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Hemlock Conservation Project

Hemlock Conservation Project

What is the Hemlock Conservation Project?

The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) is a harmful insect spreading quickly in Nova Scotia, causing damage to Eastern Hemlock trees. First noticed in Virginia in 1951, it has rapidly moved along the East Coast, devastating hemlock stands. This issue is now affecting southwest Nova Scotia and will soon impact Kings County, particularly in the Gorge area, where Eastern Hemlock is abundant.

In the long term (10-50+ years), the goal is to control HWA using natural methods involving predatory insects. However, the immediate concern is to safeguard hemlock stands using available chemical solutions until more sustainable options are viable. The Town of Kentville is collaborating with the Province of Nova Scotia, Medway Community Forest Cooperative, scientists, citizens, and volunteers to address this.

A volunteer network, 'Hemlock Heroes,' has been formed to provide labor, and funding is being sought from various sources. The public's positive response to fundraising efforts underscores the value people place on accessible forests and the opportunities they provide.

Successful examples of protected forest areas in Nova Scotia that serve as models for conservation efforts include Sporting Lake Nature Reserve in Digby County, Kejimkujik National Park, and the United Church Camp in Berwick.

The project begins with a detailed inventory of hemlock trees in the Gorge, measuring trunk diameter and tagging them. Treatment, supervised by qualified personnel from Medway Community Forest Cooperative, Acadia University, and non-governmental organizations, involves using approved pesticides (IMA-jetÒ. and Xytect 2FÒ). Trees near water receive trunk injections, while others get a basal trunk spray. This approach has proven effective elsewhere in Nova Scotia and will be repeated in other possible safe areas over the next few years. The pesticides used are imidacloprid and are approved for this purpose in Canada. 

Project Timeline:

March - April 2024: Inventory
  • Check the hemlock trees in the Gorge.
April - May 2024: First Pesticide Application
  • Start using pesticides to protect the trees only partial stand treatments due to regulations.
2025 -2026: Subsequent Treatments
  • Second and third year treatments until the entire area is treated. Fully treated area will be protected for approximately 5 years or longer. 

What is Hemlock Woolly Adelgid?

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (Adelges tsugae) or ‘HWA’ is a tiny invasive insect. It attacks and kills eastern hemlock trees by feeding on the water and nutrient storage cells at the base of the needles. The insect, itself, is almost too small to see (pepper flake-sized), but white, woolly growth secreted by each female as she grows makes her become more visible through late winter-spring.

HWA can kill hemlock in 3-10 years. Areas of Nova Scotia where winters are mildest appear to experience more rapid mortality. HWA feeds for most of the winter underneath the branch tips on the newest growth. The insects are all female, each capable of laying fertile eggs. HWA produces two generations each year.

Once a hemlock stand becomes infested, the race ensues to conserve trees before the canopy drops its needles and becomes too thin to treat.

Source: Medway Community Forest Cooperative

What is the potential for hemlock woolly adelgid to spread?

Once established, HWA will spread naturally via wind, birds, animals, and human movement of nursery stock, logs, and other wood products, including firewood. To help prevent the spread of this pest the public is encouraged not to move potentially infested firewood and other hemlock forest products.

Source: Government of Canada

Why is this initiative important?

This initiative is crucial for several reasons:

  1. Maintaining Biodiversity: The project aims to preserve 'pocket stands' or refugia, creating safe areas for the regeneration and recovery of the Eastern Hemlock trees. This helps maintain biodiversity by safeguarding the natural balance of the ecosystem.

  2. Climate Change Resilience: Protecting the forest in the Gorge contributes to climate change resiliency. The living trees act as a natural defense against fire, especially important in a residential and commercial area. This proactive measure helps in adapting to the changing climate.

  3. Preserving Habitat for Species-at-Risk: By preventing the loss of Eastern Hemlock, the initiative safeguards the habitat for various species. There are no identified threats to known species-at-risk in the Gorge from the treatment, highlighting the importance of protecting the hemlock trees to maintain the overall health of the ecosystem.

  4. Community and Environmental Impact: The project's location in a residential and commercial area emphasizes its importance for the community. Preserving the Gorge not only contributes to the town's aesthetics but also maintains the recreational and environmental value of the area.

  5. Sustainable Forest Management: By implementing a supervised program of pesticide application, the initiative demonstrates a commitment to sustainable forest management. Balancing immediate needs with long-term goals ensures the health and longevity of the forest ecosystem.

In summary, this initiative is vital for preserving local biodiversity, enhancing climate change resilience, protecting habitat for species-at-risk, and ensuring the well-being of the community and environment in the Gorge.

For more information see helpful links.


A special thanks to our partners:
Blomidon Naturalists Society
Rotary Club of Wolfville- Mud Creek
Rotary Clubs of Kings County Charitable Foundation
Medway Community Forest Cooperative
Nova Scotia Invasive Species Council
Community-led Hemlock Conversation Advisory Committee