Created: October 22, 2020 05:38 PM

LAKE GEORGE - Sixty-five feet up in a hemlock tree on top of Dome Island, a scientist takes samples of a tiny little invasive.

While down below on the shore near Red Rock Bay in Dresden, Washington County, NYS DEC teams are spraying and injecting hemlocks.

It's all part of a large-scale effort to stop the spread of HWA, a microscopic insect that feeds on and kills hemlocks, which are the most abundant tree in the Lake George basin.

DEC Forester Bryan Ellis, who is part of the department's Bureau of Invasive Species Unit, says HWA is the single biggest threat to  trees on the shores and islands of the lake.

"We've seen it completely wipe out hemlocks which would have a huge effect, especially in an area like Lake George."

Hemlocks are referred to as a "foundation species."

They provide shade to wildlife on the shore and in the water.

They also prevent soil run-off into the lake, and they provide a natural frame to the picture perfect beauty of the 32-mile body of water.

Dr. Mark Whitmore, from Cornell University, is a leading expert on adelgids.

He's seen them wipe out entire forests in the Southern United States.

"The worst case scenario is a really ugly thing."

He's hoping pesticides will buy time for some natural predators, including beetles and flies, to take hold down the road.

"The best case scenario is that we're successful in knocking down the populations up here now," said Whitmore.

He says the best guess is that the insects were carried to Lake George by the wind, or on birds.

It was an astute camper who first found the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid at a campsite in August.

DEC says they expect the operation to take at least five years.


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